Creativity as a skill

Months back I was participating in a series of online sessions organised by Thought Collective for young people about readying ourselves for New Normal work in Asia. One interesting point brought up by the speaker was that in Singapore we don’t groom and nurture our local artists and then the state spends so much money getting foreign artists to be based in Singapore or to get them to create works in Singapore.

Our society grew through sheer hardwork and obsession with the tangibles. I think those are very important; we want to have clean streets, clean systems, good infrastructure that simplifies our lives, order, and maybe more importantly for Singaporeans, predictability. We are very upset when rules are unclear and there are no paths to follow. Maybe we overcompensated for a time when things were so unpredictable and disordered.

Somehow we accepted this story that creativity is something magical. That it belongs to other people; the ones who grew up in a different world, who can tolerate the risks it involves. The ones who were brought up in a different system which promote ‘creativity’, not the ones in Singapore. But no, creativity is a skill. You can choice to be creative, to free yourself of the implied rules and norms that society is imposing on you about what you should be doing with your own life.

And creativity doesn’t require the assurance of others. It doesn’t require you to hit KPIs or aim for particular outcomes. More often, it’s about achieving something that touches you personally, that mean something dear and important to you, with values not found in the world out there. Just to repeat the quote of Susan Kare, the graphic designer and a pioneer in graphic user interface:

You can’t really decide to paint a masterpiece. You just have to think hard, work hard, and try to make a painting that you care about. Then, if you’re lucky, your work will find an audience for whom it’s meaningful.

Susan Kare

Do something you care about.