The 12th Important Thing About Creativity

Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray Love recently put forth 11 ways to “think smartly about creativity.”

Even choosing 11 ways is creative. Most people would come up with 10, right?

Liz is brilliant. She makes smart, fun. I was in the audience of the Oprah Show when Liz was interviewed shortly after her shockingly successful book. Oprah enjoyed what Liz had to say so much, she extended the interview to a second show.

Now, Liz has taken on the topic of creativity and she ought to know. She says that fear shouldn’t be an obstacle. But I’d say an equally big barrier is indifference, causing people to neglect or even abuse their own creativity. I’d like to add a 12th insight into the topic: Creativity has a life of its own, so don’t starve it or strangle it it.

Except in the case of driven genius artists who forget to eat or take a bath when their creative streak is running hot, I’ve found that creativity can be submissive. It can move aside and let almost anything else in your life take precedence. It’s like the Omega wolf that lies down, tummy up, and licks the face of ordinary stuff that acts like Alpha in your life. Running to the food store or answering emails or whipping off that memo for work or watching a basketball game or The Bachelor.  

Creativity sometimes speaks in a soft voice and says, “You go on and do that first. Get it out of the way and I’ll be here when you get back. You won’t miss a thing.” Trouble is, creativity often gets tired of waiting and goes back to sleep.

I’ve concluded that almost nothing we have to get in a car and drive to encourages creativity. We can throw our creativity in the trunk and take it along for the ride. Every now and then, we might hear a little tap or a small voice saying, “Let me out…please.” But if we don’t let it out to give it some freedom and oxygen, it might smother.

I’ll never forget a story I heard about the cartoonist Joe Martin (creator of “Mister Boffo,” “Porterfield,” and “Willie ‘N Ethel.”)  As the story goes…he used to take a long walk every morning and expect that somewhere along the way, he’d get an idea, so he carried paper and pen with him and he’d stop and write out that day's cartoono. That makes me think he put his cartooning first, because who has the time to take a long walk every morning unless something good will come of it.

It’s about time management, folks. Competing priorities. Jam-packing your days so creativity can’t sneak in. I thought I had discovered a major truth in life, which is “You become what you do.” So if you buy a piano and look at it every day, you become a piano-looker. If you play it every day, you may become a piano-player. I thought this idea was so original I could copyright it until I googled it and google credits it to Tony Robbins, the motivational speaker.

The way I see it, writers write. Painters paint. Scuptors sculpt. Jewelry designers design. The best way to become whatever you want to become is to do it – if not more than you do anything else, then at least a lot. Maybe Liz didn’t mention this because she has successfully put creativity as a priority in her life. But for the rest of us, let’s try it.