Everybody dreams. No matter how conservative, narrow-minded or literal we may be when we’re awake, when we’re asleep we write, direct, produce (and even star) in our very own full-colour, surround sound 3D fantasy adventure. We make magic with our eyes closed.
That’s one way to prove that everyone has an imagination, even if they keep it to themselves. Imagination is the mind’s ability to think about things that are not part of its current reality, the here and now. It’s how you enjoy a story, develop a theory or predict an outcome. It’s how you dread something that may never happen, how you design something that really should. It’s how you ‘feel’ the joy or pain of another human being; you can’t really empathise with someone without imagining being in their shoes.
Ok, so if we’ve all got imagination, does that mean we’re all creative? Hmmm.
Creativity seems to be a different thing, an ability to communicate what our imagination is doing so that it can be transmitted from one mind to another. While some of us struggle to do this, others seem to express original thoughts with each and every breath.
These magical people fill our society with paintings and plays, symphonies and sculptures, books and ballets, towers and technologies. They translate their wildest thoughts into extraordinary creations and in doing so, capture our imagination with theirs.
So is creativity a gift bestowed on just a special few? I don’t think so. Whereas imagination is hard-wired in us all, creativity is a potential that all have but few are encouraged to develop. Which group we’ll find ourselves in seems to be determined in our early childhood, usually by some combination of parents, teachers and peers who either grant – or revoke – our creative license.
But despite what people say, although society can repress creativity it can’t actually kill it. Given the right kind of opportunity and environment, even people who haven’t embraced their creativity since preschool can be coaxed into glorious expressions of imaginative thought.
Which is good news, because after all these centuries of discouraging creativity (in all but a select elite) our communities, businesses and even governments are beginning to realise that the world needs all its creativity to rethink just about every aspect of modern life if we are to make it through the next century.
That’s because creativity is the bridge between imagination and innovation. It’s what allows ideas to pour out of our heads and onto the page and one day – just maybe – out into the world.
Through our creativity we can manifest our deepest imaginings into a future that works.
Without it, our dreams remain just that.