Waiting For “Aha!”… Am I A Creative?

In a recent class, we talked about the inception of ideas. As a class, we listened to our professor explain that inspiration for an idea could come from anywhere. A splash in a puddle along the road, a leaf falling from a tree, the wind whistling past an open window; these were all sources of an idea for him. We then watched videos on the projector of various active creative professionals discussing their ideas, who all seemed to concur with my professor. They used words such as “lightning strikes” and “sudden bursts of inspiration” to describe their creative process. My peers then took the stand, one bringing up the reality of a childlike cartoon “lightbulb turning on inside of my head” scenario.

As I sat there listening to all this testimony regarding the creation of ideas, I became obsessively consumed by one singular thought:

That isn’t me.

I don’t get that lightning strike. I don’t get that sudden insight that results in a beautiful design or conceptually brilliant piece of artwork. A splash in a puddle has never placed a complete idea inside my head as so many of my peers seemed to be describing. Which leads me to a deeper, more disturbing question:

If I am unable to come up with ideas in the same fashion as my creative peers and established professionals, how can I succeed in a creative field? Am I even a creative?

Making the decision to pursue a career in a creative industry is a terrifying experience. With no ability to calculate my own creative abilities, my decision was more of a shot in the dark than an informed choice. The reality is that there are no metrics with which to evaluate ourselves or our peers, simply levels of personal satisfaction and hopefully some financial success. However, as students with no specific metrics to evaluate our performance other than grades (which can, at times, be seemingly abstract and inaccurate), I think we resort to comparing and contrasting with each other. We determine our value as a creative based on how similar we are to creatives we aspire to, or how different we are from creatives we look down on.

As I sat there in class, I realized that here was an element in which I differed from my peers and the artists I looked up to. Does that strip me of my title as creative? Does that predict failure in my upcoming career?

An idea for me is never a bolt of lightning. Sure, I occasionally receive small amounts of inspiration from the world around me. But I have never had an idea hit me like a brick in the face. Instead, my ideation is procedural and formulated. Rather than that spark of inspiration, my ideas slowly make themselves know through the process of creation.

You read that right, my ideas for the thing that I am creating come from the creation itself.

If I want to begin a piece of art, I have to sit down and start creating it. Often times I have no inspiration at the beginning, sometimes I simply pick something at random and start sketching and creating. As I being to develop my piece, I start to slowly formulate and further my idea. There is no “aha!” moment, but rather just dozens and dozens of sketches as I slowly create my final piece.

So am I a creative if there are no flashes of creativity? I have read a lot of articles about this, and talked to a lot of people around school, receiving a lot of surprising answers from both mediums. A lot of people said no, stating that true creativity had to stem from inspiration. But I a lot of those people also said they were jealous because I didn’t have to wait for an idea. I didn’t have to walk around praying that a bolt of lightning would strike because I could just sit down and start creating.

I don’t think there can ever be a wrong way to create, as long as what you create is beautiful to you. I think that in a creative field, it is easy to get lost in the world of creation, perpetually comparing yourself with others and trying to figure out whether or not you belong. Hell, I could have spent all the time I took on researching and writing this on furthering my creative career. I think that eliminating self-doubt and simply caring less is key to success. There is no right or wrong way to create ideas, there are just ideas.

There should be two takeaways from this:

Firstly, if you are someone who doesn’t receive those “aha!” idea-bearing moments, don’t panic. You are just as good as anyone else. The key is the idea, not the process. There is no wrong way to do this.

Secondly, if you aren’t a creative, and looking in thinking “Gee, I wish I could do that but I never have good ideas”, just start. Because sometimes the very act of creation brings about ideas.

Or maybe I’m wrong, maybe I shouldn’t be a creative, and maybe I should pack it all in. Who really knows!

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