Who let creativity die in all of us?

Luke Miller, CEO/CCO – Moment Creative

Sit up straight, be quiet, act your age, don’t do that, calm down, you’re an adult now…

All phrases we undoubtedly heard at some point during our coming of age. Seemingly innocuous phrases on the journey to adulthood, but the truth is that each one of them is a wound. A stab from a dull, serrated knife. A puncture through the skin cutting the veins and vessels that form the fabric of our unbridled minds. A perforation that is slowly killing our imaginations, our abilities to dream, and our creativity with each stab and twist. All humans are born creative, and, sadly, most humans lose that creativity somewhere along the way as we are repeatedly stabbed by the blade of a knife known as growing up.

Everyone’s creativity is attacked, it’s unavoidable, but there are three possible outcomes to the attack:

  1. For nearly everyone, their creativity was murdered in cold blood. A slow, yet painless, death that occurred for many years as we quietly bled out. A death many of us didn’t even notice, so, certainly, never mourned. Let’s take a moment of silence for those just now realizing this. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
  2. For a select group, their creativity was merely injured. Not without scars, but still functional. Needing a transfusion at times, but the heart never stopped beating. Called upon when needed, like an old work truck sitting in the barn. Slowly turning over on a cold January morning until it sputters to life; thick black smoke from the tailpipe. It serves its purpose and then goes back into hibernation.
  3. For the chosen few, their creativity was left untouched. Whether through the grace of a higher power or because they were lucky enough to dodge the knife, a few people make it out unscathed. I see this in young children or those with mental handicaps. I see this in the purest of hearts and the bravest of souls.

I believe I sit in camp two, but sometimes feel like I can flutter towards camp one or three. I have my moments of absolute creative brilliance (or so I think) and I have my moments of feeling creatively worthless. I certainly feel like I have more moments in camp one than I ever do in camp three. But the fact that I have moments in camp three should leave plenty of hope for those reading this.

As an adult creative, a person whose career is predicated around the idea of thinking of and bringing big ideas to life, I struggle with this creative paradigm. Admittedly, bringing the ideas to life is a walk in the park compared to conceiving those ideas in the first place. I think the point of everything I am saying here is that in all reality, nobody’s creativity has actually been murdered; it has merely been beat into submission.

We have a sign in our office that reads “Take the Governor Off.” For those that don’t know, a governor is a mechanical feature of engines that’s sole purpose is to limit it. It’s what prevents Lime Scooters from going faster than 17 MPH, it’s what prevents Teslas from burning out at stop lights when the accelerator is depressed, and it’s also what prevents you from being creative.

Your creativity isn’t dead, it’s in a coma. Wake it up! Pull it out of the depths of repression. It may be a little dusty, but you can blow the dirt off and see if it still runs. And if it does, don’t be afraid to rev the engine. Take the damn governor off. Quit doubting yourself, quit self-imposing limits on your ability, and unfold those wings so you can fly. Your creativity can be as good as it ever was, all you have to do is believe in it again.

Here are three ways you can get creative motors going before a brainstorming session:

  • Challenge everyone to draw something their 8 year old self might have drawn. See who can draw a human with 7 arms, an upside down flying house, or that weird sun in the corner of a drawing thing.
  • Create a hypothetical (and absurd) client brief and see what kind of ideas you can think of. The weirder the better.
  • Do mad libs, play a game like Cards Against Humanity, paint a group picture, build something with Legos, etc. Do anything different from the usual, something that activates the right side of the brain, something that doesn’t have requirements/deadlines, something that allows unfettered creative exploration, and no winners or losers.

Creativity isn’t a contest, it’s a congenital trait that everyone has. It’s a muscle than can be strengthened, but it’s a muscle that must be stretched. It is truly a use it or lose it feature of every human, but the key phrase there is that it is a feature of EVERY human. Don’t let your creativity slink away, don’t let it go unused, and don’t ever think it doesn’t exist. Your creativity is a peacock: beautiful and proud. Don’t hide those gorgeous feathers. Unruffle that stunning plumage and flaunt it. After all, why would we have such spectacular quills if they weren’t meant to be seen?

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