Here’s The Dirt On Creativity: The Surest Path To It Isn’t The Straightforward One You Seek

Here’s The Dirt On Creativity: The Surest Path To It Isn’t The Straightforward One You Seek

Create January 17, 2020 / By Larry Robertson
Here’s The Dirt On Creativity: The Surest Path To It Isn’t The Straightforward One You Seek

The often messy uncertainty of creativity is the very thing you need to get up to your elbows in if what you seek is to have impact.

Contrary to popular belief, the idea is nothing. ‘The idea’, at least as we most often talk about it, even pine for it, is the illusive clean genesis – that thing that arrives fully formed, turnkey, and changes everything. The truth is far less immaculate. More, ideas remain only thoughts until you act. Ideas with value and impact never come by any other route. It’s only in the storybook rearview that we convince ourselves otherwise. 

Some of the greatest ideas still lay dormant – on shelves, in brains, in the fringes of cocktail parties where would-be creators complain about how nobody “gets” them. Why is that so? It’s simple. Acting on an idea, especially a new and untried one is hard. “Hard” results from a lack of clarity about where to go and what you’ll encounter when you get there. It means traveling streets with no outlets, if you are given streets at all. Hard materializes in those many moments when you feel alone, often because that’s exactly what you are: alone with your crazy ideas of something better. And hard becomes Teflon-hard with the inevitable passage of time it takes to pursue an idea to its realization (it always more time than you thought it would take to get where you want to go).

Not surprisingly, most people give up. And they do so quickly. The path is never what they were promised, usually by themselves. And why make the effort, why incur the loss, why suffer the stigma of failing if there is no promise of a fruitful outcome? In short, why dirty up your life? It is so much easier to do what we know, to accept what’s given, to not rock the boat. In fact, as much as we admire “new” (usually only when new settles into “known”), we are most often discouraged from disrupting things as we know them, things we’ve concluded are just fine or good enough the way they are now. But eventually, inevitably, that line of reasoning becomes a hard sell to anyone who is awake, really to anyone human.

Try as we might to hold things there, nothing stays fixed in time. Though it can’t always be perceived, there is a constant progression forward. And even when we can’t see movement, it’s not only happening, it’s usually happening at a faster rate than we perceive or believe, steadily moving us away from that which we want so badly to hold onto. 

Not so long ago, researchers in Britain began to notice that a large portion of blackcap birds that usually traveled to Spain to summer and to bred, were instead staying in large numbers in Britain year-round. It turns out that over the past 50 years they’ve increasingly been lured to stay put by the huge numbers of bird feeders in yards and parks. Fine and good enough has taken a firm hold. The birds that ceased to migrate got lazy in their breeding too, only breeding with each other, not with a mix of blackcap colonies they used to encounter in their travels across Europe each year. Now researchers across Europe have discovered that even in a short few decades, the two groups of blackcaps (those that migrate and those that do not) differ in beak size, wing shape, even feather color. Turns out even the idea of evolution happens faster than we think. Nothing stays the same, and like it or not, the world gets messy.  

Even if we wanted to we couldn’t hold back nature. That includes our own. And it’s deeply embedded in our nature as human beings to seek better, to want to progress. Change is going to happen, and when it does we have choices: get rolled over, be dragged along, or actively meet and make change. There really is only one viable option. It’s the one that requires rolling up our sleeves and plunging in up to our elbows if not deeper. Inevitably there will be dirt and dead ends, messiness and unpredictability, and all that other fun most of us left behind in grade school. It’s music to my ears: talk dirty to me.

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