What does it mean to create? When most of us hear that word, we think of the name of some great artist, musician or writer. We think da Vinci, Mozart, or Shakespeare. We carelessly assume that only a privileged few men and women are capable of creating things. Most of us assume that we lack the talent or intelligence to create anything worthwhile.
A lot of deep-thinking people are beginning to challenge that assumption. Do you have a correct concept of talent?
The truth is, God never intended that only a few enjoy the pleasure and fulfillment that comes by the creative process. He wants every human being—every man, woman and child—to have an abundant, creative and successful life.
Yes, it is your God-given heritage to live the life of a creator! Bringing something into being from nothing is a huge part of what makes human life abundant and fulfilling.
Yet, how do you become a creator? Only a few have learned how. There is a reason why. Something is wrong with our education system.
Becoming a successful creator comes only by obtaining right education and performing hard work. Creating anything—art, literature, delicious meals, new products and processes, music—does not come easy. Yet, creating is not a mysterious gift reserved just for the few. You can live an exuberant life creating wonderful things if you really want to. You simply have to learn how.
The Truth About Talent
In his book Talent Is Overrated, Geoff Colvin writes, “A number of researchers now argue that giftedness or talent means nothing like what we think it means, if indeed it means anything at all. A few contend that the very existence of talent is not, as they carefully put it, supported by evidence.” That is a shocking statement. Is there a possibility that talent has little to do with great performance? The truth is, many have given up hope of creating anything because certain myths about talent have been promulgated for years.
One of these is the Mozart myth. There is no doubt that Mozart’s music is breathtaking. The Mozart myth purportedly explains how he created such great music: Some people are simply born with towering talent, which bestows on them supernatural ability to produce ethereal works of art like the “Clarinet Concerto in A.” Music like this just leaps into being directly from its creator’s mind. Some experts believed Mozart composed his symphonies in one sitting with little or no revision.
However, truthful investigation into Mozart’s life reveals a different history. Mozart’s father, Leopold, was a famous composer and performer. He was deeply interested in how music was taught to children. His book on violin instruction was considered the most authoritative work on the subject for decades. Leopold Mozart was also a demanding father who started teaching his son music composition and performance at age 3. So Wolfgang was receiving intense music instruction at a very young age. Unsurprisingly, then, Mozart was composing music at age 5 and giving public piano and violin performances by age 8. He had an incredible role model to imitate.
Music scholars now recognize that Mozart’s earliest compositions were those of a student. Some were heavily edited by his father. Other compositions followed the style of another of his teachers, Johann Christian Bach. “Regarding how he produced this music, however it’s evaluated, the New Yorker’s music critic, Alex Ross, sums up much of the recent scholarship on the Miracle of Salzburg: ‘Ambitious parents who are currently playing the Baby Mozart video for their toddlers may be disappointed to learn that Mozart became Mozart by working furiously hard’” (ibid).
Same Capability, Equal Ability
It is important that every educator, ceo and parent know that the guiding assumption about talent is causing trouble for many individuals.
Every human has the potential to become a creator. Think about that statement. This matter carries great significance to how we rear our children, how we educate them in our schools, and how people perform on their jobs. Gifted performance is not reserved for the elite few. It is a matter of disciplined training, which includes blood, sweat and tears.
Current assumptions on talent are based on the false theory of evolution. Colvin shows that before Darwin, it was believed that people were born with more or less the same capabilities, which were developed to varying degrees during life—in other words, that all people held approximately equal ability to develop skills. It was up to each individual to make of himself what he would. This belief, more than any other, led to the notion that the United States of America was the land of equal opportunity. History shows many who fully embraced that belief made great fortunes in America.
Can you imagine the creative good that would result if we applied this old way of thinking to every man, woman and child today? It would revolutionize the way we learn and work. Believing and acting upon such knowledge would virtually eliminate today’s tendency to single out only a few as gifted or talented. Parents would realize fully that their children’s abilities in art, dance, music, sport or writing begin with their effort to discipline, encourage, motivate and inspire their children to work hard to perfect the skills necessary to be great at what they do. Adults desiring more out of life would not give up learning or doing something new or different just because it was difficult. Workers would be much more productive and successful on the job.
So how do you begin to become a creator?
Change Your Thinking
Research into the lives of great artists and inventors—the da Vincis, the Edisons, the Einsteins—has uncovered that these individuals were not necessarily more intelligent or talented than others. They thought differently. Actually, they were taught to think differently.
One of the number one problems in our education system is: Our children are not taught to think—they are taught to memorize facts. They are then tested on how well they repeat what they memorized. Students who have the best recall are considered really smart. But are they?
Assuredly, the memorization of certain facts is good—the multiplication tables in math or dates of history, for example. Yet what happens when cultural assumptions are taught to be memorized as facts? You could end up believing that the sun revolves around the Earth. Galileo, a man who thought differently, challenged the current thinking of his day—that the sun revolved around the Earth—and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church for advocating such “heresy.”
Michael Michalko, in his book Cracking Creativity, states: “Typically, we think reproductively, on the basis of similar problems encountered in the past. When confronted with problems, we fixate on something in our past that has worked before. We ask, ‘What have I been taught in my life, education, or work that will solve this problem?’” Naturally, there is real risk in this kind of thinking. For starters, what we have been taught could be wrong. In addition, when we solve new problems based only on what we have done in the past, we can become narrow, rigid know-it-alls, assuming the correctness of our conclusions. This can close us off to new learning and new ways of doing things.
Creators think productively. Michalko explains, “When confronted with a problem, [productive thinkers] ask themselves how many different ways they can look [at] the problem, how they can rethink it, and how many different ways they can solve it, instead of asking how they have been taught to solve it.” Productive thinking opens the door for exploration. This kind of big thinking takes more work, yet yields more possibilities, adding significantly to the number of new ways to do things. Productive thinking is fundamental to becoming a creator.
How to Gain Creative Confidence
It is proven that human beings learn best by doing. If you want to become more creative or have your children learn to be creative, the best time to start is right now.
However, start small. If you want to become a painter, for example, don’t rush out to buy expensive brushes, canvases and oil paints. A box of crayons or colored pencils and a blank pad of newsprint paper will be enough to get you, or your child, started. Keep your expectations practical. Da Vinci didn’t create the Mona Lisa on his first attempt at painting.
The great creators in human history began their careers with learning the fundamentals of their art. William Shakespeare had to master meter and rhyme before writing Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. Einstein had to grasp the rudiments of math before he could develop the groundbreaking formula E=MC2. Any creating requires education in the basics. Wolfgang Mozart had to come to understand the basics of music composition before he ever wrote the music that so many consider a priceless treasure.
In his booklet The Seven Laws of Success, Herbert W. Armstrong described education, or preparation, as the second law of success. “[W]e have to learn—to study—to be educated—to be prepared for what we propose to do,” he wrote. “One of the first things we need to learn is that we need to learn.” (We will send you a free copy of this amazing booklet upon request.)
Often, very young children are naturally more creative than adults. Being new themselves, their world is full of wonder waiting to be explored. Curiosity opens wide the doors of investigation and experience. Children are quick to recognize that they don’t know something, but work quickly to fill the gap. In addition, young children tend not to fear failure. They are eager to try anything and everything. Safely introducing young children to a variety of experiences is the best way for parents to discover a child’s artistic or creative aptitude.
Sadly, as adults we tend to fall into the creativity-crushing mental rut of believing that we know everything. Intellectual arrogance can kill our curiosity, our desire to investigate, and our willingness to try new things. To become more creative, we must become more curious in our thinking—like a child. Michael Michalko writes: “Einstein once said that the ordinary person could learn all the physics he or she will ever need to learn if the person could learn to understand the mind of a child.” Jesus Christ taught that if we truly want to grow spiritually, we must become as little children (Matthew 18:3). The truly great creators never quit learning.
Insist on Discipline
How people encourage creativity today is more like sugar-coated rebellion than true creation. Some parents, not wanting to destroy a child’s creativity, will allow the child to color on walls in the home. Many municipalities have strict laws against such destructive activity, calling it what it truly is—property-damaging graffiti! Allowing a child to bang on a piano does not teach a child how to play music.
Discipline is a creator’s most important tool. Without it, no continuous creative work of any quality can be accomplished. The truly great writers know that quality literature is produced not by some mythological muse but by showing up at the keyboard at a specific time every day and then staying at that keyboard until real work is performed.
One famous British author was asked if he wrote by inspiration or schedule. His answer: “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at 9 o’clock sharp.”
A lot of would-be creators talk much about their art, whether it be dance, music, painting, sculpting or writing. Generally that is where it stops—talk. Successful creators do. Yet, doing art is more than a dab of paint on a canvas when you feel like it or when inspiration hits. Doing art means concentration, focus, order, organization, personal sacrifice, scheduling and meeting standards—all elements of self-discipline.
All parents should make it their goal to teach their children the fundamentals of self-discipline. No child can succeed at anything without them.
One of the most important elements of self-discipline is drive. Creative accomplishment requires the creator to keep a prod on himself. The person who desires to be a great piano player must drive himself to practice until he gets his music right. Drive is not an external force—it comes from within a person. All the histories of the great creators hold one fact in common: All were driven to create. How else could they have become the masters of their fields? Herbert Armstrong wrote, “Without energy, drive, constant propulsion, a person need never expect to become truly successful” (op. cit.).
Create With Passion
In his book Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson skillfully and with colorful detail gives us a clear picture of a man driven by passion. He writes: “This is a book about the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing” (emphasis added throughout). Steve Jobs demanded much of himself and the people he employed, which delivered incredible results. Before hiring an employee, Jobs expected to see the fires of passion for Apple products burning bright inside the applicant. If there was no fire, there was no job.
Creators love what they do. If you do not deeply love what you are doing, you will never be very good at it. Music composer Robert Fritz, in his book Creating, states: “Love is what creating is about .… In the creative process, love is generative rather than simply responsive .… [A] creator is able to love something that does not yet exist—even in the imagination—and bring it into existence.” The word generative basically means the power to originate or produce something.
Fritz further explains that generative love focuses not on the creator, but on what is created. Creation is a selfless, not a selfish, process. In reality this is a deeply spiritual concept.
The Bible shows us that God is both the great Creator and Lover (Genesis 1:1; 1 John 4:16). As a Creator, He is passionate about what He is doing. He is creating an incredible family to finish the creation of the universe (Romans 8:19-21). Look at God’s investment of love in His creative actions. God is so passionate about His plans that He gave up, or invested, what He valued most—His Son—to further His creation (John 3:16). And that Son, also God and a Creator, sacrificed His own life to unleash more power into God’s creative work (John 1:12). That is the highest form of generative love.
All those desiring to become creators will need to imitate and put into practice this kind of love. What a wonderful opportunity to be able to learn how to create. That education opens up new vistas to understanding God and deepens our relationship with Him.
It is crucial that parents help their children discover what they can be truly passionate about. Half-hearted interest produces half-hearted results. Every child has ability and aptitude to excel at some skillful enterprise. Yet there must be passion. Careful observation of your child as he experiences new things will unveil to you what your child will love doing.
Hard Work Works
Being a very good creator is very hard work. There is no way around it. Most people stop creating because they meet some obstacle along the way. That obstacle could come in the form of criticism or rejection. Most of the time, though, people give up when the act of creating gets hard. Painting a masterpiece is hard work. Composing unforgettable music is hard work. Writing poetry that lasts forever is hard work! Creation requires sacrifice and a lot of time.
One of the great weaknesses in today’s Western society is the inability to delay gratification. We want what we want—now! When we set out to do something, we expect to see immediate results. Most often, when we don’t get immediate results, we give up. Creating requires patience and longsuffering.
Scriptwriter Steven Pressfield describes the creative process as the war of art. What does he mean by that? A former marine, Pressfield experienced the difficulties, exhaustion and personal trials that afflict soldiers. He believes that to create art requires the toughness of a soldier. The major battle that creators face is with their own self. So, when the creating gets tough, you must push through the toughness.
Geoff Colvin encourages us: “There is a path leading from the state of our own abilities to that of the greats. The path is extremely long and demanding, and only a few will follow it all the way to its end.” Never giving up is a vital key to successful creating. Recent research on Mozart has uncovered that he continually revised his compositions. This is what made his music such a great treasure. Mozart’s compositions did not magically appear on a music sheet.
Herbert Armstrong explained in The Seven Laws of Success that a person seeking any achievement must use resourcefulness and perseverance when the work gets difficult. The truly great creators knew how to use these two building blocks of work effectively.
Human beings are creators by nature. Challenge yourself to embark on a creative journey that will add a new and exciting dimension to your life. You will be pleasantly surprised when you open up your own dazzling creative possibilities. ▪