Creativity is often described as the joy of life, and the dance in your step. Great. I’m sure it can be. But in the last several years, as creativity has become noticed by corporations, it has been dubbed as “disruptive.” At first, I was horrified. Creativity? Disruptive? But then again, it is, certainly if defined by the results of creative solutions, which often involves change.
One of the phrases I hear most often as I explain business writing in terms of emotional involvement is, “We’ve done it this other way for years, why change?” Or, “The old way has worked innumerable times, why do something different?” Because doing the same thing forever is the short road to a hard drop off a cliff. People change. Needs change. So do the skills needed for problem solving. And creativity as a problem-solving tool is not always an easy tool to grasp and hold. It can hurt those not prepared to fight for their ideas.
Mondo Guerra , an activist artist and fashion designer nailed it when he publicly said “I feel like this gift and
talent is a curse to me sometimes.” He was getting a lot of change-back messages, a lot of rejection. (Change-back messages are what your friends and co-workers say when they don’t want to change with you. So they push you to change back to what you were. It’s easier on them.)
In a corporate setting, creativity can easily be considered a mental aberration by a supervisor. Creatives can feel like outcasts in an environment where creativity is directly related to ROI. They are often written off as “way out there,” “too strange for us,” and “not really fitting in with our team.”
Creativity has deep roots in unhappiness with the status quo. With willingness to go against the grain. With certainty of purpose. With the idea that the creative ideas are better than what exists now. That’s tough when your culture values individuality only if it fits in with what already exists.
Creativity has roots in “other-ness.” There’s a lot of responsibility attached to it. While risking reputation for an uncertain result, the creative has to explain how the result is useful and why the risk is worthwhile. And, of course, sometimes the creative is wrong, and the risk taken can make a job vanish.
Creativity is a rocky path that brings change comes into the world, but it is not the preternaturally cheery, holy, shamanic gift it’s painted to be. It has a dark, difficult, angry side, and that needs to be honored, too.
Creativity is not the heart that beats in the weak. Nor is it the answer to every problems. The real creative genius knows how to balance out what-is-now with what-can-be and the costs involved. The real creative won’t shrink from creativity.
When you choose the light, you choose the dark. One does not exist without the other. Knowing dark is how we recognize light. Creatives’ characteristics are not colorful, eccentric, or weird. They may fold bits and pieces of those characteristics into their thinking, but it is not the end point. Creatives know the value of dark, the value of empty space, the value of being alone. We are not afraid to use it.
—Quinn McDonald is a trainer who brings story-telling, humor, and game-playing into business writing instruction. She’s also a creativity coach who teaches what she knows.