Creativity’s Enemies (Part 2)

If Creativity possessed a form or a body, she’d most likely have some enemies. Last article, we took a magnifying glass to Routine as one potential enemy of Creativity. When kept in his place, Routine wasn’t so bad, but today, we look at enemy #2—the naysayers, and there is absolutely no place for Naysayers when it comes to Creativity. They just don’t mesh.

There are three types: the domain expert who seems to shame us for trying something new, the family critic who ridicules us at every turn and the self-sabotager whose negative voice, while silent, is but the loudest one of all. We need Creativity to help stave off these enemies, and luckily, she’s always on our side.


Enemy #1 The Domain Expert:

Let’s say we attend a play at the town theater, which inspires us to audition next time around. We promise ourselves that we’re going to practice our “la-la-la-las” and get out there with the locals. But we haven’t studied musical theater formally, so we feel embarrassed to admit our deep desire. Or we’ve always wanted to take up the guitar but never had time or money for lessons and now with YouTube tutorials, we could actually make it happen. But we don’t because there’s that guy at church with his MA degree in music, and well, he may laugh. Whether it’s poetry, painting, furniture building, singing, cooking or even modeling—anything novel that carries a history of professionalism—the omniscient presence of a shaming expert causes us to shy away, one back-pedal at a time. Sometimes in real life, and sometimes in our minds, we imagine the experts mock us for our efforts in a certain field. Mihaley Csiksentmihalyi, the leading scholar on Creativity, is well known for endorsing that an act is NOT considered Creative unless it contributes something novel to the domain. This attitude is what paralyzes us and then we forego the Creative thing that we secretly want to do. Perhaps these scholars and experts aren’t considering anything but the macro—society at large. Contrary to this theory, the phenomenon of Creativity is NOT limited to the experts in any domain, no matter what the academics say. I look at it this way: any Creative act in which you engage contributes greatly to YOU on the micro level. Research proves that music, writing and painting enhance brain function, not to mention is used as therapy and for elevating moods. If enough of us invest in our own personal Creativity, we grow as individuals, which actually does contribute to culture at large. “The field” in this case is the universe itself—The universe is an undivided whole and our Creative efforts are attempts to fit into that greater whole.


Enemy #2: The Family Critic

The Family Critic has no filters when poking at our ideas or belittling our inspirations. However, we must accept that being Creative requires a certain amount of risk—the risk of being made fun of or gambling with our precious time and energy, or both. So it goes. The family critic may tell us to our faces that we’re wasting our time, money, and energy chasing some dream. We then must take it as a compliment. We’re getting intimate with the force of Creativity—maybe they’re just jealous. We must make it look so good that they want a piece of her, too. That way, they might get off our backs.


Enemy #3 The Self-Sabatoger

This Naysayer constantly tries to talk us out of interacting with Creativity. We all hear the voice; we all give in to it. Life is just way too practical to accommodate all of the Creative ideas that cross our minds. The feasibility of Creativity is never going to trump our logic. Creativity doesn’t abide by those logical and feasible rules. Getting used to that Self-Sabatoger will render it powerless. Better yet, we can treat it like a non-threatening but irritating hitch-hiker. Like the family critic and the shaming expert, we must tell that self-sabatoger to “Get on in but don’t tell me where to go or how to drive.”

Becoming close to our own Creativity will never be easy—but each of us has been close kin to her during our childhoods, so the love between us runs deep. She’s known us at our most vulnerable, developing moments and can be trusted. We can stay true to that relationship while still dealing with her enemies, as long as we’re prepared. Creativity is of utmost importance to us on both the individual level and on a societal level. If we can’t fight off the naysayers for the sake of our own development, maybe then, we can do it for the sake of the collective.