HomecreativityWhat Makes Us Creative: Our Neurology or Our Experiences?
what makes us creativeI’ve seen the idea that being creative is linked to neurology, like learning disabilities/differences, developmental disabilities and mental illness, in various places over the years.

On the one hand, it’s encouraging to have such a strong correlation to something so prized, but on the other, is it so easily reduced to being about the structure of our brains?

Our culture has a frustrating tendency to simplify outcomes to only having one or two causes. You don’t have to look far to find examples of this tendency. Look at any given news story about crime. The mechanisms almost always reduced to things like gun laws, ideology, mental illness, or economic class. In reality, it’s a combination of those things and more.

Something similar happens when it comes to the concept of creativity. It wasn’t until recently that the idea folks on the autism spectrum were widely acknowledged as being creative. There is still hurtful literature out there erasing their creative abilities due to tendencies to hyper-focus and have problems with social cues.

When you look deeper, you will find countless examples of wonderful creative works done by autistic people.

What About Those Who Don’t Fit?
That emphasis on how neurodivergence parallels so powerfully with creativity can leave some people within the community feeling left out. Creativity comes in many different forms, but it’s perceived as being artistic in some way, and marked by novel ways of solving problems.

What of those who follow rules to the letter? Or those who follow established paths? Those aren’t bad things at all, but they still get lost in this all encompassing idea of novel problem solving.

For that matter, what about creative neurotypical people? I’ve met many artists, writers and musicians who have wiring that falls into the bracket of the mainstream. Are they faking it? Is their creativity somehow false?

Trees backlit by a partly cloudy sky.

How We Live Dictates How We Create
The more I thought about it, the more it seems to be rooted more in life experiences rather than the twist and curl of neural tissue. The vast majority of creatives I’ve met have led unique lives, whether it was because of how they were born or the sequence of events that took place that were out of their control.

While our wiring does make up a big part of who we are as people, and can play into our strengths, our experiences are what mold us into who we are, how we see the world and what we do. Those experiences are why we look in certain directions to solve problems and create the things we do.

Further, I’d argue that creativity goes well beyond the arts, science or business.

I always cringe a little when one of my friends or acquaintances, who go off on the most fascinating tangents, can keep a stream of humor flowing effortlessly or are just incredibly interesting to speak with, says they’re not creative. They don’t write or make art, so they don’t see themselves of having that coveted spark. The thing is, their sense of creativity lies elsewhere.

Although I fully believe creativity is a prominent trait in the neurodivergent community, it’s probably not because we’re wired differently. It could have more to do with what’s happened to us throughout our lives, instead. We are, after all, only human.

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