Origins and Originality
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
As a teenager, my son used to have a postcard stuck inside his wardrobe door which read, ‘Remember – you are unique, just like everybody else!’ It always made me laugh, seeming to be a paradox, yet, of course, being entirely true. When it comes to us actually expressing that uniqueness, however, it doesn’t always feel easy or straightforward. In expressing something new, or in a new way (our own unique way, perhaps), we are breaking new ground. New things can be hard to recognise, just ask Vincent van Gogh, who sold not one painting in his lifetime. Can you imagine how crushing that must have been! It doesn’t always feel easy or ‘safe’ to put our creative self-expression into the world.
Nonetheless, there comes a point where we need to stop hiding our light under a bushel and admit that the world needs our creativity, which means our unique self-expression. When we get creative, it is is catching, as long as it stays playful, light and generous. Our creativity is also not restricted to art by any means: every day, with every challenge and opportunity, we are being invited to live more creatively by finding new attitudes and responses to what life throws our way.
Furthermore, it is our inheritance and our birth right to be creative. There is no doubt that our ancestors were immensely creative. The very fact that humanity survived at all is testament to this, even without the additional, incredible, legacy of art and artefacts going back to the Palaeolithic, and perhaps, before. Creativity as a way of being would have been more natural, more urgent, to our ancestors, being closer to primary experience– to their origins. Without scientific dogma to guide (or trammel) ideas, it would have been individual, living, feeling, experience that mattered. Life was full of mystery: there was no unassailable knowledge to dampen imagination and originality. And, as Einstein, himself, said, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination embraces the entire the world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution."
Similarly, children – also closer to their sources than adults - are naturally creative. In playing with what they love, they tap into something very true to themselves, before they have learnt what they should do, or be. Their creativity is expressed in a pure state of play. I imagine that anything could be imagined in that state!
It is normal for most of us today to prefer scientific fact or ‘reality’ to our own imagination, original thoughts and experiences – yet it is these, and not facts, which are the birthplace of our creativity. If we free up our imagination, follow our internal feelings and experiences, and bring them to a responsive world, we step into creativity. We need to stay light, playful and interested as we do this, for those are the conditions best suited to creative play. We must try to stay unburdened by a need for specific outcomes, and open to the element of surprise, for that is what creativity promises and offers: something unexpected, unimagined.
To be unique – just like everybody else – is a fact of life. To bring that uniqueness to bear is to bring our gifts to the world. We are innately wired to do this, but we also get blocked up, through fear borne of the experience of ‘failure’ or rejection. If we can remind ourselves of our creative inheritance, we can find the courage and confidence to keep creating. If we can remember what we loved as a child and honour that, we can also access what we love today. If we listen, it becomes easy! Craft and skill can follow – that is the work of a lifetime – but accessing our own creativity can always be done now.