When living outside of your home country there is always this compulsive behavior to compare everything in your new country to that of where you once lived. If you move a lot, it may be a comparison between your most recent “home” to the new one, not even necessarily your home country. I think it is an easy habit to develop, we always compare new things to our old experiences as a point of reference and to “understand” our current experience better.

I thought that moving from one Middle Eastern country to the next I would find it pretty easy. And for the most part I have. I think the things that make it hard to adjust to living in this region are now things I can somewhat anticipate, which makes it a little (maybe only a little) easier to adjust. But there are moments I realize I am truly in a distinct, new country. For example, cab drivers here are an entirely new experience. They are unmetered and according to your nationality, price can be and is adjusted. In the states this would outrage me as that kind of practice is discriminatory and illegal. And here, I will admit, it can and does too. But then again, I’m reminded I’m living somewhere I am not a citizen; I am a guest. It is this kind of back and forth that most people experience when they encounter something new and different. We compare to any and all previous experiences. We form judgements about our new ideas and experiences using the old as a lens from which to view the new. And it makes me wonder, how much does this kind of thinking impact our creative process?

Stephen Fry is quoted as saying, “An original idea. That can’t be too hard. The library must be full of them.”

Photo by Tsahi Levent-Levi

Ideas are expressions of your creativity. Don’t turn them down or shut them out!
Photo by Tsahi Levent-Levi

Many argue there is no such thing as an original idea. And if you think about idea development logically, I would argue this is true. Every idea is built upon a previous one (which would at some point lead to the question of what was our first idea but I don’t have the answer to that). I believe that is why lateral thinking, or outside the box thinking, is so difficult; we are actively trying to dissociate from the connections we normally make. But again, our lateral thinking is constrained by what we already do and don’t know. Okay, I’m even starting to confuse myself now!

What I’m really trying to say is that if one idea always builds on the next, or comes from dissociative thinking about an old idea, we need to celebrate all of the ideas we have! Obviously we can’t develop each and every idea that comes to mind, but it suggests the spirit of brainstorming and mind-mapping are important, perhaps even integral to creative success. It could be that one brief moment of free association through mind-mapping that two words or concepts you know connect in a way you never considered before!

Something else that I find really important because of this, is that we need to celebrate all ideas, even when they turn out to be mistakes. Perhaps one of these mistakes will be the forerunner of some larger idea yet to express itself! Without that forerunner, and the lessons learned, how can we grow and better ourselves? It makes me wonder, would innovators discover some of their inventions without their first, smaller ideas? Or even better, their bad ideas?

In this situation, it is quantity that leads to quality!
Photo by Celestine Chua

It’s something I need to constantly remind myself of… all creative ideas are worth investigating. Of course, I’m speaking as acts of creativity: in the arts, in running, in whatever healthy practice that refuels your spirit or creative well. We’ve all felt it at least once in our lives. Perhaps for you, it was that first soccer goal as a kid. You instinctively observed just the right moment and where to take that shot. Or perhaps it was the first time you recollect a teacher taking interest in your skill in a certain subject. We get that swell of pleasure, those endorphins release, and we are physically reinforced in our enjoyment of that moment. It is also easiest in these highs of our creative moment to wish to maintain and develop further whatever skill brought us that momentary glee. But, it’s all the more telling who sticks with it all even when the ideas are not forthcoming. When it sometimes takes sweat. When we have those mistakes, or that self-critical voice cries out, “Not good enough!” do we have support systems, or even societal norms, that reinforce our doubt or our dreams?

I say it again, all creative ideas are worth investigating. Perhaps after starting a painting you realize it won’t go where you want it to initially, who cares?! Instead of being woeful about the “what ifs,” why not embrace the learning moments you gained from it? What worked? What would you do differently to plan it out? Would more studies and skill based learning help you realize the idea? It is the persevering one who gets answers to these questions and gasp, grows.

BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Reflect on creative goals and dreams you have once had or still hold onto; what can you do today to become the persevering creative, the person who wants to grow?