Is Creativity a Lost Cause?


One of my favorite things to write about is creativity because I firmly believe that while you can enhance your skills with classes or training, you are either born with it or you’re not. That’s not to say that someone who is not innately creative can’t come up with ideas on their own, but it might entail a longer and far more painful process than it would for someone who is naturally creative.

This, then, brings up another question: have we truly seen it all? As a writer and eternal optimist, I like to believe that the best is yet to come. However, while surfing online this afternoon, I came across the following gem, a quote from Jim Jarmusch:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Goddard said: it is not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

And borrow, people do. Classic TV commercials have been retooled to fit our modern world and even TV shows and movies from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s have been resurrected in recent years and given makeovers and slick marketing campaigns.

So, here is my question: is there such a thing as truly original work anymore? Is authentic creativity no longer as relevant as it used to be, so long as it remains on the right side of the legal department?

I leave it to you, my readers – what is the state of the union, as far as creativity is concerned?

For those of you, who believe, as I do, in the art of creativity, allow me to impart some knowledge: the current state of the economy is depressing and it can suck the life out of the creative process, if you let it. How can you expected to be creative and/or effective when you’re cowering under your desk, in the wake of yet another round of layoffs? While I’m not a world-class expert on the subject, I can offer a few suggestions that may help you recharge your creative battery:

  • Take care of yourself. Make sure to eat well, get enough sleep, take your vitamins, exercise, and watch your intake of alcohol and tobacco. While good habits tend to go by the wayside when you’re stressed out, certain basic behaviors will help you stay strong. Even our President has been quoted as saying that he can’t start his day without a good workout.
  • Learn something. Take that cooking class you’ve been putting off or try a new workout. Shake up your routine and reap the benefits.
  • Get up a little earlier. Some of the most effective people I know are at work at 6:30am because they are able to get the tedious things like answering emails out of the way early, so they have time to really focus on the project at hand.
  • Get back to your roots. Last week, I had the pleasure of taking in an exhibit by one of my favorite artists, Andy Warhol, and really focus on what drew me to his work in the first place – his fearless use of color, use of repetition to make a statement, and complete disregard for artistic standards at the time. He blazed trails, which is what I want to do in my career. I challenge you to rediscover something you truly love – whether it’s art, classic B movies, glam rock, or Golden Retriever puppies. Get in touch with whatever moves you.
  • Help someone else. Rather than focusing on your case of writer’s block or obsessing over your checkbook, step outside of your own world and do something for your fellow man. Pick up litter in a park, help out at an animal shelter, or dish out breakfast one morning at a soup kitchen. No matter how bad you think your problems are, there is always someone who needs your help.

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