Most of us lose this joy. We should find it again.
While I was writing my previous story, I noticed how much I was enjoying it. In this moment of mindful detachment, I realised that the act of making a new thing or idea is inherently pleasurable. It gives us a sense of power, achievement, and pride. It also struck me how many years I’d spent with little of this joy. It led to this story.
The world we’ve lost
As children, we were creative. We drew freely, built without rules, and made up private languages or songs. It was all natural and fun. What we made was not new or valuable for the world, but it was for us.
Somehow with adolescence, college, and employment, most of us have left most of our creativity behind.
Unless we are fortunate to be artists or work in a creative profession, which is a small part of the population, we don’t do much that’s original in our adult life.
If you argue that we should leave it to nature how we end up spending our time, I counter that we have developed awareness, intelligence and free will for a reason — to observe, question, change, and do better. It applies to everything, including creativity. That I get the idea of a change validates its intrinsic value. The rest is up to our intelligence and action.
Why is creativity uncommon?
We are unique among myriad species to be so creative. It’s also the reason why we are dominant. So why is creativity not seen a lot more in most of us?
We’ve developed tools, techniques, and skills to do many of life’s tasks more efficiently. But when we apply them millions of times to make useful things, they are not instances of creativity.
Perhaps nature places less importance on it than other abilities that directly support our survival. Hunting, gathering, farming, manufacturing, fighting, and the things generated by such primary occupations, are precious.
If we innovate too much, it can directly reduce the production of valuable goods by providing it less time. And it can minimise output indirectly by disrupting the creation of stable production systems.
How is creativity valuable?
Creativity provides the species with three things —
- Control over its ecosystem
- Social bonding
- Mental and physical health
These benefits increase our chances of survival.
Everything we do has the potential for originality and invention. Work, science, art, music, sports, relationships — think of anything, and you’ll find human creativity in small or large measures in them.
The prevalence of creativity is low, but its effect is almost always substantial on the individual or species. Original imagination gives us insights into our world, tools, quality, new ways of communicating, and numerous other gifts.
The inventiveness of highly creative individuals from ancient times has powered our progress. Sometimes they’ve been rewarded in life but often recognised after they’ve died.
The fun part of creativity
When we look at creativity like we did above, it sounds utilitarian and dull. But we’ve evolved to enjoy invention. Our mind rewards us for it with pleasure.
So we can safely ignore the underlying evolutionary reasons and enjoy it naturally. We do this when without seriousness, we sketch, colour, arrange flowers, put up Diwali lights, vary a recipe, draft a story or a poem, or hum a tune of our making.
I am enjoying creating this story with no particular goals. Yet it may make my mind sharper, bond a few readers with me, and inspire someone to invent something widely useful or enjoyable.
How much creativity is right?
There should be the right mix in society between the number of people engaged mainly in production versus creative pursuits to ensure that neither productivity nor health and progress suffers.
What is a good ratio of producers to inventors in society? 80:20? 75:25?
How should this change with affluence? Should we move more people towards creative occupations as we become more developed? Does it happen anyway?
Similarly, there needs to be a balance within us as individuals. Neither can an artist work without any method, nor can a factory worker be completely uncreative. The former’s skill and output will be low, and the latter’s mental health and work quality will suffer. Society will lose from both outcomes.
The lack of creativity may significantly contribute to the dreariness of work, passive pastimes, and rising depression we see in the world today.
The balance between work and healthy creative play is indeed off. We are being damaged and held back by a shortfall of creativity.
Together and individually, we need to be more creative in our daily lives.
How can we be more creative?
It needs creativity to introduce creativity into our daily life.
Here are some hopscotch squares —
- We will accept the value and joy of creativity.
- We will be conscious of how creative we are or not.
- We will not expect to be a Da Vinci, Mozart, or Rembrandt. We will be free like children.
- We will not judge our or others’ inventions. I bet we’ll strike gold once in a while, or at least copper.
- We will be inventive while working in the home, office, field, or road.
- We will create in our spare time. It is probably easier for the better off who have substantial free time.
- We will remember to invent and create with others too. It lifts its pleasure and potential to new levels.
- Mainly, we will ‘Just Do It’.
- An IT programmer will imagine new ways of coding or making pottery.
- A salesperson will think of innovations to increase sales or write poetry while travelling.
- A homemaker will be inventive with her cooking or take up painting or carpentry.
- A factory manager will reward good work in a new way or write a book in her spare time.
I am not advocating creativity at the expense of productive work. But we know that in our waking hours, there’s a lot of time when we are neither productive nor creative. We can dispatch our work efficiently and spend less time in passive entertainment. If we become aware and apply ourselves, we will easily find time to be creative.
But don’t pressurise yourself. It’s meant to be fun, or it will die before it’s born. And it’s easy if you begin with the freedom of low expectations.
With greater creativity come a better material life, a more connected society, and healthier individuals. And, of course, we get pure joy from it.
Let’s generate a fresh breeze of creativity in our lives to lift us on the wings of pleasure and progress.