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.