Perhaps I should have posted this list on Sept. 17, which is Constitution Day, but posting a bill of rights on Independence Day seems pretty American to me.
I believe creativity is an inherent part of being human, but it also fits closely with the American spirit. A lot of the positive “can-do” actions that our fellow citizens have taken throughout our nation’s history have been innovative or paradigm-setting in some way–in short, they were creative acts. Exercising our creativity is vital to building healthy hobbies, careers, relationships, communities.
I believe the following rights to be self-evident … and I hope you will too.
The Creative Person’s Bill of Rights
1. You have the right to express your creative vision in responsible, constructive ways. Even if you express skepticism and contempt in your vision, you have the right to make something out of it. Sharp creative criticism can lead to greater societal self-awareness.
2. You have the right to receive quality, non-shaming instruction to improve your creative work. No matter your level of expertise, healthy mentoring can boost your work.
3. You have the right to experiment and break the rules for no apparent reason. Art or innovation that doesn’t diverge from the expected can’t very well be called creative, can it? After learning what a medium’s conventions are, it’s appropriate to start calling them into question.
4. You have the right to learn from and enjoy the support of a community of fellow creatives. Despite the popular stereotype of the “lone genius” as creative kingpin, Keith Sawyer and other researchers are documenting that creative collaboration is the norm in the history of innovation, not the exception. Your creative peers can be your shortcut to a new insight or mastery of a key technique, or simply a major source of emotional solace. Treasure them.
5. You have the right to see your creative output as valuable and worthy. This is true, regardless of whether you ever earn a dime from your creativity … whether you ever move past what others might label a “beginner’s” level of mastery … or even whether you share your creative projects with anyone else.
6. You have the right to create for fun AND for money. It’s OK to make your creative passion your career. Or keep it strictly an avocation. Or do a little bit of both. Regardless of what you choose, your work can add value to its environment and be appreciated.
7. You have the right to play with/in multiple media. Even if you’re a professional in one area and a fledgling in another, your experience in all media or disciplines feeds your best/most accomplished work. And vice versa. If by chance you’re criticized for doing this, tell them you’re not a jack-of-all-trades but a dedicated interdisciplinarian.
8. You have the right to consider yourself “creative” even if your mode of creative expression falls outside the art world. Parenting, cooking, building bridges, coaching soccer … all these can be approached creatively. And many of us have experienced a so-called “artistic” event or work that felt like it was created by rote. As Abraham Maslow said, “A first-rate soup is better than a second-rate painting.”
9. You have the right to take a break from constant creative output. While many creative types struggle with the opposite problem–how to get started and stay started on a challenging creative project–it’s important not to let one’s creativity become mechanistic or another thing to cross off an already too-full to-do list. Deliberately cultivating “incubation” time is essential to facilitating those priceless insights we can’t “force” into being, but which happily follow us home if we take time to go for a walk, sun ourselves at the beach, play with our children, etc.
10. You have the right to define yourself as “creative” and to decide what “creativity” means to you. Many researchers and writers have come up with definitions of creativity, but you get to decide what it means for you and your life. That act of self-definition is in itself creative–and a wonderful starting point for a life filled with discovery, challenge and fun along a meaning-making path!