I’m told by some very intelligent people that creativity is about having lots of knowledge and plenty of technique. But every time I hear this, I shake my head in exasperation. Don’t get me wrong, knowledge is important in creativity, because it allows us to connect up old ideas in a new way, or to think up completely fresh ones. Technique is vital for expressing our ideas coherently, so that other people understand what we mean. If I didn’t know what I was talking about, if I couldn’t write properly, no one would read what I write. But while knowledge and technique are very important for self expression, they are not the essence of what goes on when we are creative.
People often tell me that they would love to write a book. The people who say this have the knowledge and the technique to do so. But there is something stopping them. What on earth could it be? Certainly, time is a factor – it takes a good long while to shape your thoughts and get them down on a page. But we tend to make time for what we really want to do (if we can only get past our tendency towards procrastination). So, if it’s not time, then what is it that stops us from tapping our creativity? Why aren’t all those skilful, knowledgeable people writing books or painting pictures or inventing something new?
I have a fear of heights. I don’t like that feeling of being out of control; that sense of being about to topple over. There is a jetty in Ponte de Lima, the town very close to where we are staying. In the summer, people line up to jump off the jetty into the deep river pool below. There is no way on this earth that I could jump off the end of that jetty: my fear stops me from taking the leap. But I know someone who can. I know someone who will jump again and again and again, who loves that feeling of flying through the air. The loss of control, the sense that, no matter what anyone else thinks, you are just going to do it. The reason he can make that jump is because he knows how to feel the fear and do it anyway. And that, my intelligent, knowledgeable friends, is what creativity is all about.