“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
“I love art but I can’t paint to save my life. I’m just not a creative person.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard those words, or similar, being spoken by an adult when I talk to them about what I do. When the topic of creativity comes up, people seem to divide into two groups: those who classify themselves as creative, and those who don’t.
It only struck me recently that you never see this behaviour in young children. You wouldn’t hear a 4 or 5 year old say “Oh [so-and-so] is really good at drawing things, but I’m rubbish at it!” They all draw, paint, dance, and explore without thinking about who’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ at it; it’s simply an extension of their play. It comes as naturally and unquestionably to them as breathing.
At what point, then, does a child start to think that they’re not a creative person as if creativity is a skill some people have and some people don’t and that such a person is distinguishable from the rest of us?
Of course, we all know the answer to that. We learn it; at school, at home, in society at large. Those who coloured inside the lines got the best grades. Those who drew the most accurate picture got the most praise. Those who sang and danced the best got the solo. And many of those who refused to conform, who insisted on drawing purple trees and singing at the top of their lungs and dancing wildly, were eventually worn down by the system, by the standardisation and regulation of creativity.
As I see it, that’s the mistake right there. We have learned to place artistic value solely in the object, in the result of creativity, rather than in the process itself. But really, unless you’re wanting to monetise your work, it doesn’t matter if what you create is deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’ by anyone else. Defining one’s creative abilities based on whether or not a teacher, parent, or art collector deems one’s work worthy of admiration is missing the point entirely.
To be creative is to express something intangible within you. An object born of that expression has value simply by virtue of the process and inspiration that brought it into the world.
Every one of us can put paint on a canvas and call it art. We all stop and take pictures of things that inspire us. We all have a favourite song that we sing and dance along to. We all have great insights and light-bulb moments.
We are all creative. To be human is to be creative. It is built into our very DNA. It’s only thanks to our current limited, tunnel vision understanding of creativity that most adults don’t realise this.
So I’m left wondering what would happen if creativity was as valued and supported as logic and reason? I suspect the world would be a very different place if more people were given the time and space to explore what it means for them to be creative. If everyone connected to their creative impulses and felt fully self-expressed, who knows what would happen.