at some point in my life the word creative became a synonym for the arts. or at least creativity as an ideal has been appropriated by the arts. now I am not suggesting that they are abusing or misusing the word, more just hogging it. or rather that the rest of us have forgotten that we have just as much claim to creativity as ‘artists’ do.

for the better part of my life I knew that I was a ‘smart’ student. math and science always came easy and when directions are laid out in front of me I can follow those. however when ever I was given free reign to be artistic I would manage but not excel like other subjects. this lead me to believe for a long time that I was not creative and that creative things should be left to others. recently I concluded that I simply had no idea what it means to be creative and that is why I get lost, not because of a lack of creativity.

as a math teacher the most common statement I have heard from students is ‘I don’t have a math brain’ or ‘I just can’t do math.’ both of these statements are foolish for a number of reasons that are tightly linked with ideas of creativity. describing something like math (or any other skill) as a process where you take numbers and plug them into formulas that you have memorized is like describing painting a portrait as simply identifying colors and applying the brush strokes you have learned in the correct order. any artist will tell you there is more to painting something than a rigid formula describes and I would suggest the same is true of math or problem.

at work I spend a lot of time doing user interface design. there is an old saying in computer science that programmers should never be allowed to design the user interface and I have to say there really is a lot of truth in that saying. computer scientists are really creative when it comes to solving problems and implementing solutions in creative and efficient ways but things like UI design often fall into the category of ‘it is a feature so there should be a button for that feature.’ no thought is given to ideas like ‘does the user ever need that feature exposed’ or ‘why in the hell would a user ever need to see that!’ in my case the work I do is seen by students and professors, two groups of people who can be immensely intelligent in their chosen field but for the most part are clueless when it comes to computers. I have to spend my day coming up with creative interfaces that convey meaning and intention while remaining simple and easy to use.

conveying meaning and intention is a lot of what being creative is about. efficiency as well plays a big part of creativity usually. whether it is efficient use of space and resources, or use canvas and colors both art and unart (in this discussion that includes all things that are not consider ‘artsy’) share underlying principles. creativity isn’t a scale of not creative to more creative but instead it is a tool that can be used in any aspect of life.

go and make something, be it a work of art or a rocking spreadsheet for a tps report, just be creative.