Recently, I gave a workshop in Wichita called “Nurturing Creativity and Inspiration.” I shared about how to be more creative in teaching and how to find that elusive concept of inspiration. Though I cannot condense a 2 hour workshop into a blog post, I will be sharing a few of the things that I spoke about throughout this year. I hope that you too will go away encouraged that you already have the tools to be as creative as you want to be and that you can learn to find the inspiration that is all around you. It is truly much more simple than we often think it is!
I am going to start by sharing what I think was the most important part of the workshop: the definition of creativity. If you believe that creativity is creating something new, than it is inevitable that you will always feel less than your creative best. You will frequently be discouraged that your creation is not as new or unique or different than another creation.
When I was studying composition in my master’s program, I would spend long hours at the piano composing. I was often very discouraged with what I would write because I felt like it was simply a regurgitation of music that had already been composed. I was obsessed with becoming the next Steve Reich or Arnold Schoenberg…I felt I had to be the one who started a new movement in music or else what I composed would not matter.
As a result, I would often be in what my husband called a “composing funk” when he came home. [I'm sure you are gathering that such a label was not a good thing!] So, he had a discussion with me about my definition of creativity. I told him that I thought creativity was “creating something new.” But, he insisted that this was not correct and he gave me a definition that has changed my life.
Yes, let me say that again. It has changed my life. It has changed my approach to composition. It has changed my creative output. It has changed me as big ideas often do.
So, here is what he said:
Creativity is not creating something new.
Creativity is recombining elements that already exist in a new way.
Ah, now this made sense! It finally made sense to me what Ecclesiastes says: “There is nothing new under the sun.” Indeed all of the things that I have always thought were new and made me doubt the validity of that verse were created by recombining that which already existed! These elements are all around use. We just need combine them in a different way to come up with something that is “new!”
This definition completely freed me and allowed me to use what I already knew to be creative. It was such a freeing conversation and in future posts I will share examples about creativity in our own profession, tell you how I use that definition, and show how you can use it to be more creative.
For now, I’d love for you read this article, “The Genius of the Tinkerer” from the Wall Street Journal that came out 8 days after I gave this workshop. Talk about validation! I’d encourage you to read it, reflect, and let me know how these things might make a difference in your own creative endeavors. [And for those of you who attended the workshop, this article will make clear why I subscribe to The Journal to "enlarge my creative box."]