The Curse of Being Creative

Renowned psychologist Professor Jordan Peterson argues that not everyone is creative and that to insist they are, is to devalue the meaning of what it actually means to be creative. Having been ‘cursed by creativity’ all my life, I decided to take a closer look at what being creative actually means…

Being a creative

A little while ago I was doing some research for my PhD when I came across the Slavoj Zizek and Jordan Peterson debate, which was held at the Cambridge Union Society in 2018. They discussed many topics including political correctness, identity politics and, or course, Marxism and capitalism. Billed as the debate of Critical analysis of the debate of the century, it was, by all accounts, a bit of a let down with neither man apparently rising to the challenge of their intellectual capacity. However, this debate did lead me down a bit of a Jordan Peterson rabbit hole. When I say rabbit hole, I mean I watched a few more videos in which he is featured. I still know relatively nothing about him. I have not read any of his journal articles, research papers, or books. Despite this, I was intrigued by one video in which he discussed the curse of creativity and what it is like to exist as a creative human being. But before I take a deeper look at this video, let’s just take a cursory look at what creativity is and why it matters to us as human beings.

What is creativity?

The simple definition of creativity is: the use of imagination or original ideas to create something new; inventiveness.[1] However, no matter where you search for a definition it generally refers to creativity in an artistic sense. Creativity is defined by researchers as a deliberate and identifiable process in which a unique and utilitarian product is created.

Opportunities for creative expression are not equally available or distributed in society. Society commonly discriminates against certain groups that might otherwise produce creative practitioners. Adding to that is the fact that historically, western societies have been ambivalent about, or even opposed to, identifying and nurturing creative talent[2], which is totally ironic now that ‘creative’ has hit the top ten list of soft skills required by modern employers. Creativity has become one of the most important assets people can have in the fast and ever-changing 21st century.

In his extensive research on creativity, psychologist Professor James C. Kaufman developed the 4C Model of Creativity. In this model, he proposed that the ‘Little C’ of creativity measures ‘everyday’ creativity, i.e., whipping up a dinner without a recipe. Next comes the ‘Mini C’ where you are deliberately creative, i.e., making up a story or sewing a new dress. Next is ‘Pro C’ where you use your creativity to earn a living. And finally, there’s the ‘Big C’ or eminent creativity. This is reserved for people of legendary status, those who have made a lasting impression on their specific field of creativity.

So, does that mean we’re all creative? That is possible for all of us to reach the level of Pro C? Or better yet, Big C?

Baby, we were born this way. Weren’t we?

Around 40,00 years ago Homo sapiens began decorating the walls of their east European caves with pictographs of Ice Age animals as well as making shell bead necklaces and inventing tools made of stone or bone, which led to the ‘innovative’ thought process that characterises our species today. This kind of creativity didn’t emerge all of a sudden; rather, this ability to create developed as various natural and biological factors merged and developed over thousands of years. Interestingly, new evidence, uncovered over the past decade, suggests that our ability to formulate new ideas evolved much earlier than previously thought; however, our capacity for creativity smouldered for millennia before catching fire amongst the