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Myths about creativity, creatively debunked

1. People who have mental health issues are more creative.

Oh bullshit, who thought this one up? We people who have mental health issues have to be pretty creative to find and keep a job sometimes. My hypothesis is that people who don’t have mental health issues wind up getting regular jobs and following a regular schedule so they scarcely have the time to exploit their own innate creativity.  Now if you want to talk about charisma, yah some of us may have a natural chemical energy that  screams  “Bet on my success at any endeavor including romantic wink, wink,”  but you may also may want to place some money on the slow and steady horse to finish the race.  Do most wonderful creations come from the depths of despair and horror? No! Believe it or not, some art comes from people who are outside the culture and some from those who are deeply embedded in it. Art and ideas can come from beauty and health or from sorrow and pain.  Some may come from a recovery process from that despair.  We are lucky that we pursue our creativity despite the fact that it is not rewarded by anything more or less than peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment.

Instead  I posit,

“All people are inherently creative, some may have more need, more time, more encouragement or desire to make art, candy, babies or trouble.”

2. Drugs and alcohol help people be more creative.

This one is even worse. Many creative people live wonderful lives and do wonderful work without drug and alcohol issues but our attention is drawn to those who release the pain of their boundaries with  a shot of something. It’s a loss when one of them dies. It’s a loss when anyone dies from neglect, addiction, an accident, abuse, and their story isn’t heard. But the stories that drugs and alcohol tell are, in my experience, boring and over-glorified.    If another person tells me they discovered the meaning of life when they were high but can’t communicate it to those who haven’t been there, I will volunteer to expound on my preference for death rather than listen to it. I don’t count medication taken as prescribed in this category. If your heart meds or psychiatric meds help you be in the world without putting you too far out of it, I’m all for it. I’ve never heard of someone becoming less gifted from appropriate medication. They might have to find the right balance between train wreck and interesting person, at least I have.


” Artists drink and so do accountants.”

3. You can learn to be creative using my new formula! Have you found a recipe that everyone on earth can eat without someone saying they’re allergic to it? I thought not. There are even “quinoa intolerant” people out there.  Some people will insist that creativity needs a structure or a safe space to “hold” it.   Yes, if you have a room of your own you might have more space to be creative or drink or get laid but creativity can be found just about anywhere, using as few tools as the brain, heart and perhaps arms, legs or a mouth to communicate symbols & ideas to others.  There is no cure for being uncreative although  fear and sloth might be significant motivators.  I’ve bought the books ” The Artist’s Way”, “The Artist’s Way at Work”, “The Artist’s Way in Traffic.”  There ‘s no end of ways people will take your money to teach you how to be creative. Truth is you have to create to be creative. Whoa, I’m getting deep! Remember Shakespeare did not use original plots so I use the word  “create” loosely.


“Creativity is an involuntary response, which may lead you somewhere you don’t want to go. Follow it with caution and don’t kill anyone on the way.”

4. Creative people are so undervalued.

To this I say – Grow up! Manual labor is undervalued so is parenthood and  a decent pair of socks.  Being creative is a way to approach the world, not a method of supporting ourselves.  There are some people who sell creativity on the motivational speaking circuit. There are some fabulous artists, singers, writers, inventors who make money creating.  They are people who have an intersection with a talent or idea at an opportune time for commerce.   The art I like is priceless but sometimes it is worth $0 and other times it’ s more than I can afford. Let’s value our own creativity by giving it time and pleasure so it will grow. Don’t grow old waiting for someone else to value it.


“Your beauty and purpose is to be. If that is “to be a fool”, then so be it.”

5. Creativity is hard work

I don’t think so. I think we just don’t notice how creative we are everyday. One person might dress creatively, another might drive creatively, making up their own rules. Forcing creativity is against my rules, kind of like forcing myself to eat chocolate or forcing an apology.    I’m not saying that everyone’s scribble and poetry  should be  applauded with  exuberance. It may take a bit more time than we think we have to discover everyone’s gifts but let’s at least give ourselves time to find our own. Then we can be generous with the time we give to others to find their voice.  I like the word “grace”, not as in the opposite of “awkward”, but as in something falling from the sky, lucky and unbidden. I love “awkward” because things falling from the sky sometimes hit us and knock us down or leave us  hobbling.  I don’t think of creativity as magic or play really. Creativity is an attitude towards life, towards the dishes and the toilet, the commute and to courtesy as well as to paints and musical compositions.


“Creative people are killing off death with each breath.”

Thank you for reading. Feel free to share your ideas. I am a person in recovery who fails to be creative as many days as I succeed. I blog, write poems, rake the leaves on my lawn to make pictures in the grass , cook by combining multiple recipes and hold down a full time job, just for today!


About polarflares

My head is so big because it has so many holes and air gets in.

5 responses »

  1. Well stated good post Joan…I think I will go create an excuse to have a glass of wine…

  2. You have touched several chords in my head with this post.
    Sometimes, because we are not what others want us to be, through their words and actions, our self worth is diminished, if not quashed altogether. We lose our way, feel very much alone and inadequate. My GP told me to find something about myself I liked, and to build on that. I did (my music) and in doing so, turned a corner, though it took a year to get off meds.
    It doesn’t matter how, where, when or why we are ‘creative’. Or how often.
    We are all creative in our own way. Others may not see it, pooh-pooh the idea, or laugh at us. I was able to rebuild my life, and as soon as the circumstances were right, left the relationship.

    I love your alternatives. It is who we are that counts, and if we feel good about that, then these so called ‘experts’ can get lost.

    I was stopped in the street once by one of these ‘How to…..’ reps.
    He asked if I could be anyone in the world, who would I be. I said myself.
    Second question: If I could do any job in the world, what would it be. I said the one I was currently doing.
    I was not being awkward. I was being honest. I like me, and I loved my job.
    There was a TV programme on them shortly afterwards. They’d conned people out of thousands of pounds by making them feel so ‘insecure’ that the only way they could live was with their books, tapes, and DVDs, the list was endless. And all they were doing was stripping people of their self esteem, tapping into their ‘wishful thinking’ for profit.

    • oh those marketers for fixing one’s life by liposuction, mantras, tooth alignment. I remember an orthodontist telling me, “You’re such a beautiful woman. It’s too bad the first thing people notice about you is your teeth.” I knew something was wrong with this. I was 6 foot one with bright blue eyes. No one had ever mentioned my teeth except my mother but this was his marketing ploy. Create a need and they will come!


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