Why Creativity?

by Keith Jennings

The creative life is a tough life.

It’s filled with unique tensions, contradictions and dilemmas. And it comes with heavy doses of doubt, fear, block, burn-out and rejection.

So why do we do it?

Why do we sacrifice and slave for years practicing a craft despite the odds of success?

Why do we constantly offer ourselves and our work to a world too busy to notice and critics too confident to care?

I think I know.

I think you do too.

At our very core, we are social beings. We are designed for connection. And we thrive in communion and community.

Creativity is a communal activity. One we have within ourselves with all the personas and characters that inhabit us. And one we have with others like us (and not like us) in the nooks and crannies of this globally local world.

What follows are my responses to “why creativity?” I look forward to hearing your ideas, beliefs and questions in the comments!

Why creativity?

Because creativity is simultaneously limited and limitless.

Because creativity seeks what is and what can be, rather than what could be or should be.

Because creativity is a 4Q activity, rather than a Q4 activity.

Because creativity is an intensely private inner life shared publicly.

Because creativity contains forbidden fruit, a wilderness and a cross.

Because creativity is curiosity.

Because creativity is deliberate, yet serendipitous.

Because creativity is freedom in structure. And structure in freedom.

Because creativity thrives in paradox, dilemma and contradiction.

Because creativity sees the reality behind the ideal. And the ideal in the face of reality.

Because creativity is a sonic landscape. An emotional orgasm. A sensory experience. Simultaneously real and unreal.

Because creativity hears noise in silence. And silence in noise.

Because creativity is ritual, routine and rhythm.

Because creativity is shared space.

Because creativity is negotiable. After all, who gets to decide what is creative and what isn’t?

Because creativity is a portfolio. A patchwork quilt. A collage. A chord. An aha. An apple. An accident.

Because creativity is a choice. When it packs full, we call it virtuosity. And when it selectively omits, which we call it mastery.

Because creativity pursues mystery like a lover.

Because creativity tills the vast land of our imagination, and prepares it to receive seeds.

Because creativity is seeing the familiar in unfamiliar ways.

Because creativity empowers, enlightens and enrages.

Because creativity isn’t a lifestyle. It’s a life.

Because creativity is risk. And chance. And discovery.

Because creativity exists in tension. Therefore, creativity exists in harmony.

Because creativity means connecting seemingly separate things in surprising ways. Ways that feed our mind, heart and soul.

Creativity lets us see the unseen. Feel the unfelt. And say the unsaid.

Poet, James Dickey, is often quoted as saying, “What you have to realize when you write poetry, or if you love poetry, is that poetry is just naturally the greatest –––damn thing that ever was in the whole universe.”

That pretty much sums up the creative life, doesn’t it?

That’s why we continue to do what we do, no matter what.

We can’t stop trying to connect things to see what emerges and blooms.

Creativity is the practice of craft and community. Through our craft, we connect things. Through community, we connect people to each other, ourselves and our work.

What do you think?

What does creativity mean to you?

Why do you continue practicing the creative life?

Keith Jennings is a professional writer, editor and marketing advisor with a diverse portfolio of creative and commercial work. His blog, Keitharsis, is a resource for Creatives (both part-time and professional) facing blocks, burn-out and doubt. Connect with him at www.keithjennings.com

If this sparks your creative heart, please click one of the buttons below to spread these powerful thoughts.

27 Responses to “Why Creativity?”

  1. Randy,

    Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to your wonderful blog! You and your work remain a core inspiration!

  2. “Because creativity is a sonic landscape. An emotional orgasm. A sensory experience. Simultaneously real and unreal.”–I just love that statement.

    We create on so many levels. I create when I decorate my home, put together an outfit, make jewelry, paint, write music or literature. Creativity is peeling away a tiny part of your soul and putting it on display for everyone to see.

    • @Lynn Mitchell, How beautiful, Lynn! “Creativity is peeling away a tiny part of your soul and putting it on display for everyone to see.”

      And yes, I agree, Keith’s statement “Because creativity is a sonic landscape. An emotional orgasm. A sensory experience. Simultaneously real and unreal.” is awesome.

  3. “Creativity is peeling away a tiny part of your soul and putting it on display for everyone to see.”

    Just beautiful, Lynn. Thank you so much for your comment!

    (Invite your friends over to read! They’ll love Randy’s blog!)

  4. I feel like I have to keep practicing creativity because there is nothing else to do. In ways that if I stopped working with creativity I would have nothing to do but sit on the couch and never move.

    Great words of encouragement Keith

  5. This is so great! It adds so much clarity to things to have a name for it…a definition…something tangible to acknowledge and say, yes! That is it! It doesn’t make it any less messy, but so much more concrete.

    For me it is a temendous strength, encased in the most vulnerable wrapping.

    I must say, how incredibly enriching it is to find this community of creatives. While I’m trying to work it all out internally, I get this sense that is what we are all doing…trying to find peace with this thing that is so much larger than we are. How are we to be a proper vessel for its outpouring…I think that’s where the vulnerability for me lies.

    • @Nikki, Nikki, it’s so great to see you here! Thank you for coming over today!

      Want to know a little secret? This began as a post on what’s called 4-quadrant creativity. Then I tried to morph it into a meditation on the theme of connection. Then I had the idea of a list. But not the traditional list-style post you see on blogs. I borrowed from the poetry tradition!

      You are so right about how great it is to find a community. It’s so much easier to write when you have people you want surprise and delight!

  6. Great post, Keith! Truly resonated with me. I ask myself “why do you continue does this?” all the time (especially when going through times of doubt, fear, block, burn-out and rejection). I don’t always have an answer, but I always bounce back to create more. I think it’s because I love to share. Sure I can be selfish at times too, but I love truly love to share.

    In art I love to share what I see and how I see it. I enjoy the feedback (the positive and even the negative); it usually propels my forward to try or create something new. I also enjoy seeing what others see and how they see those things. I think your sentence at the end of the post says it best: “Creativity is the practice of craft and community.”

    • @Justin Baker, Thank you for your comment, Justin! I really appreciate hearing from you.

      There’s an old movie starring Georgia Strait called Pure Country. In it, the grandma drops a line that’s become a favorite in my family: “There are no answers, only the search.”

      So, don’t worry about having answers. It’s the search that drives our creativity, right?

      And don’t worry about being selfish either. Selfish has a positive and negative side. A yin and yang, so to speak. Technically, everything we do is selfish. The real question is this: is what we’re doing constructive or destructive to ourselves and others?

      Come over and check out Keitharsis some time. It’s all about the relationship of craft and community.

  7. Oh Keith. You are such a beautiful soul and spirit. You have covered the realm of creativity in such a meaningful and holistic way. For me, I know that I would simply die without accessing that part of myself – the part that explores, discovers, changes and grows; the part that stretches my sense of the world and myself, the part that helps me love others and look at the world with eyes wide open, with awe and wonder.

    • @Léna Roy, I’m so happy to see your name! Thank you for taking time to read and comment! I know how busy you are.

      I love your comment on creativity stretching our sense of the world and ourselves! Yes! Yes! It stretches us, indeed.

      I think when we lose the curiosity, the wonder, the awe, we become uncreative. Our real work is inner cultivation so that we can receive seeds and give them their best chance.

  8. Keith, I loved your list. So many of the reasons you listed for why we create resonated with me. Fear used to keep me from creating and writing but I’ve learned that when I create I am constantly seeing opportunities of growth and discovery. I think this is what I love most about writing.

    • @Eileen, Thank you so much for your comment!

      My thesis is this: We mistakenly believe that if we can eliminate the distractions, doubts and fears in our lives, we can finally do great work. However, truly great work lies in our life’s tensions. Because its our weaknesses and imperfections (i.e. our humanity) that bind us together.

      Keep writing!

  9. What an awesome post! Thank you, Randy, for featuring Keith.

    I think creativity is practiced, learned, innate, scary and fascinating.

    I try to practice creativity by exploring new expressions of it and reading/appreciating other creatives’ craft.

    • @ThatGuyKC, It’s always great hearing from you, KC! Thank you for your comment!

      You are so right: “Creativity is practiced, learned, innate, scary and fascinating.” (All at the same time!)

      Great insights!

  10. I’m going to read this post several times – these are all great thoughts!

    I would add…

    …because we were made in the image of a Creator. We are expressing the image of God in us when we create.

    … because creativity is exploration, and, as you said, discovery. When I’m creating, I usually feel like I’m not forcing something into existence, but rather finding something that’s been there all along, waiting to be revealed. I hardly feel that I can take any credit for the art, except that I kept diligently looking for it.

    Lastly, creativity gives us a language beyond our normal speech. We learn a great deal more about temptation, for instance, when we read about Frodo’s struggle against the lure of the Ring than we do by hearing someone say “Temptation can be difficult to resist.”

    • @Chris, Great, great, great comment, Chris! Love your contributions to the dialogue! Thank you.

      God creates something from nothing. But we can’t do that, right? What we can do is collect things and connect them in ways that surprise (both us and others).

      Like chefs, we connect things to create new tastes. Like chemists, we mix things to create reactions. And like archeologists, we research and dig until we uncover something hidden.

  11. Creativity is just part of who I am. It brings out passion and vision and ideas in me that nothing else can do. Without doing the hard work of being creative, I would be bored, sitting on the couch with nothing to do.

    Great post Keith!

    • @Jason Vana, I hear you, Jason! Although, we sometimes need the Sabbath of the couch!!

      • Oh, I completely agree with you, Keith! I try to have at least a half day each week where I lay on the couch, watch movies, read…pretty much whatever I want to do. I just meant without my creative outlets, I might spend ALL my time there. Definitely not a good thing.


  1. A Communal Activity | Save the Artist - August 12, 2011

    […] -> Why Creativity?  […]

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