Occasionally when I tell someone that I am a fiction writer, a stunned expression crosses their face -- as if I confessed that my day job is being a Superhero.
"Oh, I could never do that," they say. "I could never make up stories out of thin air. I'm not that creative."
However, if there's one thing I've learned from teaching writing to people of all ages for the past eight years, it's that everyone is indeed creative. Some of us just might have more trouble accessing our creative selves. And others might not recognize their own creativity, even if they use it all the time.
We all possess imagination; we all solve problems; we all daydream. Sure, the problems I solve at work often revolve around fictional characters in made-up situations. But I don't think there is much difference between a fictional character's problem (for example, trying to solve a crime before the murderer strikes again!) and a real-life workplace problem (such as trying to put together a business strategy the client will love, in time for a big meeting with the team.) I think we use the same problem-solving, creative muscles to do both tasks. I guess a main difference is that as a fiction writer, I create both the problems AND the solutions! (And believe me, sometimes I manage to create real doozies for myself and then have to try to wrangle my characters free...) ;)
A real-life problem I am trying to fight is these boxes many people drop down around themselves, labeled as "not creative." It makes my heart ache every time someone tells me they could never be a writer, because they are "not creative enough." It's not true! Don't believe it!
This is a serious matter. Because to accept that limiting, false belief -- to hunker down into that "non-creative" box -- is to turn away from your inherent gifts as a human being.
In his ground-breaking book Genership 1.0: Beyond Leadership Toward Liberating the Creative Soul, leadership guru and business expert David Castro approaches creativity and leadership in an entirely new way. He transforms the way we think of organizations, communities, and "progress" in general. He writes:
"What if our most critical human goal, the most fundamental human activity, is not to know or to understand, but rather to create, to generate? What would it mean if at the heart of human nature we discovered not reason, not rationality, not the capacity to grasp the world in the mind, but rather the capacity to imagine and invent that world?"
In Genership 1.0, David Castro explores exciting, freeing new definitions of leadership in the 21st Century. He coins a new term -- "genership" -- defined as: "The capacity to create with others; the community practice of creating." What would this approach mean for our businesses? Our schools? Our politics? He guides the reader into a new way of thinking about leadership that transcends limitations.
To me, this book is not only about being a leader in a business sense; it applies to our personal lives too. It inspires you to reflect on how you see yourself and how you live your everyday life. Here are some questions I jotted down:
- What world do I want to create and invent?
- How can I take the steps to get there?
- What does it mean to come together and lead as a team?
- What can I generate, for myself and for others?
I want to close with a poem that Castro quotes in his Preface, from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and
try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms
and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them. And the
point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it,
and live along some distant day into the answer.
Maybe leadership -- or knowledge, or adulthood, or teaching -- is not about "having all the answers" but rather about helping others to learn to embrace life's uncertainties. Maybe true wisdom means cultivating an insatiable curiosity.
Here's to living the questions.