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THE PERVASIVE MYTHS ABOUT CREATIVITY.

ONCE UPON A TIME: THE PERVASIVE MYTHS ABOUT CREATIVITY.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away…

there was a child named Charles Francis Xavier; or was it Thomas A. Anderson, or Buffy Summers, or Emmet Brickowski or maybe Daenerys Targaryen? Oh, I remember now, it was Anakin Skywalker.

Anakin was a very special boy. Through no fault or effort of his own; through genetics, or will of the gods or having an abundance of Midi-chlorians in his cells, he was gifted with the capacity to develop amazing Force powers. Powers that the vast majority of other creatures in the galaxy did not have access to and could never develop no matter how hard they tried.

This gift was passed on to his children Luke and Leia and his grandchild Ben. Even his brother Chad could harness this selective and powerful sensitivity.

This sensitivity, this unique, innate talent of Anakin’s attracted the attention of the best schools. Representatives from all the prestigious Jedi Academies came to his backwater planet to recruit this special boy. After doing well on the required standardized tests, an audition, and a portfolio review, he was accepted and enrolled at the very selective (5% acceptance rate) Jedi Temple on Coruscant. The rest, as you know, is galactic history.

The Chosen One

This meme of the “chosen one” is a powerful one in our culture. It resonates because it allows the viewer to project themselves into the story as being special, unique and eventually important at a cosmic level. As children (and adults) when we play Star Wars we gravitate towards the “Specials” like Anakin. Sure, we may do our duty and take our turn as a random stormtrooper or the droid that cleans the bathrooms on the Death Star, but that is only so that next round we can be a lightsaber wielding, mountain throwing Jedi. The dark side of this meme (see what I did there) is that it has leaked all over our collective sense and understanding of creativity and creative capacity.

This manifests in all sorts of ways, but one of the most common I run into occurs when I am interviewing students with their parents about a student’s artwork. It is incredibly common for a parent to preface an entire conversation about a student with “I don’t know where she gets it. I can’t even draw a stick figure. Her brother is an engineer so she is really unique”. This assumes drawing is some sort of absolute signifier of creativity (it is not) or engineering is somehow inherently not creative (the opposite is true). The flip side of this is the parent who says “Well, I am a painter and my father was a sculptor, so you can see why she is as creative as she is.” This assumes creativity is inherently artistic (it isn’t) or that all art is creative (it is not) and more importantly that creative capacity is some sort of dominant or recessive genetic trait like eye color (it is not).

Meanwhile…

Let us return now to a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. This is a slightly different galaxy than the one we previously visited.

A young Morseerian named Nabrun Leids, like all children in the galaxy, had a natural sensitivity to the Force. His peers would thrill in the use of this exciting ability by constantly shaking objects with their minds or shooting electricity from their hands. Their efforts were small and rudimentary (shaking a spoon on a table or sneaking up on a playmate and shocking them with a small spark), but they all had the potential to improve their Force sensitivity should they desire or if they were fortunate enough to find a good teacher. Of course, much of this play and

Nabrun Leids via Wookieepedia

experimentation came to a screeching halt once Nabrun had to start school. The teachers discouraged deviating from the lesson plans which were mostly focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Wookies (STEW). The galaxy needed moisture farmers and Death Star welders, not sad devotion to an ancient and some would say hokey religion. A few of Nabrun’s friends still played with the Force now and again but as school went on using the Force was seen as weird or childish and ostracized by peers and adults alike. As great as the Force seemed, and as drawn to it as he was, Nabrun allowed his Force sensitivity to be neglected. Just as Mrs. De Maal said in Wookie 102, “there are quite simply no jobs in it”. No one, and certainly not Nabrun’s parents, wanted him to be a starving Jedi. Maybe he could major in blaster maintenance and study the Force as a hobby.

In a galaxy not so far away…

Back in the Milky Way, our universe is essentially Nabrun’s, not Anakin’s. Creative capacity is not some special power that you are either gifted with or denied at birth. It is not something that you pass on to some children and not others. It is not something that is bestowed by external super natural beings. It is a natural and universal capacity that is an essential part of being human.

It is similar to our innate capacity for language. The parent who claims creative specialness for their offspring by pointing out that they themselves cannot draw a stick figure is the equivalent of saying “I don’t know how she is speaking with you, I can’t even spell cat.” Just as the capacity for language can develop into a myriad of dialects and eventually reading and writing (which is not innate). Creative capacity can manifest in all sorts of ways and be cultivated to an incredibly advanced and meaningful level no matter what the articulation. Creative capacity can also be neglected and suppressed which lends itself to people believing that they do not possess even the potential of being creative.

This segregation of individuals into having or not having the capacity for creativity is a false framework. If you feel you have never been and therefore can never be creative you are wrong. If you feel that because you have articulated your creative capacity in some form that you are super special and gifted then you are wrong as well. What remains after we strip away the myths and false narratives of creativity is something much more interesting and meaningful.

Over the next few articles we will be exploring the power and substance of creative thinking, creative process, creative production, creative fear and how these elements flow together into a creative confluence that impacts the universe in a variety of ways. We will also be exploring how you, as a being full of creative potential, can cultivate and leverage this capacity in order to positively shape your professional and personal life.

I hope you will join us on this journey.

Till then, may the force help you live long and prosper.

(I felt this sentence cause a disturbance, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.)

Suggested Resources

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. (Affilliate Link)*

Creativity: Understanding Innovation in Problem Solving, Science, Invention, and the Arts by Robert Weisberg. (Affilliate Link)*

One of Us…

I also want to extend an invitation to join our fantastically creative and dynamic community at artnerdsociety.com free of charge. It is a digital education space designed to help you cultivate and leverage your creative capacity through our ever growing list of free courses, the curated resource library Artnerd Society Recommends, and our members only forum section Conversations.

Title Image Courtesy of Greg Rakorzy via. Unsplash.com

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