On the other hand, there’s a niggling doubt that maybe I’m missing something… that it’s somehow too obvious.
Today I want to share it with you. Because while you might say, ‘what, Joanna? really?’, you might also go,’ OMG, this is ME!’
(And risk, and courage, are big parts of creativity).
I don’t know about you, but I get tired of how creativity gets talked about.
There’s a lot of noise about how we can all be more creative. How we can all ‘learn’ to be more creative, from children to accountants.
I don’t doubt anyone can be more creative. I like Steve Jobs’ idea, that creativity is simply joining the dots between things. We can all do that better.
But what strikes me is something else.
There’s a whole lot of us for whom being creative is as natural as blinking. Our brains see those dots, and join them together whether we want them to or not. All. The. Time.
We have no problem coming up with ideas, seeing connections, suggesting new ways of doing things or having a vision of what could be possible. Maybe we’re artists, writers, musicians, scientists or academics, or none of those things, but with a brain that just thinks more busily and broadly than most people around us.
We’re the 15, or 20% of the population whose brains do creativity so naturally that we don’t even notice it.
We are Highly Creative People
There, I said it. Let’s claim it again. We are Highly Creative People, or maybe Inner Originals.
I like Inner Originals, because that’s what it is. Whether we’re introvert or extrovert, deep within us is the fact that we think differently. We are original, innovative, unusual, because we can’t be anything else, even though we don’t always realise it. But I’m still playing with names, so let me know what you think.
For us, seeing those dots is like having hearing that’s more acute than everyone else’s. You can’t believe that no-one else can hear that noise that’s driving you mad. Or having taste buds that pick up the tiniest amounts of coriander in a dish, when no-one else can spot it.
We haven’t been taught to do that. Our brains are, literally, wired differently. We absorb more, filter out less. (Come and listen to my conversation with brain expert Jenny Brockis, for a start). Our personalities are unusually open to new experiences, influences or sensations.
And no-one is talking about us.
Why should they?
Well, here’s what I see.
The world isn’t sure about creatives
Even thought the world seems to ‘like’ creatives, it often doesn’t appreciate our boldness, or or the breadth of our thinking. It likes us to be cool, to add edge or interest. But when it comes to giving highly creative people influence or control, we often find ourself facing a lot of more negative prejudices.
Imaginative but flaky. Fun but unfocused. Not committed enough to an ‘organisation’. Creative, but. Always that but.
‘She’s really creative and interesting, but a bit unfocused/scatty/distracted/off-the-wall’.
‘He has lots of ideas, of course, but does he really have the business experience?’
‘Her work is good, but she’s forever trying to stretch the brief’
‘Artists shouldn’t get involved in things they don’t know about’ (huh?)
Are any of those familiar?
And then there’s the whole challenge of creative work being undervalued: provided for free, or the expectation of doing work for the love of it.
It works at all levels, in every place. Plenty of big companies in the creative industries rely on highly creative people to make the work that sells, but when it comes to the senior roles, they’re far more likely to be held by someone from a more traditional ‘business’ background. The round peg in the round hole.
I’ve been a rare creative in those leadership roles, and I know this: there are so many more of us who could be doing influential, powerful work in them.
It’s also about the musician who’s continually agreeing to perform for ‘exposure’, even though the audience is paying for tickets.
It’s the scientist who can’t get anyone to listen to the idea she’s been developing, even though her team’s current research is going nowhere.
It’s the curious-minded humanities graduate who believed that a job in publishing would inspire and energise her, but who finds herself talked over in every meeting she has.
Protecting your inner fire
When it gets too much, it can feel that the fire you once had inside you is almost out. That your creative energy has been overwhelmed by daily life, by constant responsibilities, family, work, the need to pay bills and make ‘sensible’ decisions, to use your energy to keep everything simply running. Or you’re exhausted by the need to conform to an environment that doesn’t value what makes you you.
It can feel that you’re somehow broken, not good enough, not competent, efficient or focused enough.
You’re not broken
The problem is, fundamentally, that the rest of the world doesn’t – can’t, even – get it. They don’t see those dots, or understand how we can see quite so many.
Our skills and abilities can look like problems. For someone whose brain doesn’t work in that way, our continually on, receptive, brain, can look a unfamiliar, unfocused or disjointed place.
It’s true that conventional structures can be challenging. Not least, if we’ve gone through education focusing more on arts and creative disciplines, we’re less experienced in structured, numerical or systematic approaches. It’s not that we aren’t capable, but – like everyone else – we need to learn the right skills. And opportunities often go to people who already have that knowledge, rather than looking at how those skills can be taught to people with other backgrounds.
And when we see those dots, those connections, we’re not always good at explaining them, at getting other people to see what we see.
We think our brains trip us up
We can feel like our own worst enemies, too, if we don’t understand how our brain works.
Our highly receptive brains mean that we can struggle to keep our focus, narrow our world-view and our attention enough to do what we need.
However, if we shut things down too far, we lose the inspiration and energy that allows us to live fully.
There are many Inner Originals in very successful, high-flying roles, and with very happy, fulfilled home lives. It’s perfectly possible.
But we’re continually juggling the need for order and structure with our drive towards creativity and openness. And when we don’t get it right, we can end up overwhelmed, burned out and wondering what happened to that inner fire we used to have.
The future is ours
Our society as a whole needs artists, scientists, musicians and creative thinkers as never before. We need to find new ways of thinking about and solving problems, of dealing with both the huge challenges of the world and about individual well-being.
There’s plenty of evidence that organisations that embrace true diversity – not just gender or race, but a wider range of backgrounds, including thinking styles – do better.
There’s also no doubt that creativity is going to be one of the most important values to our world in the coming decades.
The world needs people who have brains like ours. But at the moment we find ourselves regarded too often as an entertaining oddity, with our value not being recognised.
I want that to change.
I want you to be recognised for your real abilities. To fly higher, achieve more, be happier, richer, more fulfilled.
Inner Originals, let’s do this together. We’ve got a job to do. Our job is to bring together our creative inner world with the outer world that needs our ideas. To find ways of doing it that allow us to thrive.
Let’s thrive together
The more I talk about this idea, the more important it seems.
You might tell me it doesn’t resonate with you at all.
You might say, Joanna, you’re completely wrong. Nope. Not for me.
But maybe you’re saying, ‘This is me. This is my brain. This is how it is’.
If that’s you, tell me. Tell us. Leave a comment below and tell me if you recognise yourself in this.
- Share it with another Inner Original. Email it, or tag them on social media. I’d LOVE you to be the one who introduces us to each other.
- Join me more privately. I send a weekly-ish email for highly creative people who want inspiration, ideas and to share and explore what it means to be an Inner Original – often with ideas that I only ever share there. If you’d like to get it, just leave me your email details below. (And if you change your mind, you can easily unsubscribe at any time).
This post hit so many nails on their heads! I’m a life-long INNER Original who’s only recently begun striving to be a more OUTER Original! I write poetry and prose, make art and craft, and have been doing this since I was five years old. It’s WHO I AM. But while I’ve always embraced this joyfully, at the same time, I’ve often unconsciously down-played the “Real World” VALUE of my creativity. Happily THESE days, I’m staying cognizant of this tendency and am making real efforts to be more OUT. I’m attending readings and sharing my writings, hosting a monthly Poetry and Prose Open Mic series, compiling and distributing a free “Items of Writerly Interest” email of writerly events and opportunities in the central North Carolina region, seeking more paying outlets for my art and craft, attending workshops and gatherings of other “Originals”, entering writing contests and submitting to more publications, working on a COLLECTION of my poems and a COLLECTION of my stories for publication, and working on a PORTFOLIO of my art… all in order to not only OWN my “Inner Original”, but to also PUT IT OUT THERE. It’s important what we “Originals” DO. It’s important to SHARE our creative originality in order to LET IT BE KNOWN that our Creative Originality IS important and IS something to be appreciated and embraced. Yay US!!!
Thank you for this very timely and SPOT ON post, Joanna!!
Caren, I’m so pleased – and YOU hit the nail on the head too, that it’s all about moving from inner to outer to make things happen – or maybe learning how to integrate the two. Those are such great ways of doing that. And yes! We need to do it to make it public, not ever feel the need to hide. Thanks so much for this!
Thanks, Beca! Yes, aren’t we all so much stronger together?