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#141 – Three Ways to be Creative
A Guide for Leading a Creative Life
This is Adventures in Storytelling your weekly note with resources, insights, and actionable tools for better communication through storytelling. Enjoy.
I’m going to try my hardest not to let this note turn into a book report. Walk with me.
I spent last week reading Rick Rubin’s book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being. My Re-Work co-founder suggested it and a few days later the library offered me a a skip-the-line 7-day loan. The universe had conspired to force me to read a book I’d sort of been avoiding. Of course I’d heard about it, and even listened to a couple of podcasts interviewing him. Still I resisted. Because, as you know, I have a weird relationship with creativity.
I am a creative being. We all are. But sometimes, especially when I’m struggling with a project as I am now, it makes me uncomfortable to think about. Well, it ended up being the exact meditation on the role of creativity in our lives and the choice to live a creative life that I needed. Rubin never says it but there is a distinct difference between creativity and making art. And that’s important for us non-Grammy winning, not rich humans working through what it means to be creative in our lives.
I think I have lived a creative life. But I have to admit it wasn’t intentional. Well not exactly. For awhile, in my years spent working for ad agencies I believed I had let go of creativity to embrace business and commerce and security. But what I had actually done was begin to channel my creativity in new ways. To apply it to problems and not just art. Because in the end, creativity is playful problem solving. As I work on the upcoming Re-Work workshop on play and creativity, I’ve started to think about the notion of creating deeply. Rubin’s book has added depth to my thinking.
I always seen play and creativity as connected, one makes space for the other. But as I built a workshop to try to separate them, I discovered not only are they connected, they live and thrive best when together and interconnected. Play is creative and creativity is playful. They are both valuable and generative.
Between Re-Work and this book, I’ve now begun to think of creativity in three specific and distinct ways.
Creation – This is the human and natural element of creativity. We as lives on this planet and human beings are products of and capable of creation. It’s part of why I say we are all creative. Because we are. We just apply it in different ways, but we are creative animals. We were born to create many things in many ways via many means.
Creative Artistry – This is art making. Professional and non-professional artists choose to engage with it every day. The art is the point. The process and the output are intertwined. It is taking inspiration and ideas and crafting something new in whatever medium best serves the art. This is a lot of what Rubin writes about in the book. It’s the most pure but also most complex aspect of creativity. It is the being part of art.
Applied Creativity – This is leveraging your creative self and mind to solve problems. Life problems, work problems, anything really. This is one that requires practice and tapping into your human capacity to create. This is what I do most often in my work and what I want to encourage others to do more of. This is leveraging storytelling in your marketing and brand strategy. Sometimes that problem is how do I make a thing, but sometimes it is about starting a business or developing a new campaign, or decorating your home. Commerce is often plays a role and it is the other side of the thin line between artistry and industry.
The Creative Act in many ways is a quite spiritual books. It talks a lot about the amorphous untameable nature of creativity. But then grounds it in the act of harnessing the energy of that thing and applying it to make things. In the book Rubin says, “If you start from the position that there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, and creativity is just free play with no rules, it’s easier to submerge yourself joyfully in the process of making things.” It’s an oddly freeing way to think of creativity. And I encourage you to consider it for yourself.
What do you think of my three elements of creativity and how do they show up in your own life? I would love to hear you thoughts in the comments.
A Story Well Told
Obviously, of course, I think the story well told is Rubin’s book. The Creative Act: A Way of Being. It sparked a number of ideas that may have me writing about creativity for the rest of the month. We’ll see. I would LOVE your thoughts if you’ve read the book or are curious about it. Please share in the comments or respond to this email if you happen to be reading this in your inbox.
AND ALSO. If you haven’t signed up for my other project, Re-Work, but are interested in the interplay of play and creativity, I’d encourage you to join the community. Our next workshop is coming up in August and is all about Play & Creativity. They are an essential step in our larger framework for re-imagining work and life. Our community members are always the first to hear about the dates and details of it. Hope to see you over there too (we only send quarterly emails).
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