We’re All “Creatives”

When I was in college, one of my professors gave the class a timed assignment:

List at least fifty things you can do with a brick.


Everyone started scribbling, including me. But my scribbling didn’t last long. I can’t remember how many ideas occurred to me. Maybe ten.

As I watched everyone else draft immense lists (two people sailed past fifty and kept going!), I chewed the end of my pencil and quietly suffered from personal embarrassment. I was a writer, after all. I was “creative.” That’s what people always said, ever since I was a kid. Erin is a writer, she’s creative. Surely I could come up with more than ten imaginative uses for a brick, other than the obvious. Panic set in. I’m not as creative as I thought. I’m not that imaginative after all. I CAN’T SEE PAST THE OBVIOUS. What’s wrong with me? I’m a writer!

Needless to say, none of this helped me conjure up new ideas.

Eventually, though, I figured something out.

Everyone is creative in different ways and in different conditions.

There’s a myth that being “creative” means something tangible and specific, but it doesn’t. Nothing is ever that simple, least of all people.

As David Burkus says, “We tend to think of creativity in terms reminiscent of the ancient muses: divinely-inspired, unpredictable, and bestowed upon a lucky few.”

But just as creativity comes in different forms, it’s also sparked under varied conditions and doled out to everyone (in some form), from accountants to artists. Burkus argues that practicality and reality can and should be symbiotic with creativity. I agree.

In this article, Bill Breen further debunks the idea that some of us are “creative” and some of us are “non-creative” and instead embraces the idea that anyone with a brain is capable of doing creative work. “Creativity depends on a number of things: experience, talent (and) motivation.”

He also points out that money doesn’t encourage creativity. Neither does pressure or fear.

By the way, the person who came up with the most uses for a brick was a health major. Not a “creative.” And he thought of more than seventy.

6 Replies to “We’re All “Creatives””

  1. Is it weird that my top thoughts were bludgeon someone to death, prop up an uneven step and carve it into bas relief sculpture? Man, talk about a personality test! I agree that creativity is more than a “type”. Everyone has creativity in them.

  2. Fifty things you can do with a brick:
    1. smash someone’s head with it.
    2. podium for ducks
    3. paperweight.
    4. toss it in the ballast of a ship
    5. partially block a pipe.
    6. use it to level out a chair leg
    7. or a table leg.
    8. pound nuts.
    9. flatten paper.
    10. drop it out the window and get sued.
    11. elevate speakers.
    12. use it to display baby shoes.
    13. mold clay around it into rectangular cups.
    14. heat it and then use it to bake stuff.
    15. estimate the volume of something (by water displacement)
    16. hammer a twisted belt buckle into shape.
    17. rub it against the ground to smooth it.
    18. rub it against rough surfaces to smooth it over.
    19. seal a leak.
    20. give it to a karate/taekwondo master and watch brick-breaking.
    21. give it to a Pokemon fan and watch them try to Brick-Break it.
    22. elevate a piece of paper.
    23. use it as a bookstand (to facilitate reading).
    24. as a drumming pad
    25. as a canvas for paint.
    26. to splotch paint all over a surface.
    27. to summon demons with the Winchesters.
    28. as an instrument of your evil plans.
    29. to flatten and smooth soil.
    ….and that’s what I’ve got for now, in about 5-10 minutes.

  3. sorry but this is too fun! Going on:
    30. Stop a runaway shopping cart.
    31. hold down a suspended string.
    32. a prop in a play — analogy.
    33. as a seat for a doll, maybe Bob the Builder.
    34. Hide tiny Easter eggs behind it.
    35. Block a drain in your annoying neighbor’s house.
    36. To measure hand size.
    37. Warm it and then wrap it in towels for a sick person.
    38. Use it to create art patterns: paint four sides and then roll it one way.
    39. Or paint four sides, and then roll it up-sideways-up-sideways on a piece of paper like an art project.
    40. Give it to a dumb person and hold it up to their head. Knock on the brick, and then knock on the person’s head. See if they get it.
    41. “Accidentally” break the old phone that just won’t die.
    42. Vanquish a cockroach infestation.
    43. Conquer spiders.
    44. Hold it at arm’s length and move it to find your blind spot.
    45. Sharpen it into a weapon with diamonds.
    46. Shred it down, and use the brick shavings as ingredients for primeval paint.
    47. Doorstop.
    48. To hide your pet’s dung.
    49. As a stencil for chalking.
    50. As a fake present. (Wrap it in newspaper first).

  4. I identify with this from my own perspective of being defined by my creativity. I was a painting major in college the first time, because I was good at it and I thought that was that. I quit because I became disillusioned with doing something that wasn’t useful in a tangible way. I didn’t consider that I could be good with other media that I hadn’t experimented with using. After many years of craft projects, DIY and decor experiments, building things outdoors, organizing, and learning about math, patterns, and geometry through crocheting and knitting, I’ve decided to go back to school for engineering, because the type of creative I am is a tinkerer. I never thought I’d be seeking out math as a means for creating, but it’s the perfect fit for me now.

    1. That makes a lot of sense to me, actually. I think people too often shortchange or short-sight themselves with labels. So “math people” assume they aren’t creative and “creative people” assume they can’t comprehend math, etc.

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