on creativity

One of my favorite artists (lots of people’s favorite artist), James Christensen [just google him — I’m too lazy to bother with links today], was also conveniently a professor at BYU while I was a student there (retired now, I think).  One lucky day, he was the speaker at a forum/devotional.  I’ve searched in vain for the text of that talk, but I will always remember what he said about being creative, and he would know.

People often think that in order to be creative, you must come up with an idea that is 100% unique — unlike anything else.  This is pretty much impossible.  Instead, Christensen said to think of your mind like a card catalogue (if you’re too young to remember card catalogues, I don’t really want to know about it).  On each card is something you’ve seen, heard, read, etc.  Creativity is when you pull different cards from the catalogue and put them together.  I loved this analogy, and think of it often in my day-to-day life.  Christensen uses the ideas in his catalogue in his paintings, but we use some of the ideas in our own catalogues all of the time.

When I find a recipe that sounds good, but substitute butter for the shortening and throw in a handfull of chocolate chips, I am being creative.  When I see a room arrangement in a fancy magazine, then apply it to the accessories I have hunted for at TJ Maxx or Target, I am being creative.  When I consult four parenting books about a knotty problem with one of my kids, then figure out an approach that will work best for us, I am being creative.

I’m pretty sure we’re all born with gobs of creativity, and I always feel so sad when I hear someone say, “Oh, I’m not very creative.”  Yes you are!

I’m having fun right now thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I love to do things that are easy and simple, but clever and fun (I’ll share some as I go — some will have to wait, since they are surprises for my kids).  And none of my ideas came from thin air.  I love exercising my creative muscles by remembering good ideas and making them work for us.


6 thoughts on “on creativity

  1. danielle

    I agree wholeheartedly. So this is why I think it is pretty dumb when people get mad about someone else doing something that they did first (I do too). Because really we all draw inspiration from others and add our own twist. Glad you are having fun thinking about Christmas and Thanksgiving. I spend a lot of time thinking about having a house and a nursery. Soon I hope. Anyway, I would love to go the the Discovery Gateway someday when I am feeling better. Thanks for the invite. I have actually always wanted to go but you have to have a kid with you. lame.

  2. sillyjillybean

    I actually was having this conversation with someone the other day how we all draw from each other’s best traits and try to emulate them. In the cirlce traits who knows, maybe the original was you!

  3. Katrina

    Thanks for sharing this analogy! I love it! I think for some of us as we get older we tend to squash the creative instincts we had as children without realizing it and soon we think we aren’t creative. I love that you point out that so much of the little things we do can be creative.


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