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Is Creativity a Binary Concept or on a Spectrum?

Jun 11, 2024 | Creativity, Family, Leadership, Mindset

My 11-year-old son is on the autism spectrum. As I’ve engaged more deeply with people on the spectrum, especially the young, I’ve noticed that autism manifests uniquely in each individual. It’s not a one-size-fits-all diagnosis; there’s a spectrum of behaviors and traits.

This observation has led me to reflect on how we often perceive many aspects of life in binary terms: black or white, yes or no, up or down. However, reality seldom fits neatly into these categories. More often than not, the answer lies in shades of maybe rather than absolute yes or no.

My wife is well aware of my tendency to operate in extremes. I am either fully engaged or completely detached, rarely finding a middle ground. This got me thinking about creativity and whether we view it as a binary concept.

Is creativity really black and white?

It’s intriguing that in a society with many artists and creatives, we often overlook the complexity of creativity itself. We tend to categorize people as either creative or not, without recognizing the spectrum of creativity that exists. You are not simply an artist, the epitome of creativity, or just plain not creative. Just as individuals on the autism spectrum exhibit diverse traits, each of us carries the creative DNA of our Creator and have a diversity of creativty baked within us. We all have at least a drop of creative potential because we are made in the image of God.

For some, creativity manifests in visible talents like illustration or performance. For others, it may remain hidden and, consequently, undernourished. The diversity of gifts and talents God bestows upon us is meant to be utilized and stewarded uniquely by each person, much like our unique fingerprints.

But what does creativity look like if you’re not someone who typically thinks of yourself as creative?

Accountants, spend time creatively developing efficient systems and processes, finding ways to minimize tax liabilities, identifying innovative solutions for financial analysis and reporting. Mechanics are like artists when they are troubleshooting complex mechanical issues, finding creative workarounds when missing certain parts, and improvising tools and techniques for specific repairs.

If you’ve ever seen a chef creating a beautiful meal, it’s clear why they call it the culinary arts. Or consider a teacher designing engaging lesson plans, finding creative uses of simple school supplies to create something beautiful with their students, or developing teaching methods to suit different learning styles through differentiated instruction.

Sales people develop innovative marketing strategies, administrative assistants find creative ways to prioritize tasks, and adapting care plans to meet individual needs as a nurse are just a few examples of how many “non-creatives” go unnoticed as some of our most brilliant creative minds. We should all recognize that we were made by a God who not only embodies creativity but who pours it into His creation and calls us to harness it.

One of the greatest tragedies of the human experience can be forgetting, or worse, never realizing our human potential.

Those who have been deemed creatives often see their creative potential with bright and bold eyes looking to tap into it, but many who have falsely received the designation of “non-creative” tend leave that box unexamined. As a result, the world doesn’t get to experience the fullness of the creativity within them. Non-creatives, you have been living creatively since your birth. Now it’s time to embrace and nurture it. Who knows how far we, as God’s finest creation, can go.

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