Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Creativity - Let the Beast Out

I was a daydreamer. "Mrs. Sault, something is wrong with Dean. He never pays attention. He's always off in some fantasy."

That was a criticism leveled at me by my Kindergarten teacher. I "failed" Kindergarten. Forced to repeat it a year later.

Shirtless author-to-be on right.
Is creativity a congenital anomaly? Where does it come from? Can it be learned? It isn't bought in a box or downloaded. It can't be injected in the mind of a person lacking it. Rather, some people seem to be born with this affliction. Others are not.

Earliest manifestations of creativity can be seen in children with wild imaginations. While most kids draw reflections of what they see, the creative child will draw images found only in abstractions of their own minds. They reach conclusions built on foundations of their own making.

Creativity often gets crushed in early years under the heavy palm of conformity, especially during the academic regimentation of elementary schooling. Parents who recognize (and value) the gift of creativity will teach the child to conform on the surface while nurturing the wild speculation raging inside the creative mind.

In adulthood, the anomaly of creativity portends out-of-the-box thinking. Einstein did not see Newtonian laws of physics in his mind. Of necessity, he learned the mundane, but privately, his intellect ripped them to shreds as he solved intricate questions unanswered by status quo thinking. Hemingway rejected eloquent prose of his day in favor of working man language, yet his genius was in crafting elegance from simplicity. Steven Jobs built a computer empire from a simple idea started in his garage. Such are the results of creative minds.

Writers seem to fall into two groups. A lucky few possess extraordinary creativity and have found release for pent up visions in their stories. Others, like me, have tasted the sweetness of latent creativity and struggle to turn the key in the cage door, hoping to release the monster.

What about everybody else? You might wonder, “Am I one of the creative few, or am I destined to a life of structure and perpetually satisfied curiosity?"

Rise great steed. Off to the frog prince's castle.
The nice thing about creativity is that IF you long for it, then it's already there, simply waiting for discovery and cultivation. You see, people without the congenital creativity don’t crave it. That’s the good news. By asking the question, you have taken the first step to free your imagination.

If you wish you were as creative as your favorite author, or as talented as your favorite artist, then all you have to do is remove inhibitions that life installed. Let the beast explode from your inner mind. Seek change. Embrace risk. When life presents a fork in your journey, choose the path that provides no preconceived expectation. Pick the one made more mysterious with its simultaneous potential for discovery and ominous uncertainty.

In writing, creativity demands we release our passion, without limit, and give the world stories that are uniquely us, not clones of others. Most importantly, we must write for ourselves. So, let your creative monster run wild and enjoy the surprises from within.


  1. Great post, Dean. And something many writers need to hear. Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Let me tell you a little story within a story, Dean. When I was 14 years old, studying for what is known in Ireland and the UK as junior certificate, one of my teachers took me aside one day and told me that I was the biggest daydreamer they had ever seen in 25 of education. She warned me that it would be a grave detriment to me when I got into the real world. Instead of seeing the creativity within me and nurturing it, she crushed it under the weight of her own over-inflated ego. Suffice it to say she was the first name on my guest list when I had my book launch. She will also be the first person I visit when I complete my full honours degree.

    Your article, and you as a person, is completely on the same wavelength as I am. I believe that anyone can become proficient at putting one word after another, but the gift of imagination - of creativity - is not something you learn but rather something you are born with. To sum up my imagination would be to say that when a non-imaginative (or lesser-imaginative) person looks up and sees a blue sky and an orange sun, and nothing else, I look up and imagine a scene where a bunch of military commandos abseil from a chopper and storm the residence of a suspected terrorist group.

    What can I say? I can't turn it off, and even if I could, why would I ever want to? Everything good that has happened in my life I owe to my imagination. If it wasn't for my imagination, I wouldn't have started writing. If I hadn't started writing, I wouldn't have went back to college. If I hadn't gone back to college, I wouldn't be three semesters away from a full honours degree, and a year away from - hopefully - earning my teaching qualifications.

    But there's one thing you can be assured of: In five years' time when I see that kid in my class who likes to daydream, you can bet the farm his/her dreams won't be crushed like mine were.

    Thank you for another great article.

    1. Thank you for revealing of yourself in responding to the blog, Dan. Ironically, a child born with intrinsic creativity, will carry that seed for a lifetime. Hopefully, it will find nutrition and sunlight to grow to full bloom. I'm glad that yours is raching full expression despite efforts by that teacher to squelch it. Thanks for commenting...Dean.

  3. There are different strains of creativity. Some are expressed through intriguing novels and stories. Some are expressed through software programming or welding or wedding gown or cake design.

    But it is true, that each of those strains can be hampered from reaching full bloom or even crushed without support from a family member, neighbor, teacher, mentor…someone. And while it can be accomplished in adulthood, catch for all those years can be difficult. Sort of how they say it’s more difficult for an adult to learn a foreign language than it is for a child. At least that’s how I see it.

    Good post, Dean (as usual).

    1. One of the unexpected results of internet growth is that many people who have spent a lifetime with their creativity stifled are meeting strangers who provide stimulation and encouragement that, otherwise, might never have happened. Thank you for your comment, Terry.

  4. Yes, I always wish I could more fully unleash the creativity inside me. It's hard sometimes. But so worth it. Nice post.

    1. You can, Angie. Creativity yearns for release and the only thing holding it back is US. Purge the inhibitions that harness your creativity and let the words fly! Best wishes for your writing...Dean

  5. A facet of creativity often missed is exploring options. Try to find a few, and explore them. It's a far broader and universally-useful method than just consulting a thesaurus on alternate word choices. As Yogi Berra says, "when you come to a fork in the road, take it!" I do. It keeps that writer's block at bay, yes it does. And more, in many parts of my life.

    1. Wonderful advice from Yogi. I also agree that writer's block can be thwarted by nurturing creativity. If anything, I don't suffer writer's block, I suffer writer's finger cramps!

      Thanks for your comments...Dean


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