Here’s an interesting thought experiment: Think of the most boring, unimaginative person you can. The duller, the better. Imagine that person being locked in a room with only a table, a chair, a box of crayons, and a coloring book. On the table is a note that reads “Complete the coloring book, and you will be released from this room.” How long do you think it would take for that person — as creatively empty as they appear to be — to stop grumping about their situation and start coloring?
How far into the coloring process could they go before they were forced to make a decidedly creative decision? Is this character’s shirt red or blue? Is does this character have blond or red hair? These are minor creative decisions, but they count. How far into that coloring book would they need to go before they start making riskier decisions based on boredom, rebellion, frustration, or simply a need for novelty?
Would it take an hour before the most creatively bone dry person you can think of starts making legitimate artistic decisions? Two?
What if it wasn’t a coloring book? What if it was a book of Mad Libs? What if it was a pack of Play-Doh? What if the challenge was to create and sing — however badly — a song about a lazy dog? How long would it take even the most artistically shriveled person to free themselves from their captivity?
Not long, right? No one is suggesting that the final products would be very interesting, but they would all be creative in their own way. The resulting works would almost certainly reflect the personality of the person who made them, and the circumstances surrounding their creation. The would be art.
Here’s the thing: We’re all creative. Every one of us. If you remove from that equation the idea that the results of this creativity has to be “good,” being creative is almost as easy as breathing. Tiny children can do “creative” things long before they even master the basics of speech or walking upright. Creativity is so fundamental to the human experience that it’s one of the first parts of our brains to come online.
Tapping into that creativity for its own sake does, however, require focus. It requires setting aside a time to actively be creative. It usually requires some kind of structure or setting — a notebook, some clay, a musical instrument, a story, a stocked kitchen — but that’s it. Anyone can be creative in the right context. All it takes is a willingness to focus.