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Is Creativity Misunderstood?

Submitted by on June 11, 2014 – 12:28 amNo Comment

CreativityArticle #735

By J. T. Cane

One might think that all people have creative abilities since we are all children of the universe. And to push that point further, our ultimate creation is each other.

The topic of creativity is especially fascinating to me because of the struggles I have experienced in my life as an actor. In the beginning of learning about acting over 30 years ago, there was always an undercurrent of doubting what I was attempting to do at any given time. Some would shrug this off as “normal” and part of the profession, however I had always knew those fearful, self-doubting feelings didn’t have to be there. At some level I have questioned why one would get in their own way of something that they love to do. After 10 years of struggling with my inhibitions, I took formal acting classes and personalized coaching for about 8 years, and in the process I slowly realized why I got in the way of my own creativity; I was secretly (even a secret to me at the time) respecting what I was taught at a young age and at the same time doing what I was “supposed” to do based on “normal societal standards”. Nonetheless, this example is a statement as to why people may not think they are “creative”. In hindsight I look at my inhibitions as something that did not need to be there; it’s almost as if I came full circle back to my “play” mentality of being a child. Sometimes it may be just the size of the “fish bowl” one grew up or lives in.

Many times when I am coaching actors, I can see in the beginning that they are afraid to “act” certain ways, for fear of looking foolish, or fear of judgment—possibly judgment they have learned to place on others. In acting, it is about breaking the rules all the time. People that get into acting know they have the creative potential, otherwise they would not make an effort to even try to get over their inhibitions. They know the power and ability is in them; it is already felt as being conceivable on a deeper level. The amazing part is how easy it is to open that door to trust themselves; encouragement goes a long way.
As Cropley (2011) states, “Both Francis Bacon and René Descartes, two of the early seventeenth century founders of modern science, saw scientific creativity as involving the harnessing of the forces of nature for the betterment of the human condition”.

It seems that the human condition is by default creative by and in nature to survive. If we were to take the example of an individual who exercises the pathology of anorexic behavior, one can also see that that person needs to be exceptionally creative in coping in situations where food is involved and avoid eating. Creativity is the unbridled ability to adapt and handle psychologically and physically challenging situations. When things get difficult people become amazingly creative to survive. When the course of one’s life is traumatized (Munson, 2013) and dramatically altered is there not a force stronger than reason needing to surface, needing to be recognized for solace, healing and comfort? Is it possible that this feeling is creation, the power of creativity making itself known? Maybe life fits perfectly together on a level we just only “see” from time to time; where “creativity” lives. One may find this perspective on creativity is a bit odd or peculiar. However, why we cannot see or do may lie in obstacles, not in ability.

Cropley (2011) states:

“Inventive creativity’ involves applying the already known in new ways, ‘innovative creativity’ requires expanding known principles, while ‘emergent creativity’ encompasses the development of new principles. As a general but not universal rule, children often show expressive spontaneity, but lack knowledge of a field or skill with tools or special techniques. In this sense they can be said to display creativity, but only in the form of expressive spontaneity.”

How many people gain the expertise necessary to express themselves creatively and spontaneously? Why can children do this, however adults limit this ability? It’s funny, in an acting class I can ask a 6 year old child to act a certain way and without hesitation they do it, however with an adult all kinds of things seem to get in the way of being real.

Cropley (2011) talks about “Can Creativity Occur by Chance?”
“Case studies suggest that genuinely creative results require a combination of all four kinds of luck, which raises the question of whether it is a matter of luck at all!”

If it is not “luck”, what is it? Maybe synchronicity? Why couldn’t this be explained from a synchronistic perspective? How do flowers grow? Do they search for the right dirt to grow in, the right rain and sunlight to show their creative beauty? Or are these just a lucky combination of events? Is this just luck? Serendipity, chance, coincidence? Providence? Cropley also talks about (2011) “…‘accidentally’ finding something you were searching for”. The universe has the “ideas”, we are just searching and finding what’s there and in us at the same time.

Cropley also discusses that we need a certain amount of intelligence before creativity is possible and then it reaches a threshold; then IQ and creativity are uncorrelated once intelligence is high enough. In reference to this, where would an autistic savant fit in? It seems that this example is unexplained; somebody who has a learning disability or psychiatric disorder but who is exceptionally gifted in one specific area, possibly at a level of genius, e.g. rapid mathematical calculation or music. Is this not creativity (creation) at work?

It has been supported in research that individuals gain clarity and tremendous insight when they realize their life is going to come to an end. It has been found in some cancer patients (Merrick & Ventegodt, 2003) that when they receive the “terminal” diagnosis from the doctor that their life is limited to 700 days, there is a sense of relief and patients start to live their lives more fully, being at ease, experiencing moments that seem to last forever. Is it not possible that this perspective lies deep in all of us, that our creative nature is always there and the real dilemma is not seeing what we have personally put in our way until we have nothing to lose?

As Merrick & Ventegodt (2003) state:

“Some decisions and choices are in harmony with life, others bring ruin and destruction. Some decisions lead towards the top, others towards the bottom. Some views of the world can sustain life, others weigh it down. Only the will to live a good life can make a person rise above the immaterial, the meaningless, doubt and nonsense. You rarely discover that the will is the real resource for improving life, until you are facing death. Do you really exert yourself and improve anything? Do you gain the expertise necessary to express yourself creatively and spontaneously?”

Maybe the creative flow lives in harmony, decisions that lead toward the top. We need to get rid of the negativity in the description of our experience of life and the old pains that hold our limiting decisions in their place (Merrick & Ventegodt, 2003). I believe that creativity is at our finger tips in every moment, many of us just don’t reach far enough to fully experience the unconditional will.

One can only speculate as for the benefits of creativity in resolving inner conflicts; the possibilities in understanding pathological realities can be virtually limitless if we can see that creativity is constantly flowing and we are all a part of it.

Maybe one of the reasons why creativity seems to be a misunderstood concept which is not given enough attention is because we allow ourselves, convince ourselves of a limiting life. Paradoxically speaking, maybe why some of us deny the idea of death or in some unexplained vague sense think we are going to live forever, is because we are always living with the limitless creative force—it never dies; it is in us.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” – Carl Jung


About the Author

For over 15 years, John Cane has helped over 100,000 individuals in areas of Self Improvement. John is a Life Coach, motivational speaker and writer who develops and implements confidence and self-esteem workshops in North Carolina, South Carolina, and New York. With a background in Psychology, he has six certifications in Personal Growth and Development. His Journal Books, ‘Important Things I Remember from My Parents’ are used in schools and as an aid for adults in gaining strength in self identity in the United States and Europe.

John Cane is the founder of Edge Advantage, Inc. Edge Advantage ( is a personal development organization dedicated to research-based, practical psychology training. Our focus is on communication, individual performance, and reducing stress. The objective of John’s websites sites is to bring the most current developments from these areas to those who use them everyday, educating in a form that is clear and practical. John is the webmaster of Self Help Guides Online (.com) and See the Obvious (.com). He is currently pursuing his Graduate Degree in Psychology & Interdisciplinary Inquiry at Saybrook University, San Francisco, California. This specialization focuses on a growth-oriented perspective emphasizing human potential, intended to broaden an in-depth understanding of individuals.

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Cropley, A. J. (2011). Definitions of creativity. In M. A. Runco & S. R. Pritzker (Eds.), Encyclopedia of creativity (2nd ed., pp. 358-368). Burlington, MA: Academic Press. DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-375038-9.00237-5. (Saybrook Library > Reference Collection > Encyclopedia of Creativity (2nd Ed.)

Jung, C. (n.d.). Carl Jung Psychoanalysis: Philosophy Metaphysics of The Undiscovered Self Quotes Carl Jung Psychoanalyst. Retrieved April 30, 2014, from

Merrick J, Ventegodt S. What is a good death ? To use death as a mirror and find the quality of life. BMJ 2003 October 31.

Munson, L. (2013, September 11). The 9/11 Family Member Who Taught Me About Survival | Laura Munson. Retrieved from


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Leave us a suggestion for articles you would like to see. We will do our best to suit your needs! Did this information help? I hope so. Change can be difficult sometimes. Like I always say in my workshops, It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it because you’re worth it! Donations fund Self Esteem Workshops for teens, supply books to schools for the continual support of character education across America, and are tax deductable. Thank you from Self Help Guides!