To many of us, creativity is a fuzzy and scary concept. Tell a group of people about to begin a task that they need to rev up their creativity engines, and you’ll feel the air in the room turn so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Feelings of puzzlement and uncomfortability and a whole lot of self-doubt is what we encounter when we are expected to do something without instructions, to follow our gut and strike off from the beaten path. But what many of us don’t know is that ambiguity is an essential part of the creative process and without it, creative endeavors cannot happen.

But It’s not a superpower, it’s a skill!

Creativity is no enigma.  It is not some kind of superpower with which only few of us have been blessed while the rest were meant to wither in mediocrity. Creativity is a humanly possible skill, and every human is capable of it. You yourself must  have engaged in it at least a few times along the course of your life. But, it takes a person aware of their own creative capacity to know they have engaged in creativity. Otherwise, it passes unnoticed and unannounced.

So, frizzed out hair, bohemian clothes and distracted lifestyles do not make a creative person. Creativity is rather a process that we go through, a skill prone to development; something we can work on and get better at.

Think of creativity as a muscle that you need to develop. The more you work it, the more lean and strong it becomes.

Creativity is a 5 stage process:

Technically speaking, the full creative process consists of five stages. It starts with a stage of preparation, where you start absorbing information through the collection of material and ideas about the domain in which you’re attempting to be creative. Then you leave everything to settle and let your subconscious take over. This is called the Incubation stage. It is when you give your brain all the time it needs to cook up all the ingredients you’ve added in the previous stage and come up with an idea, which brings us to the third stage, the “Eureka!” or “ I found it!” moment. After the idea hits you, you go into the fourth stage which is evaluating that idea, gauging whether it’s as applicable as it initially seemed and finally settling on an initial version before going into the fifth stage which is, Expansion. This last stage involves all the hard work and elaboration on the initial idea until it sees the light.

It’s about freedom and passion!

However, creativity doesn’t like routine or confinement. In the Incubation stage, you are not guaranteed any insights unless you let things take their course and be patient with yourself. Creativity won’t come to dance with you if you arm yourself with instructions and logic and worry too much about getting immediate results. It only happens when you let go of making sense, follow your urge, unfearful of the consequences, rifle out some thoughts and enjoy the merge.

However, creativity is as creativity does.

You may have noticed that the more passionate you are about something the more creative you are at it. That’s because creativity is primarily triggered by passion. But what makes something creative and something else not? Ultimately,  it’s its capability of solving a problem. This is the reason for creativity in the first place – to develop and overcome obstacles that stand in the way of human progress. And finding easy and applicable solutions to long-standing problems is what makes an epic creative.

Well, that’s a problem. Because not everything we need to be creative at falls under the category of “passion” and not every act of creativity we do is meant to solve a problem. But at the end of the day, creativity is as creativity does. Any creative process needs to eventually serve a purpose, or else, it would be a waste of time. And the creator is the one who gets to decide the purpose of her creative endeavor, because the purpose is very personal. It could be curing cancer or mere self-expression, both of which are solutions.

Then again, the more problems this creative endeavor can solve the more valuable it is. In other words, if someone only does it for personal expression and self-actualization, then good for them. But, the best kind of creativity is one that involves others and helps them achieve their own selves.

Can creativity happen without passion?

As for having to be creative at something you’re not so crazy about, well, that’s a tough one. It is probably why we are all required to do what we love in the first place. But, if you believe in what you do, that’s something else.

Creativity could result from knowing that your line of work is of value. So, whether you love what you do or you don’t , but feel its value, you should be able to lose yourself in creativity and come up with smashing ideas. But, if you are like a considerable part of the workforce who don’t even like what they do and cannot feel that they’re adding to their fields, creativity won’t take place, and problems will be left unsolved.

So, you still don’t believe in what you are doing, but you’re still expected to come up with creative solutions? Well, there’s one of two things, either quit and go find something you love to do or have a serious talk with yourself about whether you really believe in the impact of what you do. If you do believe in it, then that alone should motivate you to find new ways to go about your work and tackle the problems it requires you to solve.

But, piece of advice, go with option one. Ditch the job that makes you feel bad inside and go find a line of work that lights your soul. Only then, will your creative self come alive and only then will you feel of value.

As Martin Luther King’s mentor Howard Thurman put it, “ don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Mona Abdel Moneim

Mona is a university teacher-turned-digital marketeer. After volunteering with Educate Me for almost two years, she joined the PR team to handle digital marketing. Mona’s professional background spans teaching, copywriting, branding, article writing, translation and digital content creation. As an undergrad, she studied English literature at Cairo University then earned her M.A. in Political Sciences from the University of Aberdeen.