We typically associate creativity with art, writing, and music. And while that is spot on, creativity is also a life skill. In essence, it is the ability to think beyond the obvious, outside the box, and to use one’s imagination to create new, good, ideas and things. So, practising creativity through the expressive arts can in fact develop our skills to problem solve in our everyday life and help with our personal growth, and vice versa.
Here are just some of the ways we benefit from a creative mind in our lives and in social struggle:
1) Appreciating people: A creative approach helps us to expand our minds, our perceptions and to value the fact that there are multiple ways to do things, and to be. We can respect people of different genders, sexualities, cultures, and lifestyles to us, as well as people who like different things, who deal with stress differently, and who express themselves and go through the day differently. We thrive on the variety of people out there.
2) Conversation: Similarly, creative minds enjoy a surprising conversation, and have the ability to take chit chat beyond the typical stuff and the initial small talk to interesting, vibrant places that they can learn from.
3) Problem solving: When you get lost in a new city, when your bus takes you down a surprise route, when the online form insists you fill out two surnames but you just have one, or when none of the clothes in the shop fit, creative thinking can help you find a way out of the situation that is efficient, and not too frustrating. You can adjust the clothing, for example, or write an angry post about the limits and prejudices of the clothing industry.
4) Cooking: A lot of people who aren’t experienced or confident in the kitchen would prefer to stick to the standard recipes (especially those people who are poor or not fans of throwing out ruined food). Creativity though, is a mentality that allows you to go beyond the same four dishes. It involves being flexible enough to follow some rules, while breaking others, experimenting, and then learning from any mishaps. Adding three kilos of sugar to a small pancake isn’t creative: it won’t work and it doesn’t make sense. Creativity isn’t lazy thought: it is effort, but it is also playful. If you’re in a creative mood then, you might try different syrup flavours and toppings, different shaped pancakes, using food dyes, or other things that could make cooking fun. This is creativity at its best: it is relaxing and freeing.
5) Confidence and risk: When writing, a paragraph that just isn’t working is an opportunity. You can identify the issue, then think of ways to solve it, and some of those ways could end up really improving the whole piece. Problems are opportunities and chances to improve. A creative mentality isn’t bothered when something doesn’t work the first time. When you develop a habit of identifying flaws or obstacles and working with them, you develop confidence in your ability to handle difficult situations. You also become bolder about taking risks, because the worst that can happen (in most cases) is it will go wrong, but you will learn something. Creativity involves benefiting from failure.
6) Life is adventure: Okay, life isn’t always an adventure. It’s often rife with injustice and exploitation. All the points here can be qualified – there’s no need to appreciate racists, for example, and sometimes even the most creative people aren’t in the mood for a conversation. But the point is that creativity helps optimise these things. Being open to new ideas, to possibilities, to alternatives, and being curious, helps us to find the adventure in every train trip, random park we stumble across, the way the light falls on the beer bottle someone left behind, in the traffic jam, and the treacherous rain. The streets are full of stories and photos, and there is wonder in pretty much every moment.
7) Not accepting injustice: Creativity means not accepting the status quo as the only way to do things. Sometimes, things are so rubbish that it can take great strength and almost delusional amounts of optimism to believe that a better, more humane world is possible. We get a lot of that strength from being informed and from really living in the world and being involved in struggle. Creativity though, helps us to see that things can indeed be different, and there are various ways to get there.
8) Creating movements, organisations, united fronts, collectives, urban gardens, and more: Creativity is starting from almost nothing, and building upwards. We can also be creative about how we protest and communicate, to ensure that we are engaging, participatory, and dynamic.
9) Handling uncertainty: Change is constant. Our bodies grow up and then age, our souls deepen and evolve, our friendships start, grow, and end, and people with power come and go. Life is uncertain. While it should be a human right to have a say in our future, that’s different to trying to control it. A creative mindset allows us to be flexible, comfortable, and even excited about different possible future outcomes.
10) Empathy: Creativity means seeing things from multiple angles. People are generally a lot more complex than we assume, and have lived through experiences that we are unaware of and that inform their take on things. Appreciating these nuances can help us to listen deeply to others and imagine how they feel.
11) Innovation: Whereever we are dedicating our energy – whether it is to child rearing, science, landscape gardening, building, or writing apps – being creative helps us come up with new things, or better ways to do old things.
Critical thought and creativity are invaluable skills that aren’t sufficiently encouraged by most education systems, media, or entertainment.