I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about my professional title: Creative Director. It serves its purpose in roughly describing my job--overseeing the conceptual development of our projects--but it also seems to suggest that I am the holder of this elusive, arcane source of pure inspiration. And, while I consider it an honor to be labeled a creative person, the idea of creativity being the province of an elite enclave embedded within the larger mundanity of society is diametrically opposed to my personal belief. I have engaged in countless arguments with “artists” and “layman” alike, who both maintain that creativity is a talent assigned to a special few. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Everyone, and I mean *everyone*, is creative. Whether or not they are currently exercising that creativity, they have an inborn capacity for it. Consider, for instance, a point that our Associate Producer, Steven Brown, always makes: every kid draws, and takes great pleasure in it; nobody forces them to do so. We can argue that this is a blanket statement, but can you deny having loved putting crayon to whatever surface was around when you were a child? As much as I cannot stand drawing now--largely because I am terrible at it, having given up the passion in my early teens--during my younger years I would draw incessantly. And, I am willing to bet that you, dear reader, had a similar proclivity. Everyone is creative.
If this is the case, how come so many of the people that we come into contact with deny having a single creative bone in their body? The answer to this question is most certainly beyond the scope of this blog, decidedly having to do with a combination of the expectations and obligations foisted upon us by society, as well as our own fears of releasing something into the world--particularly something intensely personal--only to have it receive harsh criticism. We desperately want to be accepted, and are terrified of showing a side of ourselves that might not be met with unanimous acceptance. And, I am certain that there are a host of other reasons that also feed into the misconception that people have of themselves of lacking creativity. Think about it, at the most basic level, life itself is an endless dance of creativity; and, I don’t mean this in any sort of newage, motivational-speaker-encouraged way. Very practically, we engage our creativity on a daily basis, much of the time unconsciously. Some people select their outfit based on what they want to communicate about themselves on that day; others use makeup as paint, and their face as a canvas for personal expression; for some, how they arrange their desk is a subtly creative act. Humor, precisely because it is so spontaneous, is instantaneous creation: we pull jokes out of the world that surrounds us, and weave comical insights from our shared experiences. You are creative. We are all creative.
The upshot of all of this is, should you so desire, is that creativity can be enhanced, much like any other skill. Those readers that are interested in doing so, it's time to power up!
If you seriously want to refine your body you realize that this is going to require working out. For stronger arms, you lift weights; for augmented cardiovascular strength, you engage in cardio. And, whatever outcome you desire, you accept that you must dedicate yourself to the appropriate course of exercise, and undertake it consistently. You’ve heard creativity referred to idiomatically as a muscle--that it is, and should be treated as such. If you want to be more creative, you need to work out mentally.
Let’s detail how such a mental exercise program might work for someone who is aiming to enhance their creativity within the realm of music. We’ll call our imaginary subject Chris, and assume that he wants to, not only increase his skill at playing guitar, but wants to begin writing original songs. Foremost, Chris needs to dedicate himself to regular practice with his instrument. This seems painfully obvious, but far too many people dream about getting better at something, while never actually spending time with that something: this is a foible that we are all guilty of, at one time or another. Practice is important. Practice is the weight lifting aspect of our creative fitness regime. Without practice, how can you expect to be capable of something, much less good at it? This is the groundwork.
For Chris to take the next step he needs to intentionally dabble with his own ideas. I once had a friend that was quite good at guitar, far better than me. I always envied his talent. He and I were hanging out one day and I asked him if he ever wrote original material. To my surprise, this was something he had never considered, not once. On the other hand, while not as talented as this friend, I had a voice-memo folder brimming with badly recorded versions of poorly played riffs. The difference between us was that I intentionally dabbled--if I like something, I am rarely satisfied with a passive relationship to it. The night of this discussion between my friend and me, we broke out the guitars and played around with some spontaneous ideas. And, by the time we hung up our instruments, my friend was commenting, “that was really fun!” And it is! Being intentional with taking your passion from mimicry to originality is wonderful--stressful and soul-crushing at times; but truly wonderful!
To complete your exercise regime, you are going to need to summon some additional intentionality, this time relating to the creativity that you consume. If you want to master an art, truly drawing it into yourself, you need to analyze why you like what you like about it. When listening to his favorite band, Chris shouldn’t just be enjoying the emotional journey that the songs take him on, but dissecting why their particular combination of notes inspire the feelings that they do. This is looking-behind-the-curtain component. Generally, it is all right there for you to see, much like the partially pulled back curtain at the edge of a stage play, but we need to be willing to look. What I am describing here is the true root of inspiration. Inspiration is loving something so much that you are willing to forgo pure enjoyment of it in an effort to understand its very nature; for, it is only through this understanding that you can ever hope to glean valuable insights into potency. None of this is to suggest that Chris shouldn’t just listen to music sometimes without having the analytical machinery of his mind whirring away. However, if Chris does want to be more creative within his chosen field, he is going to need to spend at least part of his time not just ingesting, but interacting. And, as a note here, learning how something works will not devastate your enjoyment of it. A friend of mine, the other night, mentioned that he advises against film school, for learning what goes on behind the scenes ruins the experience of watching movies. Don’t trust him! A good movie is a good movie. A good movie draws you in, whether or not you know how movies, in general, are produced. If anything, understanding the craftsmanship of cinema can provide an additional level of enjoyment of films, as you can appreciate them as narrative journeys, and as the product of a spectrum of highly dedicated artisans.
*Stay tuned, as part 2 of this article will be coming out in two weeks.*