I’m a writer, so I’m expected to call myself creative. (After all, we create entire worlds on the page.) At university I trained as an architect and nothing screams “create” as much as a building flowing from pen or computer to the printed page, then emerging from the ground. I come from a family of amateur painters and flower arrangers and knitters. We needlepoint and sew. A few even garden. (Very few.)
I’d never thought to draw a line demarcating what is creative from what isn’t. Or who is creative from who isn’t. That is, until a few weeks ago when I was forced to defend my open-armed approach.
It all started when I attended a Creative Mornings gathering in Lexington, Kentucky. (If you haven’t heard of Creative Mornings, an international organization with events in over 200 cities you can learn morehereand hope that you are near enough to participate).
Creative Mornings’ events open with the phrase: “Everyone is Creative. Everyone is Welcome.”
These are my people!
On the day I attended, the topic was based on Vanessa Grossl’s “Savor: An Immigrant Entrepreneur Oral History Project” in which she documents the stories of some of Lexington, Kentucky’s leading immigrant culinary entrepreneurs. The three speakers (representing the Athenian Grill, Sorella gelateria, and Lexington Pasta/Pasta Garage) were engaging, informative, and innovative.
Yes, innovative! During questions it was clear that the audience wanted to learn more about how these creative entrepreneurs started, what kept them going, and what setbacks they had faced and overcome. Although building a business from the ground up from a single pasta machine, or gelato mixer, or borrowed grill in a food truck might sound night and day from writing words on a page, I felt a kinship with the speakers who wanted to literally make something, themselves, from scratch. (After all, what are individual words if they aren’t ingredients that get mixed into sentences, then paragraphs, and finally complete stories?)
My euphoria didn’t last. Several hours later a friend said to me: “That’s not right. Not everyone is creative. The opening phrase for Creative Mornings should be: Everyone can tryto be creative. Or hopeto be creative.”
I’m still processing this. Does it dilute creativity (the purest form of creating something wholly from the imagination) if we admit that everyone is or has the potential to be creative? What do we gain from defining the limits of creative endeavors? After all, even with my history of architecture and writing I am still inordinately proud of my organization of the packing of a moving truck – every piece of furniture and box calculated to fit in a complex 3-D puzzle balancing weight, fragility, and value. Not the development of a symphony, novel or haute-couture dress, but it sure felt creative! Aren’t there many ways of expressing creativity, and doesn’t that lift us all?
Merriam-Webster defines creativity as “the ability to create” or “the quality of being creative.” So, what is to create? According to Merriam-Webster: “To bring into existence” or “to invest into a new form” or “to invest through imaginative skill.”
Is the encouragement of creativity a part of creating? Is creativity a gift or can it be learned? What do you think?