As I’ve studied Creativity over the past ten years, I’ve learned many things that surprised me. Each day for a week, I debunked one “Creativity myth” that I believed before I started studying in earnest.
The idea that anyone can be Creative is closely related to the democratic ideal that anyone can become U.S. President.
Yes. You (any You) can be Creative if:
- You have virtuoso skills within your domain. You’ve put in 10,000 hours to get good at whatever it is you do. Anyone who has ever contributed Creatively to humanity has put in the time. Jonas Salk went through 25 years of schooling, from K-Medical School, then more academic training. Then he worked in a University lab for another decade. Salk knew viruses inside and out and was well-versed in research methodologies before discovering a vaccine for polio.
- You were not born middle-class. Studies show only 10% of highly Creative people are suburban-living, comfortably middle-class. It is much better to be born of highly-educated parents, who read a lot in their spare time and have lots of resources to invest in you. It is also better to be born of undereducated immigrant parents who want a better life for you and encourage you every day of your young adult life to try harder. Thirty-five percent of Highly Creatives belong to this last category.
- You manage your energy (or someone else does for you) to live for your ideas and projects. As a mother of three small children, Pulitzer-Prize winning author Anna Quidlen sent the kids off to school in the mornings. Then after spending an hour chatting on the phone with a friend, she sat at her computer to write for five hours. Creativity Scholar, Howard Gardner found Sigmund Freud‘s
family members organized much of their daily regime around the talented boy’s needs: He was given his own room and his own bookcases, he did not have to dine with the rest of his family but was provided with his own eating chamber; and when his sister’s piano practicing annoyed him, the piano was removed from the house.
- You enjoy working alone, with little distractions. Gaining full competence in your field can rarely be done without massive amounts of alone-time. Albert Einstein liked to work in the country. He said
I noticed how the monotony of quiet life stimulates the creative mind.
- You have community; friends or colleagues to banter and refine your ideas and also a field to present the ideas to. Your creative gifts will wilt and die without a community to review and accept ideas as appropriate. Creativity researcher, R. Keith Sawyer writes of a quirky composer whose compositions were not disseminated because no one could play them:
Harry Partch (1949) spent his career…inventing and constructing his own unique instruments to perform his compositions. Because [his compositions] don’t meet the appropriateness criterion, it’s almost impossible to perform.
- You have spent a lot of time free-thinking and playing alone, as a child. Einstein explored his native Ulm, Germany, by himself, at the age of 4.
Theoretically, anyone can be Creative like anyone in the U.S. can become President. But, in practice a whole lot is required to contribute Creatively and not everyone can do or does what it takes.