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Creativity and innovation are big buzz words at the heart of the Bay Area economy. But what, exactly, is creativity and how is it achieved? Richard Levitt has this Perspective.

I’ve seen that the distinction between “creative” and “not creative” is self-imposed. Folks who believe they’re creative, are creative. Unfortunately, many people believe they aren’t.

So I’m here to say creativity is not some exclusive, aspirational flair. It simply means solving problems and expressing ideas in new or unconventional ways. Not just painting or sculpting or composing. You can be creative washing a car, doing housework, administrative tasks, pulling weeds … anything can be a creative act.

And it’s not a gift. It’s a skill that can be developed and nurtured. Some people are truly talented. But the rest of us can work hard and achieve remarkable things.

In fact, the single greatest indicator of creative success is persistence. Not skill, not talent, not experience.


One time a young copywriter came to me with five or six ideas. I suggested he come back with five or six pages of ideas.

“What?!!” he asked. “How? Why?”

The “why” is easy: Your first ideas are rarely the best. Leonardo da Vinci actively painted Mona Lisa for three years, refined it for four years, and tweaked it for another 10. Give up too quickly and you’ll never strike gold.

The “how” is discipline. Once you get past the easy stuff, you have to work at it. Shift your thinking, flex your imagination, find different perspectives. There are countless ways to do that.

Here’s the most important one: Suspend judgement. The greatest impediment to creativity is fear. If you’re afraid that your ideas suck — or someone’s gonna hate ‘em — you’re obstructing your own process. My biggest breakthrough was when I realized if I haven’t solved a problem, it doesn’t mean I won’t. Just haven’t solved it yet.

The spark of the creator exists within each of us. It’s our power and our privilege. But only through effort and persistence will that spark become a flame.

With a Perspective, I’m Richard Levitt.

Richard Levitt is an East Bay writer who practices and teaches martial arts, yoga and creative problem solving.