“Imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality.” —James Cameron
Everyone is creative.”
I have to admit. The first time I heard that phrase, I could almost feel my eyeballs rolling around in their sockets.
I know. Sounds bad. But here’s the thing. I’m far from being a creative elitist. As far as I’m concerned, we are all born into this world
a seething, red-hot cauldron of imagination.
Is everyone creative? Totally. Yes. Unequivocally. As true a truth as you’ll ever find. It’s just that the idea has been hijacked in ways that have sorely diminished that truth.
“Everyone is creative” has become code for everyone can sing and dance and paint and make movies that make us feel things and think things and believe in a galaxy far, far away. By golly, everyone is so talented. Isn’t it just great that we’re all so gifted?
Too many of us were taking too much time crying out for attention and too little focusing our inherent creative energies where they could outshine everything in their presence.
But then I came upon this:
“We are all artists.”
This was not the same as “we are all creative.” This was something else.
Liz Gumbinner is the creator of “I’m Walking Here,” her newsletter published on Substack. In a recent post, she talked about a Friday morning in New York City and a recent epiphany she had while attending one of Creative Mornings’s workshops. It changed her understanding of the difference between a creative and an artist.
“There are a lot of ways I’ve described what I do in terms of writing—writer, blogger, memoirist, essayist—but one thing I’ve never called myself is an artist,” she writes. “Artists have vision. Artists see colors. Artists know which brand of fine-tipped markers to buy and don’t lose all the caps. Artists can look at four ‘identical’ gray paint swatches and tell you that this one is more green and this one is more pink. Artists don’t hesitate when asked whether their photos should be printed glossy or matte. Artists have great handwriting. Artists draw dogs that don’t look like cats. Artists don’t have to talk to be the most interesting people in the room. I have always struggled with the difference between art and creativity, between art and artistry and artists.”
I’m not an artist either.
Do I think I’m a pretty good writer? Some people think so. I’ve written a lot of advertising—and I mean a lot. Did a book on creativity. A novel that never made it off the launchpad. Short stories up the wazoo. But will I ever win the Booker Prize? Will college kids one day slog through their weekends writing essays full of critical analysis about my poetry? My friends, there is about as much chance of that happening as me being the first human to set foot on Mars. Personally, I don’t like the odds.
But as Liz says, there’s a difference between art and artistry. And as much as I cherish a David Whyte poem, as much as I adore a David Hockney painting, the music of Philip Glass and, even all these years later, the songs of Paul Simon, it’s the unique ways that artists have of getting me to see the world through their eyes that fascinates me.
Artists deal with contradiction and confusion better than most of us. They see not just what’s in front of them, but the bigger picture behind all of it. Like all creative people, they can combine information in unique and sometimes startling ways.
They’re curious. They’re wildly open to new experiences. Where others see the unsolvable, they see opportunities the likes of which, for we mortals, are murky at best and invisible at worst.
Keith Yamashita is a designer and author dedicated to using creativity as a powerful catalyst for change in the world. “We are all artists,” he says, “and what I mean by that is that we are all born with something innate and deep and profound. We’re awake and alive to the world, and more than that, we’re open to the hope of what can be.”
I suppose it could be argued that if not a single new artist ever again enchants us with light and shadow, sound and motion, the rhythm in their words, well, perhaps we will never miss any of it. Although I don’t believe that for a second.
But if we are all artists, if we all share the ability to see what the world can be, if all 8 billion of us on this troubled planet possess the power to manifest reality—as James Cameron puts it—then we have more than just an opportunity to think like the artist within us all.
We have a responsibility. ca