Creative Literacy is the Answer

Let me guess, you have a friend that isn’t creative, right? Let me take another guess, most people you encounter—maybe even yourself—don’t consider themselves creative. Most people are so quick to self-diagnose themselves as not creative.

Creative literacy at large is at risk and will mark the stagnation of growth and development, for more people aren’t understanding what creativity is, how to be creative, and why creativity is where we should be focusing more of our efforts.

Creativity, as a mindset and a way of thinking, is naturally ingrained in us. Creativity is in a sense what makes us human, it is what has enabled us to evolve and develop over time. Creativity is our ability to draw connections in such a way that enables us to do something differently. Unfortunately, most people consider themselves creatively illiterate and our creative literacy as a whole has decreased.

Here’s a question though, would you consider a baby illiterate? They don’t know how to read or write, so clearly they’re illiterate, right? In a way, yes, but we can’t deny that it’s completely silly to label a newborn baby as illiterate.
We don’t consider babies illiterate because they haven’t learned to read or write yet. Emphasis being on learned because a newborn doesn’t possess the capability to learn those skills, just yet.

On a similar note, people constantly consider themselves technology illiterate when they’ve never even tried to use a computer before. But what’s especially bothersome is those who make a similar claim of being creatively illiterate. No, you’re not creatively illiterate, you just haven’t learned how to be creative yet.

We are all capable of being creative, just as babies are capable of eventually learning how to read and write. However, if a child grows up in isolation with no environment to teach them how to read or write, they surely will never learn.

Just as many people go their entire lives never learning how to be creative because they were never placed in an environment that fostered creative skills. Even worse, many people have creativity stripped away from them so they’re forced to focus on building other skills. We’ve lost our focus on developing a creatively literate culture.

“Creativity is a garden. It won’t exist if you don’t plant the seeds nor will it grow if you don’t water it.”

Creativity doesn’t necessarily equate to painting, drawing, sculpting, etc., but rather, just to reiterate, creativity is about developing a mindset of making connections and innovative thinking. By increasing our creative literacy, we have more individuals on every scale capable of developing new and innovative ideas. A country’s creative literacy directly relates to the development of their country.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently published a StarTalk episode which features his conversation with David Byrne, the former frontman of Talking Heads. In this episode, they discuss the relationship and similarities between art and science. To conclude the episode, Neil leaves the listeners with some words of wisdom as it relates to the importance of creative literacy:

“When I think of culture, what do I think of? When you visit other countries, they show you what it is that makes them them and not you. And in almost every case you do this, you are looking at their art, you are looking at their architecture, you are looking at aspects of their civilization that has been empowered by science and engineering.

So for anyone to say, ‘Let us cut art,’ for anything else, suppose they did that back in Renaissance Europe? What would Europe be without the support and interest and a thriving culture of art? As we readily spend money to visit these cities and go to their museums, to turn around and say, ‘Now I’m going to cut the art budget here,’ that makes no sense to me.

It may be that art and science thought of in that way are the only true things that we create that last beyond ourselves, everything else comes and goes—the leaders, the politics, the economies. So am I biased? I don’t know. What I do know is, if there is a country without art that’s not a country I want to live in. If there’s a country without science, you’re living in a cave. We measure the success of a civilization by how well they treat their creative people.”

Neil brings up such an interesting point, where would any civilization be without its art? Art in the form of painting, architecture, theater, language, and so much more has truly pushed conventions and innovated the way we live today.

Alongside art, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) all play an extremely critical role in the development and measured success of a civilization. Many countries recognize this, however, why hasn’t there been as much interest and prominent growth in these fields as was once witnessed? Because no matter how much we invest into STEM, if the individuals involved in those fields lack creativity, not much progress will be made.

To reiterate for the third time, creativity (or even art for that matter) doesn’t necessarily equate to painting, drawing, sculpting, etc., but rather, creativity and being artistic is about developing a mindset of making connections and innovative thinking. To be involved with creativity or the arts is to be involved with thinking differently.

Whether we’re talking about a country, state, business, community, classroom, or even a sports team, an investment in improving and embracing creative literacy will push any organization beyond their comfort zones and allow them to innovate on whichever front they’re working. The more creative we are, the more perspective we possess. The more perspective we have, the stronger we are.

Never write yourself off as creatively illiterate, and don’t allow others to. If we continue to allow ourselves and others to write themselves off so easily, we will stop seeing progress being made. Friends don’t let friends not be creative. If we want to do better at what we do (at any scale) or if we want to change the world, we need to invest in creativity at large across disciplines.

Every single country, organization, business, team, group of people, unit, circus, whatever it may be, can and would benefit from being more creative. Let’s embark on a journey of deliberate creativity. Enroll in pottery classes, learn how to paint, start dancing, learn to code, allocate money for your employees to try creative things, incorporate more creativity into different subject fields early on in education, and last but not least, let’s start seeing and thinking differently—on a large scale.