I was listening today to a recent Hanselminutes podcast, where Scott Hanselman and Carl Franklin were discussing the Joy of Development.

In the podcast, Scott and Carl bring up the stereotype of the ‘Creative Person’ - the person who just has to create, no matter what the hurdle, no matter what is in the way. The talk about these people as being maybe 20% of the population, and then they seem to dismiss everyone else. Perhaps it was just the focus of the conversation, but it did concern me a little.

You see, I believe that everyone can be that creative person.

My wife, who is creative in many ways, has a particular talent for nurturing. I’ve described her in the past as an Early Childhood Teacher who is also formally trained as such. Her talent, her passion, is to nurture young children,to find and encourage their unique spark and to help them grow. She is remarkably good at this, able to engage meaningfully with practically any child.

The contrast with my own skills as a creative person could hardly be more extreme - my creations are constructs of information, ephemeral and fleeting - software and design that has content without mass, structure without form. Yet, we are both creative.

I don’t believe that the reason that many people are not creative **is that they **can not be creative. Rather, it is that they don’t know what’s possible.

Part of the problem is that creativity is hard. Being a creative person isn’t an easy road to travel. The process of creation is often strenuous - and most of the difficultly occurs inside one’s own head where it is hard to see. Every creative work proceeds with fits and starts, lurching from frustration to frustration, moving step by step from origin to final form. Creation isn’t easy, but the satisfaction from a completed work is both rewarding and sustained.

Another part of the problem is one of opportunity. If you’ve never had the chance to learn a creative activity - whether it be writing, dancing, speaking, carving, sculpting, welding, weaving, scrap-booking, teaching, coding or any of a thousand other possibilities - how would you know that you could do it, and do it well?

A third part of the problem is one of perseverance - an issue I think is going to be critical for the generation into which my own children fall. How can you learn perseverance in an environment where instant, online satisfaction is both commonplace and normal? Yet, perseverance is critical to the creative process.

When Scott and Carl look out across their respective audiences, they can easily identify those who are creative as developers. However, they won’t be able to see those who are creative in other fields, but who work as developers to make ends meet.

For it is a sad truth that many, very many, people ‘work to live’ - they stick at a job they don’t really enjoy, in order to earn what they need to finance their real passion. I consider myself one of the fortunate few, for being able to make a living from doing that which I love - developing software.

If you have identified your passion - your creative outlet - then I encourage you to embrace it. If you can make a living from it, all the better.

If you don’t know your passion, if you haven’t identified your creative field, get out there and find it!


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June 2008