By Pippa Thorne
When Durham is blessed with the Lumiere light festival every two years, the creativity of countless incredible artists who turn light into art is shown for thousands to see. When I first saw Lumiere I found myself wishing I could be as creative as the people who made these pieces of art and couldn’t help feeling like I fell short somehow. There is this idea, I think, that people believe that if they cannot produce something groundbreaking or spectacular then there is little point trying to be creative in the first place because someone else could undoubtedly do it better.
However, there are countless known benefits of practising creativity. These range from increasing happiness, reducing stress, and improving both your short and long term well-being to providing motivation and purpose for life and strengthening your sense of self. What’s even better is that, contrary to how it may feel or appear, creativity isn’t something you either have or don’t have, it is a skill that can be nurtured and cultivated so anyone can reap the benefits of it.
The many different aspects that constitute being creative is also something people don’t fully appreciate. Cognitive psychologist James C Kaufman states that not only do people minimise their own creative ability, but they also don’t realise how often they are being creative in their daily lives. Kaufman cites fixing a hole in the wall, coming up with a workout routine and even tax deductions as examples of everyday creativity that we diminish due to our art bias in creativity. That is, we tend to associate creativity solely with the arts.
There are also many different aspects to creativity from sudden inspiration to the idea itself, its continuous refinement and, finally, its execution. These are all equally important parts of the creative process but aren’t always equally valued in our own minds and this can be detrimental to the creative process.
As Kaufman himself states: “Too much of a focus on the novelty-and-inspiration side of creativity can lead to ideas that are chaotic and unhelpful.” Kaufman further emphasises the importance of small moments of creativity in our lives that he calls “mini-c”. These are sudden ideas or thoughts that appear in your mind that make you reflect. Of course, some people then go on to develop these ideas further, into what he calls “little-c” but this momentary burst of inspiration alone is meaningful and important in our lives even if its only outcome is making us smile or laugh for a brief moment. Recognising these small moments as something creative is extremely important because it may just allow someone to identify as a creative person, making them more likely to practise creativity in the future.
What then, can we learn from all of this? I think it is that we can all receive the benefits of being creative without having to worry about creating something that will outlast us. No matter the outcome, being creative for no purpose other than our own enjoyment is enough.
Image: Anna Zakharova via Unsplash