I feel small.
I’m sitting here on the couch of our house in a city in a tiny country called the Netherlands. I just finished watching a documentary on Netflix about creativity; one of many, and all of them show different things. It reminded me about my creative journey and how it’s played a central role in my life. And still does.
I feel small because I’m just one person living in a world created by humans. And none of them was me. Well, that’s not entirely true. If we had bought any other house, that would’ve been true. But this house was designed for me. I sat down with an architect who turned my vision into something visual. And then into a blueprint. It’s because of me we have stairs that lead straight up to the first floor, and with just a two-step interruption, you can continue up to the second floor. There’s a reason why the room on the top floor has two doors to a big open space. And there’s also a reason why there’s a roof terrace facing West.
This house is uniquely me. I created this. Even if it was just the vision I had in my mind, and other people did the rest. It’s not a small feat, but I still feel small.
I feel small because I’m just one person on a planet with billions of other human beings, alive and dead, and even more if we count all living creatures. All of them contributed to the world that we see today. But some people will be remembered more than others. The ones that leave something behind. Something big, something significant. But mostly, the ones who had or have a vision and made it real.
In the last couple of decades, we’ve seen huge progress in technology, and I’d like to argue that all of this comes from creativity. Creativity and vision go hand in hand, as we need creativity to come with a vision. Then it’s determination, perseverance, and a little bit of luck, to make the vision become reality.
I drew a lot as a kid, trying to get what was inside of my mind out on the page, but my hands didn’t listen well enough to my brain to convey what I was seeing with my mind’s eye. So I tried different things. I started coming up with stories, games, I used different toys to express what I was seeing. In the early ages of Photoshop, I managed to combine two or more pictures and make it one. I used the tools I had to try and make my vision become a reality. Some experiments were more successful than others. But I tried. I failed. I learned. And I moved on.
Then I entered university. The one program I picked was the result of an elimination process. I knew which university I wanted to go to, so I picked up the book with all the programs they offered and I started eliminating the programs I wasn’t qualified for or didn’t like. Only a handful remained, and I ended up picking the program that included media studies. I liked television, movies, games, books, so media studies was at least of interest to me. After the first semester, I quickly realised it was then just analysing media. We had to understand it. One part of understanding the final product, is learning about the process of the creation, and where it comes from. I learned about the abstract side of creativity.
Creativity isn’t just about creating something. Putting your pen on the paper and moving your arm until there’s no more space to fill (that’s how I won an art contest). Creativity is a mental process and often requires another skill to manifest it into the world. A musician uses an instrument, a painter paint, I’m a writer now, so I use words. These are the arts, and creativity and the arts are often synonyms for people. Even technology and creativity isn’t such a big step. All of the inventions made today are because one person had an idea, a vision, and made it real.
But creativity can be found in other places too: the work floor. And that’s a space where, as I believe, many people will forget creativity matters. The book Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley showed me that. Even in business to business companies, where they don’t deal with the consumer at all, it’s possible to use and encourage creativity. In the book, they talk about various examples where creativity was key. They relied on the creativity of employees to come up with solutions to problems; creative problem-solving. You’re probably already tired of hearing the phrase ‘outside of the box thinking’, but that’s what it is. You might not find an answer if you only stick to what’s familiar to you. But I also think that the majority of the companies that recruit using that phrase don’t actually want that from their employees. And that needs to change.
Creativity is important. Not just for me, as a writer. Or for me as a person who’s naturally curious and the creative process is second nature. It’s important for the world. We need art, we need technology, and we need better solutions. Exercising your creative muscle (because it’s definitely a muscle you can train), is the biggest gift you can give to this world.