Is Creativity a Gift or a Byproduct?

Is creativity a gift of the byproduct of hard work? Media takes two distinct stances. It says:

  1. Creativity is a gift. You are either blessed with it, or you're not. 
  2. Creativity is a byproduct of hard work. Anyone can learn to produce creative works if they buckle down and do the steps. 
So, which is true? 

Perhaps both.

Living in Creative Tension

You want to create. You have more ideas, thoughts and possible projects than you know what to do with.... Unfortunately, you don't have unlimited amounts of time or money to spend on your creative pursuits. 

And how do you prioritize? What comes first: your creative work or the other meaningful people and things in your life? Does creating take precedence over your family? Your friends? Your church or volunteer work? Your day job? 

For most of us, the answer is "no". How then, do we find the time and energy to create when the world is so busy telling us that we're falling behind in other areas? That we're missing out if we're not listening to the latest gurus?  

Creative tension is "a situation where disagreement or discord ultimately gives rise to better ideas or outcomes," according to So, what if rather than looking at every interruption in our day, every jarring of our flow, we instead looked at them as lessons in handling creative tension? 

In her book, Between Walden and the Whirlwind, author Jean Fleming says this: 

Living the Christian life means living with tensions. The Christian experience does not come neatly packaged. Real Christianity cannot be lived by principles alone; real Christianity is lived in relationship to God.
While Ms. Fleming is talking about a different type of tension--that of a Christian balancing their faith with their day-to-day experience--isn't it the same for creatives? We too are struggling to balance our creative selves with our work-a-day selves. To keep focused on our mission in life while doing life.

On Waiting

Maybe like me, you are in or have experienced a period of waiting. It's a hard place to be. Uncomfortable and itchy, but often essential for the process of growth. 

Perhaps the best place for us to begin exploring whether or not creativity is a gift or the byproduct of hard work is simply to step back. To stop trying to force an answer to appear. To accept that maybe it's neither...or both. To choose to focus our time and attention and energy on the joy that comes from creating and not worry so much if we're doing it "right". 

And maybe to try a little silence.

What do you think? Are you in a place of creative tension? If so, what tools do you use to make it work for you? 


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