The Creativity Mindset

written by Laolu Ogundele 

 What pops into your mind when you think about creativity? Donatello carving out David’s sculpture in a slab of marble or Leonardo Da Vinci dutifully painting the Mona Lisa? If you do, that’s fine – and correct. However, let’s bring it closer to home. What are some creative things that you have done recently? Yes, I’m asking YOU, the reader. Don’t squirm. Don’t slink into the darkness. We’re all waiting for your answer… 

“But I’m just an accountant. I live a very routine and boring life”. 
“I’m too analytical and organized to be creative. I’m just not cut from that clothe”. 
“I have four little kids and barely have enough time for myself. I sure as hell do not do anything creative.” 

 Okay, I hear you. Let’s do it this way instead. How about you tell us about some of the weird quirky things that you sometimes do in your privacy? Like how you silently sing along to the rhythm of your footfall in the snow? Or the different embarrassing variations of names you call your pet? Or those perfect fantasies of the future that you think of in the shower? I’m sure you already know where I’m going with this. Those actions require some level of creativity. Give yourself some credit! More importantly, don’t those actions remind you of simpler times as a child, when your imagination was let loose, and you played or experimented without shame or fear of judgment? I’m sure they do. This indicates that we are all born with the seed of creativity within us, no matter how we feel right now. 

 If we’re all born creative, why do some people never reveal those abilities throughout the course of their lifetime? How did they change from children who built sandcastles and did paintings to adults who appear to be devoid of any creativity at all? Well, I liken the creative mindset to a muscle. Whatever isn’t used shrinks. If you haven’t made a significant effort to keep your creative juices flowing, they will dry up pretty soon… 

 The good news?

 Just as we can build our muscles, we can always strengthen our creative abilities at any time. It’s never too late! This would explain why we often see creative giants who discover their talents late after starting out in boring professions. A notable example is John Cleese, a man who began like many of us, studying courses like math, chemistry and law. His father, who was an insurance salesman may have imagined him starting out a career as something as usual as a college professor. How surprised he must have been when his son unearthed his remarkable gift in the areas of acting, screenwriting, comedy and production and became widely successful at it. Is John Cleese an exception? He by no means is. Don Dohler, the American film director who made a name making low-budget sci-fi and horror movies didn’t start out holding a video camera. He had been working as a payroll clerk as a 30-year-old when the business was stormed by two gun-toting robbers. They pointed the shotgun to the back of his head, and it was at that moment that he realized he wanted to start making movies. 

Talk about having an epiphany.
Thanks, robbers! 

 How about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the famous Sherlock Holmes character that became a household name in England in the late 1800s. He also didn’t begin by making sensational literary pieces. Having spent several years studying medicine in England, he had set up a thriving practice. However, he would later abandon medicine to concentrate on writing novels once his writings began to get some acclaim.

Now you may be asking: “How do you leave a stable job to pursue an uncertain creative venture? Do these people have families to feed or even live in the reality of this world?! Isn’t that risky?”. If you have such reservations, as justified as they seem, realize that they pose a stumbling block to creativity.

Here’s why:

 Buried deep within the heart of creativity is the realization that mistakes are inevitable along the journey. In fact, those mistakes are seen as part and parcel of the learning process. Think about it this way, creative minds are constantly questioning the status quo and testing out new ways of doing things. They live like pioneers. If they had a fear of making errors, they would never make any headway. This is the bane of many a non-creative who is scared to make mistakes. So, here’s the million-dollar question: are there really so few creative minds, or are most people simply scared to walk in uncharted territories? Is it a question of wanting the security of knowing you’re taking one of the proven paths to success? I’d wager it is. 

 Maybe you’re reading this and are inspired to increase your creativity. To that, I say ‘congratulations!’ As you already know, it’s definitely not too late. And you don’t have to quit your day job or do anything too radical all at once. Just a decision to reawaken a bit of your old childlike inquisitiveness will do. Create some protected time when you live in the moment with no worries about deadlines and no fear of judgment. You’ll be well on your way to joining the elite minority who make the time to strengthen their creative muscles. One warning though: once you get into your creative groove – as you most certainly will, don’t stop. As the legendary John Cleese once said, “the greatest killer of creativity is interruption”. So away with the distractions and stops and put on your creativity cap. We just might get the next Leonardo Da Vinci! 


Next post – The Story of Harmless Bullet. Chapter 29