Beware: the art of creativity is a hoax

By Joe

Most people’s creativity died, according to creative consultants, when a well-meaning adult taught us as children to color inside the lines.
Creative consultancy is a boom industry these days. Walk into any bookstore and the shelves in the self-help section groan under the combined weight of tomes offering the sullen and bruised among us hope for reawakening our latent creativity.
A couple hundred bucks can buy you a whole seminar that will allow you to reawaken the creativity that will make your career in pharmacy, for example, more than just an easy way to make a good living.
A lot of people talk about their creativity, but they don’t do any real work.
Let’s imagine (a great way to spark your creativity) two children: Conrad and Janice. They are each given a piece of paper with an outline of a horse standing peacefully in a pasture, munching away on some grass. (Healthy eating is important if you want to tap your creativity!)
Conrad picks up a crayon and creates a hurricane of black across the horse’s figure. Lines mean nothing to Conrad.
His creativity is given full license to wreak havoc on the page. Around the hoof area of the horse, Conrad stops abruptly, grabs a green crayon and goes to town on the lower half of the picture. A few more passes with his verdant joy stick, and our lovely pastoral scene is complete. Voil ! Another triumph for freewheeling Conrad, the creative consultant’s kind of artist — the kind of artist who just goes with it and sees where it takes him or her. The kind of artist who enjoys being creative, but doesn’t want to work at it.
Janice, meanwhile, has been carefully studying the pallet of colors available to her and has chosen to render the horse in a reddish-brown hue (known as “bay” in horse parlance). She inherently understands that the picture has been drawn for her. This is not her drawing of a horse. It is someone else’s drawing of a horse. Her job is to color the drawing to make an even more wonderful picture, and to do that she also needs to exercise skill (which allows creative people to accomplish their creative endeavors), which in this case means to stay inside the lines.
Thus, Janice uses her crayons to embellish the drawing in a way she finds pleasing. Perhaps she’ll make the grass pink and the sky gold and a butterfly blue.
Whatever she decides, Janice will think about what she’s doing. Because one thing Janice can’t stand is looking back over her old coloring books and seeing what she did the year before when she was unknowingly more in tune with her abstract artistic desires. Santa is just one big swatch of purple. “What a waste,” thinks Janice. “But how I’ve grown as an artist.”
Janice looks over at Conrad, who has already put aside his coloring book and is contemplating what is meant by the term “no-load mutual fund,” and says, “I know, I can’t believe some of the things I used to do in coloring. Once I figured out what I was supposed to be doing, my work really progressed.”
Conrad looks disinterested. He knows Janice is just kidding herself. She’s already lost it — the playful, creative spark of the child that will call forlornly to her when she’s an adult. He picks up another coloring book and thinks, “Well, I bet I can bat out a few more pictures before my nap.”

Joe Krocheski is an adult-special student in the College of Liberal Arts