I’d like us to use this space to share ideas, news, and information related to how creativity (our own creativity and that of others) impacts and enhances our lives. I’d also like to share tips on ways to increase your own enjoyment and effectiveness through creative activity and thought.
By way of explaining why I think that tending to your creative side is so vital to a fulfilling life, I’d like to share some of the points I usually make in the opening lecture of my Harvard course Creativity: Madmen, Geniuses, and Harvard Students.*
First, creativity is our survival mechanism as a species. Our ancestors were not strong enough to fight off potential predators (think saber-tooth tigers!) with their hands, nor were they fast enough to outrun predators, nor were they equipped with shaggy fur coats to protect them from the elements. The only way they survived was through creative efforts that allowed them to conceive of and build tools to defend themselves and shelters to protect themselves.
Second, creativity is our long-distance communication mechanism. Creativity allows us to communicate with each other across centuries, across continents, and across ideologies to share the human experience. Through symbolic forms such as art, music, poetry, and drama, we can pass on those lessons we have learned that are meaningful to our fellow humans in other places and in other times yet to come.
Third, creativity enriches our lives. The creativity of others has provided us with modern comforts from air conditioners and computers to penicillin and Prozac. Art has filled our lives with beauty, and music has motivated and uplifted us. Creativity has brought us new forms of government, economic systems, architecture, and cuisine. Our lives are so much richer and fuller because of the creative contributions of those who have gone before us.
You also benefit from your own creative acts. Every time you speak, you exercise your creativity by putting words together in novel ways to impart meaning to others. Every time you solve a minor problem in your life without using an instruction manual, every time you plant a garden or rearrange your furniture, or add a touch of some new ingredient to a meal, you are enhancing your life with creativity. If you play a musical instrument or write in a journal or use a box to prop a door open, you are exercising your innate ability to be creative.
Think about just how powerful the ability to be creative is!
Whether or not you think of yourself as creative let me assure you that you ARE creative! What I’d like you to do – right now – is think of at least one creative thing you’ve done so far today. (The truth is that every day you perform hundreds of creative acts.) You may have taken a different route to work. You may have combed your hair differently, or added Tabasco sauce instead of ketchup to your eggs this morning (I put Tabasco on everything except ice cream!). You may have arranged a bouquet of flowers or found the right thing to say to assuage a child’s hurt feelings. Or you may have written chapter 11 of your novel or the final measures of your latest concerto. Creativity, after all, comes in many sizes.
When you consider every act as a potential opportunity to be creative, it changes the way you think. If you feel like sharing some creative thing you did today with us, please comment to this blog.
Next time, we’ll talk about how we can define creativity and whether we can measure it. In the meantime, remember that you can increase richness and fulfillment in your daily life just by thinking of each action as an opportunity to express your innate creativity.
*This course is now being offered by Harvard as a distance option, meaning you can take it from any corner of the world online! And it’s actually not too late to sign up for this fall’s course. You can find out more about taking this course and others from the Harvard Extension School at http://www.extension.harvard.edu/.