May 042014

Imagination is not Creativity

This infographic artist has mistaken the word “creative’ for the term “imaginative”. Also, it’s more of a list of narcissistic traits than a guide to creative behaviours.

Imaginative people have these problems because they live inside their heads and are usually a frustrated mess internally, but creative people are too busy actually ‘creating” stuff to be bogged down by such things. Indeed, it’s because they aren’t afflicted with most of this that they even ‘can’ successfully create things. Imagination is like internet social networking: it’s just self-absorbed pointlessness unless you can manifest it into the real world.

I know, literally, dozens of very successful, creative people. None of them get bored easily, because there’s always something to create that keeps them busy. People who are bored easily have no ideas, no goal to attend to and are generally not artistic in any meaningful way. Bored people are often depressed. Depressed people rarely create things. Until they get a manic upswing. That’s a different discussion.

Not all ‘risk’ is created equal. Doing dodgy things that are risky isn’t a requirement for creativity. But to be sure, creators take big risks. They take the risk of being hacked on by the judgey/critiquey class. Being original takes guts! That’s why so few do it. Most self-described artistic types, imaginationists mainly, are only looking for a quick fix of positive attention and are unwilling to develop any personal convictions that may stray from the rather sycophantic, mainstream goal of being liked by others. They don’t risk creating things that might not give them the external validation they seek that confirms their belief that they are, indeed, awesome. The courage to create in the face of potential judgement is awesome. Anything less is, well, less than awesome.

It’s often said that real creativity colours outside the lines. But, really, it only seems like they colour outside the lines. Again, this is what the judgey class says when something is not ‘normal’, because ‘colouring outside the lines’ is the way they say “not like us, but still acceptable by us”. Real artists do what they need to do to express their ideas regardless of the arbitrary lines drawn by the denizens of self-interest-ville. That’s why being original takes courage. Because the mediocres believe in limiting themselves and will always attempt to limit others. “Cutting the tops off of tall trees” is how it’s often put. So creating things always puts the artist at risk of the BS from this bunch. Real creative artists don’t know anything about these ‘lines’ which they are said to cross. Real creativity is as expansive as the whole world, not lived in a hallway which they sometimes stray out of.

Points 4,5,6 & 7 on the infographic; being overly emotional, incompetent, a miscreant and a loner, sound more like personality problems than the attributes of successful artists and are often entwined within the excuses they use to justify their lack of success. If you want to be ‘creative’ you might consider not nurturing these bad habits.

Every great artist that I know is emotional, but also highly studious and intelligent, knows the rules down cold so as to have a better understanding of how to contravene them and bend the rules to their will. Though they make mistakes, those mistakes are merely a nudge towards course correction, not an actual screw-up level of error. Conversely, imaginative-but-not-creative types all like to think that they are breaking the rules, but again, that’s just a behavioural problem. They don’t even know the rules and refuse to learn them, ‘cuz, f*ck rules! They also rarely, if ever, actually create anything meaningful, or at all because one of the rules they refuse to learn, which they freely break, is to get really good at something and use that skill to create actual things.

Working well alone is a must, though, unless you are heading a team of creative people working towards a creative objective. Top level creators always have a team of highly skilled people assisting them in manifesting their vision and will be comfortable cooperating in a team based effort. Though they may have started out working in isolation, it’s usually sociality and the ability to deal well with others that is the driving force behind their successes. This inability to work well with others is exactly why most bands suck and die.

When it comes the notion that creative people change their mind a lot, or are indecisive, that’s just not what I’ve seen in the real world. Sure there are decisions to be made and sometimes plans need to be course corrected because of unforeseen issues and obstacles, but that’s not the same as indecisive waffling. That’s what imagination-driven people do. They can’t hold a thought long enough to bring their vision to fruition without having it change into something else.

Which brings me to the darker side of the imagination; brain crack. Idea monkeys get their supply of positive reinforcement by imagining great things, which gives them a squirt of serotonin/dopamine/endorphins that has the same effect as drugs. It’s the biggest reason why they can’t move beyond imagination into creation: instant gratification. Creation takes a ton of effort, is often unpleasant and, while creating, often temporarily unfulfilling because creation takes, often, all your waking hours for long periods of time, depending on the scope of the project. No brain crack to be had until it’s done. Few can put up with the effort creativity takes. So they chose low-hanging fruit, easily achievable goals, and deceive themselves about their accomplishments in order validate and justify their self described creativity and public perception of their self projected awesomeness. Hence Facebook.

Artistic eccentricity has two flavours: People who aren’t really eccentric, but appear that way, or are judged to be that way, by outsiders/failurists/criticisers, and people who live to make others ‘think’ that they are, indeed, eccentric, for egotistical reasons. The first group, in which I include myself are “not weird for the sake of being weird, but for the sake of being themselves” regardless of what anyone thinks. This is where courage/risk comes into play. The second group invariably will, at some point, refer to themselves as ‘artsy’. Not actually an artist but fully intent to publicly self-define as a one, regardless of their artistic output. Doing a couple of pieces of art no more makes one an Artist than dancing at the local disco makes one a Dancer.

However, to Dream Big is the crux of the biscuit, but it leaves one thing out. To dream big often rolls out as just more brain-crack driven imagination and the dreamy-dreams of a lush fantasy life. “Can you put your hands in your head? Oh, no!” The narcissism of the lush inner world and it’s attendant, onanistic self appraisals notwithstanding, to dream big is the germinous at the core of creativity.

Those who create must dream big. I like to believe that if I, “aim for the eagle, and only bag a pheasant, I’ll never eat crow.” That’s been my motto since I first heard it when I was a kid. Dream big, bigger even, and make a great plan to achieve that result. (…and perhaps read the book, The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz).

Those around you who don’t live that way will try and squash your dreams. It’s makes them sad in their pants that you might be/get/have/do more/better things than them. To dream big takes guts. Takes courage. But to actually Do anything about your dreams takes greater than average amounts of both. And some really thick skin. But not so thick it turns into that brutal form of cynicism that insists upon itself like a cigarette burn.

People who attach themselves to artists, for their own personal/social benefit, are dime-a-dozen and will subtly attempt to make you conform to their idea of who/what you need to be to please ‘them’. Don’t fall for it. Those who support true self-realization and unrestricted creativity are rare. Finding people who support your work and cheer you on, especially if you create anything that is poignant, anti-establishment or anti-authoritarian, culturally re-inventive, uses destructive or decaying iconography, is irreligious or even sacrilegious is the single best thing that will ever happen to you as an artist. They will incalculably improve your life and your art. Better one person who “gets it” than a hundred who say they ‘get it’ only to give you a pat on the back for your effort while offering you their ‘constructive criticism’. They are not your friends.

Dream big, work alone or with a team to accomplish your vision, don’t ever believe in ‘lines’ that need to be coloured outside of, know the rules down cold and take them to the next level of contravention, let your heart guide your ideas but make your intellect guide your hands, do your best to get your inner vision, your imagination, into the real world regardless of what anyone else thinks about it or about you, have the courage of your convictions and the guts to risk being laughed at, judged, critiqued; risk failure or lack of results, but most of all be yourself for the sake of your own integrity and refuse to be something you’re not.

Be. Love. Do. Only then will your life and your art be one seamless definition of ‘you’.

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