Dictionary.com calls creativity the ability to transcend the traditional and to create something new. In other words, don’t settle for the obvious, the stereotypes, the ordinary. Don’t go for hackneyed line readings or hang on for dear life to the first decent idea that comes down the pike.
But something new? Really new? Well heck, if that doesn’t put pressure on you, I don’t know what will! So let me rephrase that in a way that will put a lot less pressure on you.
Creativity is about making something unique.
Fortunately, since you ARE unique, you are completely capable of creating something unique, as long as you stay true to yourself. That means avoiding all those obvious choices, because you know what? They aren’t new, and they aren’t you. They are copies of what you’ve seen before, in movies and on television, or on Broadway the last time you visited NYC. They are an imitation of things that impressed you on some level. But even at their best, they are an imitation of someone else. They aren’t uniquely “you”.
Let me repeat what John Cleese said in his 1971 presentation on Creativity: It is NOT a talent. It is simply a way of operating. A way of going about things.
Exactly how you go about being creative depends on your own personality type. Certain types of creativity are easier for each of us, and certain types harder. If you know what it comfortable for you, you can use it to your advantage, probably without thinking too much about it. And if you know what isn’t comfortable for you, you can intentionally go after it, because you’ll be inclined to avoid it otherwise. You expand your own creative potential when you work this way.
The most important thing is to recognize that deep inside you is a completely unique interpretation of any role you might play. It’s deep inside you. It’s not the stuff floating on the surface. What you’ll find there is whatever you’ve most recently absorbed from others, or the stereotypes. You’ll find the flotsam and jetsam.
We’re looking for sunken treasure ships.
It’s okay to start with the obvious, with the stereotypes. Use them as warm-up exercises. Use them to get them out of your system, to understand their limitations. Just don’t stop there. Keep looking for the sunken treasure.
Sometimes you can intentionally dive for it. This is called trial and error. You keep trying different stuff until you yell, “Eureka!” Sometimes all you do is open the hatch to the hull of the ship and get out of the way, and trust that the jewels will float to the surface in their own good time.
Avoiding the stereotypes and seeking out the less obvious alternatives is an act of courage, and some people find it easier to do than others. Trying things you think will fail or at the very least, aren’t sure will succeed is hard. Isn’t it a waste of valuable rehearsal time?
No. As Ben Franklin said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”
Very often, the stuff that falls on its face helps you to find the thing that soars. Something you would never have found if you hadn’t tried that stupid idea.