The obsession with finding that elusive creature called “creativity”, with tips and tricks to boost creativity and rituals that promise to make one more creative, is a reaction to a growing, gnawing hole in our hearts. It’s an attempt to patch up that hole, a blind effort to alleviate the symptoms without healing the root cause.

To understand the fallacy of actively seeking creativity simply ask yourself the question: what do I need this creativity for? Creativity is a natural outcome of a purposeful action. You don’t need to seek out creativity when you undertake a worthy task, it will come to you in as much capacity as your knowledge and experience will allow.

On contrast, purposeless action, an endeavor with no clear goals or commitments, always leaves its pursuers clouded in heavy fog, never having a clear idea of where to go or what to do next. It is in those cases that people tend to seek creativity, thinking that their uncreative mind is the cause of their problems. But however many rituals they perform, however many tips and tricks they digest, however many vials of inspirations they swallow, the gaping hole of purposelessness cannot be covered up. A meaningless task does not inspire creative solutions.

When people work on pointless problems that they care little about, when they approach their work without a clear purpose, when they design solutions without reflecting their values or adhering to their principles, they inevitably find that they lack the energy and the vision to proceed, that the way forward is murky and ill defined, that their craft, which they had always thought they loved, has lost its former luster, that it now appears difficult and alien to them. In an attempt to rekindle their motivation and sharpen their focus they seek out that elusive beast they call “creativity”, believing that once they have caught just a tiny glimmer of it they would have enough fuel to break past their roadblock.

What they fail to see is that there is no roadblock – there is no roadblock because they haven’t chosen a road to follow. Their problems come not from a lack of creativity, but from a lack of purpose, from a lack of meaning, from a task they have no stake in nor truly believe in. You don’t need inspiration to write, you just have to have something to say. You don’t need creativity to design a product, you just have to believe in the value of the problem you’re solving. You don’t need creativity to do good work, it will come naturally if the work is fit for it. Meaningless problems don’t need creative solutions. The cure for creativity is a worthy cause.

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“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

My new book: a translation of selected short stories by Leonid Andreyev, the father of Russian Expressionism from the Silver Age of Russian literature. A piercing, pitiless glance into the heart of the human condition.

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Further Reading

Proust wrote that the true voyage of discovery is not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold a hundred universes that each of them beholds. Thus, in the words of Ruskin, what good books give us is not mere knowledge, but sight.

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