Written by: Hal Brady.
The topic assigned to me was “how to be creative.” Granted, the school official who made the assignment was making a lot of assumptions. Nevertheless, that was the assignment as I addressed the students.
According to The World Book Dictionary, the word “creative” means “having the ability to create, inventive, productive, artistic.” Being creative is a process and is something to be celebrated. But creativity is also a gift of God. Creativity is present in all of us. It may be hidden, blocked and stifled by all the conventions, but is still present in all of us. As I mentioned, it is a gift of God, a constituent of our human nature.
The writer of Genesis expressed it this way: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (1:27). God, then, is the creator. To be in God’s image is to be endowed with creativity. Hence, we see our need to create; inborn in every person, his or her need for adventure.
A physician said he remembered the remark of one of his sons when he had broken his leg while skiing. The boy had stated that he wanted to go back on the slope for one last descent. Then he said, “At least something has happened to me.” You see, the boy’s life was simply too ordinary to answer his need for creative adventure. All of us have this need. That is the way we are made.
Let’s consider several of the characteristics of being creative.
The first characteristic of being creative is the willingness to break routines. Someone said that at whatever stage of life we find ourselves we have to make a decision. We have four choices: we can quit, we can retreat, we can shift into neutral or we can move ahead. And moving ahead with creativity, more often than not, means a willingness to break routines.
Writing in his book “Creative Suffering,” the late Swiss physician Paul Tournier stated that “Creativity is the truly new, unique, unforeseen fact. Routine repeats it immediately, and then it is no longer creativity for that very reason.”
The second characteristic of being creative is a strong purpose with some flexibility. When I think back on my own experience of being a student, I have always been grateful for my teachers. The “facts” they taught me were interesting and educational, but not always remembered. But what I do remember vividly about my teachers and professors is their stimulating in me the joy of learning. For the most part, they challenged my intellectual curiosity, and they quickened my appreciation of nature, literature, the arts and what it means to be human. Pretty much all those teachers described were creative. They intended their students to be whole persons and to recognize that life’s trip is worthwhile.
The third characteristic of being creative is an alive imagination. Imagination, put simply, is the power of the mind to make a picture. And I believe we all have that power.
As a boy, I had a basketball goal in my back yard. On many occasions, I would go out there and just shoot the basketball.
nevitably, in my imagination, this would be the situation: My high school would be playing one of our chief rivals for the state championship. The score would be tied, the fans would be screaming and I would be fouled. I would go to the free throw line and take a deep breath. If I made the basket, my high school would win the state championship. If I missed — oh, well, sometimes it would take two or three free throws, but my high school won more state championships in my back yard than it ever did on the court.
Imagination is a gift from God and we all have it. Imagination can enable us to switch places with other people and to walk in their shoes. And imagination can enable us to see ourselves as others see us and make the necessary adjustments.
The fourth characteristic of being creative is a disciplined dedication to hard work. Even though everybody has a potential for being creative, everybody is not creative. Why? For many, the answer is that they refuse to work at it. Personally, I know of no substitute for hard, grueling work in the pursuit of being creative. I like the way Rabbi Harold Kushner states it in his book, “When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough.” He says, “Work hard, not solely because it will bring you rewards and promotions but because it will give you the sense of being a competent person.”
And the last characteristic of being creative I will mention is an openness to risks. The late high wire specialist Karl Wallenda was once asked after a terrible fall from the high wire what made him go back up on the wire. Seemingly surprised, he answered, “To be on the wire is life. All else is waiting.”
The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta.