Updated: Apr 29
In Pursuit of Authentic Creativity
Upbringing and genetics are vital in shaping our outlook. Parents need to allow children to be themselves. Being overprotected by parents drives risk-adversity, difficulty making decisions, dealing with hardship and other frustrations, and ultimately threatening success in life. Early specialization, tiger parenting, micromanaging children's lives, over-teaching, and testing, instead of giving time and space for creativity in an unstructured way, are the enemies of free thought and innovation.
Many people who evolved into creative pioneers did so off their own backs, not because their education system enabled them along that journey. It discouraged and ignored their difference and potential. For example, Edgar Allan Poe, Marlon Brando, Salvador Dalí, and John Lennon were either ostracized or expelled from school because of their indifference and challenged the system. Creativity is the core of humanity. Breaking rules is what creativity involves, and the rebellious nature of the mind is a catalyst to create. That does not mean breaking the law; it means questioning the status quo and treating what you do as a blank canvas to self-express and provide an alternative.
People like Muhammad Ali, Björk, Coco Chanel, George Lucas, Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Walt Disney were classic outliers who had no attachment to fixed definitions of any form of life or reality, which is why they became genuinely great in their chosen fields. They were self-defined, self-educated, magical artists. They surprised and excited us. We are attracted to their originality and magnetic genius, encouraging us to expect the unexpected and, ultimately, to be entertained by them and to learn more about ourselves and the world we live in.
Their transformation infused imagination, taste, style, and inherent messiness with inner desperation and persistence, along with a desire to succeed, resulting in skill and practical know-how. They swam fearlessly against the tide in search of the authentic and new while staving off false promises of easy gratification and immediate success in a world saturated with consumer-led celebrity culture, where everyone looks the same, and everything is for sale. Some of us must also transcend vermin-tongued conformists, separatist armchair analysts, and tiger parents—all of whom can crush imaginations, inner voices, and dreams. This is the reality in which we live, and it is counter-intuitive to nurturing creativity.
However, curiously, it is hardship, melancholy, and adversity that often inspire creativity. People who survive alienation, oppression, poverty, and other life challenges realize that it fuels their genius when they can focus on it. This primal desire to stay the odds with extraordinary intellectual ability, mental toughness, grit, and creative productivity is what fuels an insatiable drive for self-actualization. This, in turn, inspires creativity.
The job of the authentic creative, the true artist, is to be fearless in their expression, transcend the status quo, and stand against the convention, naysayers, and oppressive forces, and inspiring others to do it too.
The global environmental movement, Extinction Rebellion, campaigns governments to address climate change and biodiversity loss and mitigate ecological and social demise. The "Red Rebels" are dressed in red to signify the blood of species that have lost their lives due to climate change's detrimental impact.
Punk emerged in New York and London in the 1970s with anti-establishment and left-wing political views, promoting individual freedom and do-it-yourself ethics, centered on loud, aggressive rock music. They wore bondage trousers, chains, denim, kutte vests, leather, metal spikes and studs, military-style boots, and torn clothing. Haircuts included spiked hair, native American-inspired Mohican and Mohawk styles.
The Specials fashioned a mod-style Rude Boy look with pork pie hats, tonic and mohair suits, and loafers. Anti-racism was intrinsic to their manifesto, integrating black and white performers and drawing on musical influences and styles largely influenced by Afro-Caribbean ska. Their aesthetic and sound were political and captured the disaffection and anger the UK's youth felt due to dire economic and political conditions in Thatcherite Britain. They acted as a signpost for change to address the urban decay, deindustrialization, unemployment, and violence in inner cities. At that time, activists reacted against being unemployed and living in an impoverished state of existence, which moved into overdrive through "Thatcherism," a conservative political ideology orchestrated by Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister, from 1979 until 1990.
"Thatcherism" meant centralized power, competition, a free market, privatizing nationalized industries and trade union legislation, capital punishment, destroying the British manufacturing industry, mass unemployment, surging interest rates, a social housing crisis, and the privatization of the National Health Service. Ultimately it crushed and demoralized the working classes and their communities, particularly in the north of England, Wales, and Scotland. This generated a fundamental distrust of government power, and the British punk movement was the antidote that encapsulated the socioeconomic and political climate of late 1970s Britain.
The Smiths were the outsider's outsiders, quintessentially northern English in their outlook and approach. Their songs frequently evoked the melancholic northern landscape and working classness of the two up-two down, humdrum, industry-town architecture. It's a bitter and grim up north mentality underpinned with unmatched intellectual wit and self-deprecating humor. They saw the unique beauty in the ugliness and poetry in industrial architecture and the smoking chimneys of red brick factories. The Smiths influenced people's perceptions. They cultivated a fashion movement that became a pop-cultural phenomenon and cultural caricature, dressed in quiffed hairstyles, outsized blouses, faded Levi 501s, courtroom shoes, hearing aids, national health glasses, and flowers out of the backs of trousers.
They rejected the new romantic and synthesizer-based dance-pop for a modernized fusion of 1960s pop and post-punk as their own unique and distinct style. Johnny Marr's evocative and distinctive diversity of melody and mood were the unique union for this music born from the decaying industrial inner city. Morrissey had a knack to unlock the teenage psyche with his profound lyrical content and voice of reason that liberated the sexually and socially disconnected, ostracized youth. One of the many traits that distinguished The Smiths was they started off as self-styled pure originals, and their success was instant. Unlike all of their peers, they were good to go right out of the gate, which endured throughout their five-year existence with immense creative output and sustained influence upon music and pop culture.
Authentic creativity always comes from the outsiders looking in, the rebels with a cause. It means taking a stand against oppressive forces and expressing your opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation. Creativity entails providing something new to the world, overturning the status quo by positively impacting people's lives, and helping society advance by making life more purposeful, engaging, and fulfilling. It also means embracing originality and making unique connections between disparate universes past and present to light the way into the future.
Learn more about how to create without frontiers by unleashing the creative power within us.
"Creativity Without Frontiers"
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Founder and CEO of Unknown Origins, a creative studio on a mission to save the world from unoriginality by unleashing the power of creativity. Author of "Creativity Without Frontiers: How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future."
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