Pressure to be creative?

Saraswati. Hindu goddess associated with creativity.

The words ‘think more creatively’ were uttered to me a few weeks ago and it started me thinking. Within our society, I feel like there’s an intense underpinning pressure to be creative. By this I mean original, daring, thought-provoking and, well to be quite honest, special. I feel it in many aspects of my life but most strongly when it comes to academic pursuits. Constant focus within the research arena is to look for new solutions or even new problems that we can create new solutions for. It’s blissful when the research is flowing. But all of us recognise that creativity cannot be forced. When it’s not there I feel like a useless fraud. I don’t feel original, I don’t feel particularly daring and I especially don’t feel special. I wonder if social expectation to contribute something highly original to the world is just too much responsibility for the mere individual. How novel does something have to be for it to be creative? Building on this, how original does it have to be before it gains social recognition? Do any of us ever feel that we are creative enough?

 In some contemporary societies, notably in India, creativity is not the creation of something out of nothing. Instead, to be creative refers to a reworking of existing knowledge.  Hindu principles explain creativity as cosmic energy that flows through an individual. Creativity is therefore not seen as the property of the individual and similarly there is no accompanying expectation. The consequence of such a belief is that India remains a very traditional society and although there is diversity, it is bound by the worldview in which it is situated.

 I have to admit that within an academic context the idea that creativity is a flow of energy as opposed to a reflection of my body and mind’s capacity is quite comforting. Perhaps such a view has potential to mitigate the often debilitating pressure felt by so many of us to be creative and original and instead allows us to just ‘flow’ without the attached social judgement or expectation.  Then again, this is perhaps just wishful thinking!

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