What is Creativity?

Defining Creativity

Creativity became a buzz word in this decade. There are tons of books and articles written about the importance of creativity and how to develop it in everybody’s work and personal life.

But there are some misconceptions about what creativity is. There are people who believe that they are completely unable to be creative and there are others who believe coloring books is a creative endeavor. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against adult coloring books at all. It can be meditative and soothing and thus help to destress. I would just dare to say that the CQ, the Creativity Quotient, is not very high in this activity.

To start with a very simple definition: Creativity is the ability to generate something new and genuine. And most of the time creativity combines previous ideas and puts them into a new format. We build upon our previous experience and knowledge and form it into a new shape. But for me there is something missing in this definition. Let me tell you a story that explains where creativity starts for me.

Creativity is a state of mind

I once was hosting a painting event for children that was sponsored by the PTA of an elementary school. While I was setting up easels and paints I was surrounded by several kids who couldn’t wait for the painting to start. Amongst them there was a little boy who very impatiently kept swirling around my apron to make sure he would not miss the beginning of the event. And sure enough he was one of the first kids to sit down with his palette full of colors and he started painting. After a while he came back to me for a refill. I asked him which colors he needed and he replied while looking at all the bottles of paint that were lined up: “red, and blue, and yellow, and green, and orange, and white, and pink, and brown, and black!” So I filled his plate with all the colors. I watched him as he very carefully started to add one color after the other on his canvas. With great pleasure he moved his brush deliberately over the canvas where every new color he added at some point started to melt into a brown mix of colors. He didn’t seem to mind. He put his bright blue onto the brown and swished it over the canvas, painted figures and lines until it also dissolved into the pool of brown mud. After he had used up all the colors he came back for his next refill. He did not grow tired of it. And while the kids around him finished their pictures of flowers and dinosaurs he kept on painting until the very last minute. He kept swirling new bright colors into the thick brown mud and watched them disappear. And he was so disappointed when I told him that time was up. He told me he wasn’t done yet. But the event was over, so with a sigh he took his brown canvas and left.

I can only imagine what his parents thought when he brought home that canvas that was filled with heavy brown mud. Maybe they thought, well, he is just not creative. He has no talent for art.

But for me what he did is creative. Creativity is not always measurable by the result. Sometimes we draw beauty in the sand until the next ocean wave washes it away.

Creativity is a state of mind.


What is creativity? Hands covered in paint.



  1. I love it, Christiane! Well put. I’ll share it on, if you don’t mind:)


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