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Creativity is usually described as an external force that graces you with inspiration. Something that you have to open yourself to—that you have to allow in. But creativity is more like an inner forge of your past, perspectives, and passions. It’s not something you let in; it’s something you let out.
You can see this in the work of artists like Bong Joon-ho, the creator of the film Parasite. Bong Joon-ho grew up poor in Korea, and in an interview after winning the Oscar for best picture he was asked how he was able to make something so creative. His response was to quote something Martin Scorsese told him.
He didn’t find inspiration by going on a meditation retreat. Or by reading books on creativity. Bong Joon-ho grew up feeling the exact things as the characters in the film. He explored that pain and trauma and the resulting art resonated with millions around the world and won him an Oscar.
Another great example of this is Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Much of the book is a deep dive into a man’s obsession with ships, sailing, and most of all—whales. Melville himself had been on countless whaling adventures, and you can hear that on nearly every page. He basically translated his obsession with whaling into written form, wrapped a plot around it, and that ended up being one of the best novels ever written.
What matters is that you, the writer, are obsessed with the topic.
Neither Bong Joon-ho nor Melville set out to win a big prize. They wrote because they were compelled to. Because their topic was the only thing they could think about. And that’s the ultimate takeaway about creativity.
When you go looking for creativity, don’t look elsewhere. Instead, think about the thing you talk too much about. The thing you can’t shut up about. The thing you keep coming back to. What is the thread you keep weaving into everything? What is the topic that keeps coming up whenever you write or speak?
It doesn’t matter if it’s something you think, or others think, is uninteresting. Melville went on for thousands of words about the lengths, widths, and weights of various whales. It was tedious. Joon-ho was talking about poverty, which some could argue was depressing and negative, and not something that would lead to an oscar. They didn’t care. They wrote what they knew. They wrote their vibration. They wrote their experience.
If you don’t yet have any passions, open your mind and experience more of life. They will come.
So, your homework after reading this is simple. You have to find your thing. Just like they did. Maybe it’s model trains, or management metrics, or child education. Doesn’t matter. The compelling part isn’t the subject matter, it’s the passion you bring to it. Your experience is your creativity. Trust in that experience, and let the rest work itself out.