Manifesto for a Creative Life

The word ‘creativity’ scares a lot of people, sometimes me included. So before I tell you why I believe that we (you and me) MUST live creative lives, let me be really clear about some of the tired ideas about creativity that will NEVER have a place in our conversations.

Ideas You Won’t Find in the Creative Life Manifesto

Creativity requires ‘thinking outside of the box’.

If I hear that phrase one more time, I just might scream. Not only is it old, tired and massively overused, but it’s unhelpful. As Ernie Schenck says inΒ The Houdini Solution:Β Put Creativity and Innovation to Work by Thinking Inside the Box,

“Almost everything in our lives is a box. Our relationships. Our jobs. Where we live. How young or old we are. Our bank accounts. They’re all boxes. They all have walls. They all have boundaries. But they are not all bad.”

Structures, frames, boundaries and limitations help us to be more creative, not less.

All creative people are jazzed by trying to solve problems in a multitude of ways.

I doubt that I am the only person on the planet who literally does run screaming from those silly party games and creativity workshops where you are asked to do really inane things like this:

Give yourself two minutes to list all possible uses for a wire coat hanger. Then give yourself one point for each idea. A score of 8-10 is the global average; 16 is a good ‘brainstormer’ level; 24 is exceptional and rare; 32 is genius.

This is one of those situations when I am quite happy to be considered well below average.

Creative people are gifted.

Creativity isn’t a talent. It’s a way of operating.

John Cleese

It’s easy to see where this belief comes from, surrounded as we are by the achievements of artists from Rembrandt to Picasso, or the equally impressive and creative intellectual achievements of, say, Albert Einstein or even James Dyson (the guy with the vacuum cleaner).

But living a more creative life has nothing to do with being a towering genius of any kind. We never set out to make a huge creative contribution to the world, or perhaps even to hang paintings in our local gallery, so let’s not compare ourselves unfavourably to those who do.

Besides, the research says that as long as your intelligence is average or slightly above, you can be wildly creative.

All creative people are artists.

I keep thinking this one has been well and truly debunked, but then it raises its’ ugly head again, usually through a comment like, “I’m not really a creative person.”

While it is true that all artists are creative, it is not true that all creative people are artists. I am not yet able to draw anything more elaborate than a stick figure, but I am a creative woman and so are you.

So What Does a Creative Life Look Like?

I really want you to care about and embrace the idea that you deserve to live a creative life. To do that, I need to paint the word pictures that will stir your soul. Those kinds of words don’t come easily to me. Allow me, instead, to share the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, Sarah Selecky, Mary Lou Cook, and Kate James. Their words make me leap to my feet shouting, “Yes! This is how I will live!”

  • Quote on watercolour background - A creative life is a life where you are curious, seeking, exploring. Where you know that to be truly alive means challenging yourself, learning and growing.
  • Quote on watercolour background. A creative life means time spent doing irrational, inefficient things. Sarah Selecky
  • Elizabeth Gilbert quote on green and blue watercolour background. A creative life is a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.
  • Quote on green nature background with bubbles. A creative life is inventing, experimenting...Mary Lou Cook
  • Quote on background of grass and light. A creative life means slowing down... Sarah Selecky
  • Quote on background of light beams and green. A creative life is an amplified life...Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Quote on defocused background with dandelion. A creative life is one where you're awake. Kate James

5 Reasons Why You Deserve to Live a More Creative Life

A creative life allows you to:

  1. experience more joy and satisfaction in your life. After thirty years of studying highly creative people, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi concludes that, “Of all human activity, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living.” Β I believe that full-blast living is our birthright and we must claim it.
  2. relieve stress. Any form of self-expression gives you the opportunity to immerse in an activity to the point of flow. Also known as being ‘in the zone’, a flow experience is characterized by deep concentration where worries disappear because you are so focused on what you are doing in the present moment.
  3. better cope with the change and uncertainty that are givens of our 21st century lives.A creative life is open-hearted and open-minded. People living such lives find it easier to relax into the realities of our world.
  4. know yourself better. When you know your values, likes and dislikes, you can make sense of your life and you have the freedom to make choices that are true to you.
  5. grow. By staying awake to your life, you have the opportunity to challenge yourself and to learn and create on a daily basis.

Why a Manifesto?

“Simply put, a manifesto is a statement of ideals and intentions.” The word ‘manifesto’ comes from the Latin word ‘manifestum’, meaning clear or conspicuous.

This manifesto follows the format of most by including:

  • Opinions –what I don’t believe or don’t value about typical views of creativity
  • A Vision–what a creative life looks like
  • Intentions–what I (we?) will do to achieve the vision

Manifestos are usually written documents. They serve as a touchstone of inspiration as you review the words each day. If you would like to print a copy of the manifesto, click here.

Manifesto for a Creative Life

25 square manifesto of various watercolour backgrounds, each with an instruction for living a creative life

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I will be writing a post for each of the statements on the manifesto. If you have a preference for which ones I start with, please share in the comments below. And if you think you might join me in trying to live this manifesto, please do let me know!

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  1. Great manifesto Karen, I am so with you in wanting to live my life like that. I have three preferences for you to choose from to start with; Find your form of self-expression, Get out of your own way or Learn and create every day. Those are the ones I am wanting to focus on right now. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks, Susan. Your preferences are noted. I’ve started a list so that the most popular topics get the earliest treatment. I could tell from the comments you’ve left here that you would be a woman who wants to live a more creative life. So glad you’ve said so and confirmed my wonderings.

      1. You’re welcome…out of the three preferences I have given you can mark Get out of your own way as the primary preference, Learn and create every day ranks as secondary and Find your form of self-expression as my third choice. πŸ™‚

        1. That’s helpful. Thanks. Feels like a bit of a horse race – and now in third position we have find your form of self-expression coming up hard on the right. (You have to imagine an announcer’s voice for this to be even mildly amusing.)

  2. Hi Karen,
    Excellent topic. For my Master’s thesis I wrote a paper on Creativity. It was long ago now, but it focussed on incorporating creative thinking into the classroom. People’s perception of creativity at that time associated creativity with the arts.
    Many years later in education and I still find that creative thinking is not that highly valued – in my experiences any way. Students are still required to think a certain way in many classrooms. If students, don’t they are viewed oddly. When given a choice to incorporate critical thinking or creative thinking into their lessons or units, teachers of many subjects tend to think critical thinking is more applicable to their subject area.
    I do think that living creatively in all ways is the way to go in satisfying those deep needs for accomplishments in one’s life. I read your blog today as a reminder to do so myself!
    I have no preference for which topic you do first. I know you will eventually get to all of them!

    1. Thanks for this, Fran.
      It’s so unfortunate that the world still tends to think of creativity as being solely the purview of artists and, in the case of schools, art teachers and art classes. I addressed this issue a lot when I wrote Tuned Out, but don’t think I made much headway. Everyone agreed that creative thinking would help to engage our disengaged adolescents, and just about everyone thought someone else (primarily the art teacher!) should be doing it. Aargh.
      It is so wonderful to now be solely interested in my own creativity and that of my friends. I will indeed eventually get to all of the items on my Manifesto for a Creative Life.

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