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Redefining creativity

Written By Izzy Henley

Growing up, I always understood creativity as an objective characteristic. You either have it, or you don't. Annual school Christmas cards drawing in my early years was the moment I entrenched the belief I just simply wasn’t creative.

This idea, for many, is perpetuated by the quantifying nature of creativity in school. During formative years, students learn from the system that creativity is indeed a skill: it can be measured as right or wrong. So, what happens when you leave school? Is it right to enter the world, fresh faced and making active choices away from creative opportunities, under the taught belief that: you simply can’t 'do' creative.

*Images taken by Izzy Henley

Since entering my bubble of intellectual privilege in university I have had the time and opportunity to explore this. This phase of life gives an abundance of free time to spend thinking and discussing and thus forming your own opinions. It has allowed me to reshape my own meaning of creativity.

Creativity is an expression of the ego. It’s the trait which separates us from the other animals on the food chain; philosopher Hegel spoke of our “power of reflection” that sets us apart. This tool available to all of us is never emphasised in school. We’re told to think a certain way, with success measured upon our ability to do so. How limited a world to live in with little room for independent thought outside the marking criteria.

Contrary to what we are taught, I’ve realised expression of the ego is what ‘being’ creative encompasses. Rather than a successful or unsuccessful production, creativity is merely an outlet of inner thoughts into the physical. I recently discovered that this opinion is not original. George Orwell confirmed the top cause in his famous ‘why I write’ novel as being rooted in the ego. He follows with assigning creativity to being led by a human desire to connect with others. The assumption is that forms of art produced through the creative are attempts to seek those in similar situations. Upon both sides of the work, the producer, and the audience, they are seeking connection. Perhaps even validation. Poets, videographers, musicians, photographers, and artists alike produce in the expression of their own views, emotions, and ideals.

So surely then creativity, equally is what brings people together? Is It not the glue which holds relatability between communities? Sharing pain, experience, and stories in hope of solidarity. When phrased in this light, creativity appears much more essential to society.

And yet, the underfunding of the arts is a serious issue. In comparing the newly announced 2023-26 annual funding to the average for 2018-22, Camden Arts Centre will lose £319,673 a year and the Serpentine Galleries £485,725 – just to name a few. Moreover, any funding that is received is highly concentrated on London, leaving 78 towns and cities considered ‘culturally underfunded’ by the UK government. This disappointing statistic falls short of the fact that people need the arts, people need creativity. Equally, it highlights the lack of attention given to the arts and to the association with creativity for the masses, rather than the few. The pandemic lockdowns proved people's need for creativity, with TikTok trends and ‘trying new hobbies’ becoming the real epidemic. What got people through those times was the community of creativity.

No one is limited to be able and not be able when it comes to expressing oneself. Creativity is a public good we can all enjoy, but society has masked it as a private one - exclusive to those with ‘creative genes’. It’s time to restructure the mentality of quantifying one’s creativity as though it’s a quality or trait. Creativity is a means of community, beneficial for the many if treated so.

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