Weren’t We Paid to Imagine?

Photo by Miriam Espacio from Pexels

“It’s disheartening how creatives depend on others’ work for inspiration instead of making things from scratch. Aren’t we meant to use our own imagination first? I believe we are.”

What does being creative mean? I have my own definition, rather a vague one.

Creativity, for me, means unrestrained imagination, having a tilted perspective about the world, and … creating. Short and sweet.

Honestly, I haven’t ever sold an abstract painting for a million dollars, written a bestselling fairy tale, or even know how to draw a self-portrait.

Still, I’ve got a bunch of things to say – because this topic matters to me personally. And also because my profession largely (and somehow) keeps me involved in the creative process. 

What’s a creative’s job?

A creative’s responsibility is to make work that didn’t exist, making something new. In short, we’re paid to think what others can’t, see the world like others won’t, and to create what they don’t create.

Though, the overall creative practice is slowly shifting toward borrowing ideas from the internet, replicating, or producing second-hand stuff. That doesn’t feel right because fundamentally, we’re paid to imagine. That’s our first job. 

Sure, we can glue some ideas, feed our minds with culture, and even collate many thoughts together. I do that. Everybody does. But the initial process needs to begin within ourselves.

By jumping into seeing what others are doing without playing our part first, we only undermine ourselves, which in turn prevents us from contributing anything meaningful.

That needs to be fixed.

I think there’s a way out. 

What we can do instead

We have a natural creative process within us.

Whenever we do something, we ponder upon the given job and let loose our imagination. Then we come up with ideas. It’s philosophical but true.

When my kindergarten teacher handed me a paper to draw, I thought “Maybe I should draw an elephant.” Then I polished the rough idea. “Should the elephant have wings? Why can’t it be red?”

That was original, although naive. At least the idea began in my head, not from a magazine.

We were all original as children. We believed that we could make something out of nothing. And we didn’t fear failure.

But then things changed.

As we grew up, we began hunting for shiny formulas and ready-made references instead of trusting our creative abilities.

We boxed our brains, walked the textbook-roads, and chased the crowd. We became so desperate about being right that we stopped believing in our abilities. But still, nothing could replace the spark of starting from scratch and creating new stuff. 

Perhaps, if we do the following, we can regain our lost magic. 

  • Desire to break the norms
  • Have the courage to fail
  • Think the way others don’t
  • Create new ideas, even bad ones
  • Reinvent processes and norms
  • Start with a blank page

If we keep trying hard enough, then instead of digging Pinterest for ideas, browsing others’ bulk of work, and stuffing all creative work in our pockets, we’d finally be able to invent real, new ideas again.

And that shouldn’t be tough because that’s what we’re paid for. Somebody thought we could imagine. We thought we could. And that’s why we’re here, in creative professions and making our professions creative. 

We’re paid to imagine, aren’t we? Now let’s be worth our salt. Let’s get back to doing we exist for. Let’s be gods of something.