To All Young Creatives: Don’t Let Your Creativity Die

Are we too consumed with defining our creative process that we fail to actually be creative?

  • April 3, 2019

  • Written by Evan Tan

A few weeks back, I was reading Cate Blanchett’s exchange with Julia Roberts–two award-winning actresses casually chatting about their lives, offering a strange peek into this rarefied celebrity existence–in Interview Magazine, and something Blanchett said stuck with me: “Where do the radical ideas actually exist?”

In the interview, she goes on to say that she gravitates towards museums and galleries to look for those ideas, but adds: “They tend to speak predominantly to audiences that have time to go into that quietude. There are such large sections of our communities that don’t have the time because they’re working two or three jobs.”

The question and the ensuing observation resonated with me, because it excellently summarized the experience our generation is going (should I say suffering?) through.

We live in a busy world. And while that sounds like a truism that you may find posted as a caption on a run-of-the-mill influencer’s Instagram post (and would likely drive my strategic planner mentor from my internship days at McCann apoplectic, for its lack of groundbreaking insight), we have to admit that our busyness has reached its boiling point, all in the pursuit of creative success.

It gets overwhelming–this on-demand, hyperconnected age. Left and right, we are constantly bombarded by texts, emails, calls, Facebook/Instagram/Whatsapp/Viber/WeChat/Telegram messages from friends, family, romantic partners, bosses, colleagues, even random strangers we met at a trip once and has now decided to reconnect so they can sell us insurance or real estate. And this constant stimulation is driving extinct a key ingredient for creativity: boredom.

In a University of Central Lancashire study by Sandi Mann and Rebekah Cadman, the researchers noted: “Until recently, boredom has been viewed as a negative emotion with only negative outcomes, but the current study adds weight to the evidence that suggests that boredom can sometimes be a force for good. This means that it might be a worthwhile enterprise to allow or even embrace boredom in work, education, and leisure. On an individual basis, if one is trying to solve a problem or come up with creative solutions, the findings from the current study suggest that undertaking a boring task…might help with coming up with a more creative outcome. ”

The constant fear of missing out has fueled the rise of hustle culture, a state wherein most of us feel that the myriad of opportunities will never be available to those who do not #riseandgrind and #workhardandplayhard, as well as not subscribe to the mistaken idea that #sleepisfortheweak.

 

Is Sacrificing Boredom Truly Worth It?  

While the value of hard work cannot be discounted, we must also acknowledge that there is a certain level of privilege that some people have which ensure their success.

In the paper “Fame as an Illusion of Creativity: Evidence from the Pioneers of Abstract Art”, Paul Ingram and Mitali Banerjee explored the level of fame by pioneering artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Vasily Kandinsky in relation to their social ties. They stated:

“Contrary to conventional literature, [the researchers] found that there was no statistical support for the relationship between an artist’s creativity and the fame they ultimately achieved. Neither an expert measure of creativity nor a computational measure of an artist’s novelty, calculated through machine learning, mediated the relationship between an artist’s local network structure and their fame.”

And so we have to ask the question: is sacrificing our quiet time, our creativity, and our lives in the hamster wheel of hustling even worth it?  

Years ago, I remember encountering this quote by filmmaker Jim Jarmusch on my Facebook timeline: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.[…]Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery–celebrate it if you feel like it.”

It’s a controversial statement, considering that it might be construed as permission from a famous artist to plagiarize unabashedly. But the sad truth we can glean from the stories of many famous creatives is that, yes, creative “success” is rarely a mere by-product of hard work, and there is a confluence of privilege that ensures one’s celebrity status.

 

Go Ahead: Get Bored, Be Creative, and Have Fun

Richard Loewy, one of the pioneers of industrial design, coined a term which I like reminding myself every now and then: “Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable”, or MAYA.

Loewy believed that “the adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.”

While its intention is to guide people on creating solutions that the majority will find astounding, the MAYA principle could also be a good way to ground one’s self in contrast to the “success” of our peers.

We must remind ourselves that present success is not a marker of radical creativity. Often, it is only an indicator of what is acceptable in the current time.

Work hard, you must: but don’t sacrifice your quiet life. Take a pause and escape the hustle, every now and then.

Go ahead: get bored, be creative, and have fun.

Your value as a creative person is ultimately defined by how you conceive innovative work.

Don’t let anyone take your time away from that.

 

 

Evan Tan is a communications professional and tech entrepreneur. He is a co-founder and chief marketing officer of Taxumo (www.taxumo.com), the country’s pioneering online tax filing and payment platform for freelancers and self-employed professionals. He is also the Philippine marketing manager of the world’s largest gay social app, Blued (www.blued.com). Aside from these, he is a founding board member and the vice chair for Industry of the Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Christine Bruckner, director at M Moser Hong Kong, and Mark Villar, DPWH secretary also wrote essays on working with millennials. Read about them in the latest issue of BluPrint Magazine, available in leading newsstands and online through Magzter and Flip100. Download the Flip100 App for free through AppStore for iOs and PlayStore for Android. Have your hardcopies delivered to your doorsteps through Shopee and Lazada.

 

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