It could be because I was an English literature minor in university, but I’m always on the lookout for great quotes from great people, especially those that get you thinking. The above quote by Pablo Picasso was provided to me via Twitter from Brian of Copyblogger. You can follow Copyblogger on Twitter by clicking here.
Picasso said that the chief enemy of creativity is common sense. To be truly creative and ground-breaking, you have to be willing to cast aside conventional wisdom and approach the world in a wholly unique way.
Think about the birth of cubism, for example. At the time, most people probably thought that Pablo Picasso was a little crazy. After all, who would be interested in portraits that look nothing like the actual person? Who would want to look at pictures where the nose was above the eyes and everything is contorted out of proportion? Common sense would have told a young Pablo that people wanted photo-realistic paintings, but he decided to take a different route altogether.
Creativity Involves Risk
Sticking to conventional wisdom and common sense is the safe thing to do. If you fall into line and do as everyone else does, you can lead a perfectly happy existence. It might be a little normal and a little boring, but no one will fault you for doing as you are told.
To be extraordinary, however, you have to be willing to take risks. With every attempt at greatness comes the possibility of absolute failure. Such are the risks and rewards of being unconventional. Pablo Picasso decided to try something radically different and it seems like it paid off in the end. He is remembered today as one of the greatest artists of all-time. Just remember that for every Pablo Picasso, for every Van Gogh, and for every Edvard Munch are countless other “creative” individuals who are shunned, insulted, and degraded for their eccentricity.
Creativity is defined as the use of imagination rather than imitating something else. Alternatively, you can think of creativity as the process of developing new, uncommon, or unique ideas. The most creative among us are pioneers. Before John Chow came along, no one thought that it was possible to make over $30,000 a month from a personal blog, let alone a blog that “makes money online by telling people how much money I make online.”
Common sense would not have told John to pursue his livelihood online. It would have told him to take that business degree from BCIT and pursue a 9-to-5 job downtown. Even speaking for myself, when I told people that I was interested in a writing career, they said that I should try getting a gig at a local newspaper. Common sense would have led me down that path, but I decided to take the freelance writing route instead. Outside of the Dot Com Pho crew, none of my other friends run their own businesses. I do and I’m proud of it.
Try Something New
Imitation can only get you so far. After John Chow started making some money through this personal blog, countless copycats started sprouting up on the web. They tried to pass themselves off as “make money online” gurus, but none ever achieved the same level of success as John. That’s because these people failed to exercise their creativity. They failed to try something new, and thus, they failed to attract any sort of real attention. Common sense says that if it worked for person A, it should work for person B. Creativity says that you need to be original.
If you want to be remembered as creative and unique, you have to run the risk of being unconventional. Don’t think outside the box. Get rid of the box altogether.
UPDATE: This post got picked up on StumbleUpon, so I’d appreciate a stumble if you have a second or two.