The other day I was talking with a friend who I haven’t seen in a while and the topic of creativity came up. He was surprised that I started doing stand up because typically the profession of pharmacy stamps the creativity out of you. I have to agree with that sentiment. Before I went to pharmacy school I have a lot of passions, I could play instruments, write songs, take great photographs and had entrepreneurial ambitions. While this may have just been the exuberance of youth, I felt destined to do things and make things. By the time I finished by 2nd year I wasn’t interested in anything besides pharmacy and beer. I would joke that I used to have interests, but once you learn to spell hydrochlorothiazide you don’t have room in your brain for anything else. Luckily I stopped with that negative train of thought and moved past my mental limitations and started creating again.
While I think that the term “Creator” is a bit of a grandiose title, I will use it liberally throughout this post, remember all it means is someone who makes something new or improves something to make it better.
We as a society often confuse the idea of creativity with the idea of artsy. You can be a creator without living in a commune or being the “starving artist” that we all picture. Having these constructs of who is or isn’t creative is a way of keeping our own creativity at bay by effectively tricking ourselves into believing that “I’m not one of THOSE people so why try?” Creativity isn’t limited to art, or music, it permeates everything in our lives. In reality being creative expands beyond the stereotypes. That businessman who started a company, he is a creator. The mechanic who figured out how a slight tweak made his hot rod go faster, he is a creator. The chef who found a new way to present something or a new taste pairing (perhaps placing an egg on top of a bacon cheeseburger), he is a creator. The mom or dad who makes up a bedtime story, creators. The scientist who worked on a new drug or test or way to solve a problem, guess what he is a creator too. In fact there are very few people in the world who can make it through the day without creating something either for themselves or for someone else.
Most people tend to get so caught up in the grandiose creations that they let their own little creations fall through the cracks. Most bridges are marvelous works of engineering that require huge amounts of effort from the designers to the builders, but if the guy working in the plant that makes the rivets doesn’t do his job creating the smallest pieces for the project then it is all for nothing. Creations big and small fill our world, and while the people behind the ideas are rarely applauded, think about the passion that it took to invent or improve the things in our everyday life. Nobody will ever recognize the greatness of the guy who invented the stapler, but imagine how much work and effort went into making the first one and then improving on it over the years, and how much easier our lives are because of this seemingly simple creation.
Take a moment and look a the things that you do each day and compare them to all the things that other people can’t do. I found that as I tried to transition back into the world outside of pharmacy school cooking was a good way to expand my creative abilities and reasonable track my progress. 5 years ago I could barely cook anything except for rice and sandwiches and the idea of making homemade stuffing, pork loin, sauteed greens and squash on a random Wednesday night would be unfathomable, yet that is what I made for dinner yesterday. By starting slowly and getting more inventive I moved from heating up microwaveable dinners, to those frozen bags of bachelor chow, into making real elaborate self prepared dinners. The best part is that by adding things to my repertoire piece by piece I was able to get to a point that doing things that looks challenging can be broken up into a series of small components that I have already mastered. I may not be a Michelin rated chef, I happy embrace my ability to create tasty food with minimal effort any time that I want to.
In a similar way I have found that creativity breeds creativity. I suppose this is another example of inertia, if you have forward momentum in an area you tend to keep going. When I started doing comedy I thought that it would be a fun excursion into the world of stand up, but then I started being exposed to new aspects of the field. I have been captivated by improv and the idea of Moth style storytelling, and am interested in exploring other ways of making people laugh like sketch comedy or humorous writing. Just 3 months ago these thoughts wouldn’t have crossed my mind, and now they are things that excitedly keep me up at night. This is why people become serial entrepreneurs, once you get over the initial apprehension of trying something new it becomes addicting and you keep pushing forward to search out new opportunities to express yourself. I suppose that along the same vein a big portion of being creative is learning from your failures and having the persistence to try again.
The key to being a creator is to have passion. If you care about something, anything, you will do your best to make it better. But passion is also an example of inertia, where taking the first step is always the hardest. After school I was searching to find a grand hobby or something to define myself, but I was discouraged because I didn’t click with the many things that I tried. I would give something a shot and when I got discouraged that I wasn’t passionate about painting or playing the guitar, or any of the other artsy things I tried I would give up and go read. I eventually realized how passionate I was about books, and started noticing how passionate I was about beer and cooking, and by realizing the things that I cared about I was able to focus my passion toward even more new things. Hell last year I would have scoffed at the idea that I would become a stand up comic, running my own blog, and training for a 6 mile adventure race in January, I still sometimes have to pinch myself to believe it.
In the end we create things to fill the time, or to fill vacancies in the world, or simply to fill the holes in our soul. Being creative isn’t a gift from god, or a chosen vocation, it is something that each and every one of us does every day. The key is recognizing the things that you create, appreciating them, and striving to create more things. It’s not like you can win the creativity battle, but as long as you try then there is nobody that can stop you. I encourage you to go out and make something, or write something, or cook something, or simply make someone laugh, and appreciate your accomplishment. Because when you do you will be come a creator, and by making that first step you have no idea where it will take you.