Saying You’re Not Creative Is Like Saying You’re Not Human

Creative AdaptationThis is part two of the Creative Adaptation series.

Humans create. It’s part of our makeup. It’s what we do.

You could even say that everything in our purpose for being comes down to 2 desires — to experience and to create.

We are inspired to create by the things going on around us. Inspiration floods our perception constantly.

Occasionally some particularly compelling piece of inspiration will drive us to do something with it.

The Inspiration of Creative Adaptation

I’ve never painted, never written, never taken photos, but I’ve always thought of myself as a creative person. Business is my canvas.” ~ Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

When someone tells me that they’re not creative, I ask them what drove them to that conclusion. The typical answer is that they can’t draw, or write. They don’t seem to possess any obvious form of “creativity.”

Yet these same people may be geniuses with numbers, or science, or business, or teaching.

Creativity comes in many forms — and so does the inspiration provided by creative adaptation. When you see, hear, touch, smell, or taste something that triggers an idea, that’s creative adaptation. Sometimes the inspiration is obvious, other times it’s not.

We can even stick them into a few broad categories. In reality there will be some overlap, and a form of inspiration may fall into more than one category. But along with being inherently creative, humans also like to categorize things:

  • Direct Adaptation – The more obvious forms such as the adaptation of a book into a movie, a painting from a photograph, or a parody.
  • Loose Adaptation – Where a work inspires another, but it’s not directly adapted, and may not resemble the original at all. Think of how a small sample of music inspires a whole new piece, a snippet you read triggers an idea for an article, or an architectural detail in a building becomes the basis for a logo.
  • Pattern Adaptation – Seeing the patterns in one work which are taken and used to create a new work. Patterns are common in software development. Other examples might be precedents found in the law library that reveal an approach to a new case, or how a good tax advisor can see patterns within the convoluted tax code to find ways to save you money.
  • Foundational Adaptation – A work or style that is built on the basis of another. In quantum theory, Einstein built on the work of Max Planck. Matisse’s style was inspired by the work of postimpressionists like Cézanne. And although Eddie Van Halen stands out in the mind of many as the tapping-god, his style was crafted from what Harry DeArmond came up with in the 40’s, and Emmett Chapman was doing in the 70’s.

Creative Inspiration and Synchronicity

Awareness is the key to inspiration. As you begin to notice the things that inspire you, you’ll see patterns of synchronicity. You’ll start to see ideas everywhere, and many will point to the same types of projects.

Trust your creative mind, and let creative adaptation be a catalyst for new ideas.

In part three, we’ll explore the value that the constraint of creative adaptation offers…

Creative Adaptation Series


  1. I love your series Tony. You’ve got such an influential way of writing – every time I go away from reading one of these posts I can’t help but feel like I’ve got some super secret to finding success.

    The thing that really caught me on this post was the “two purposes of being” idea. Brilliant, and something I completely agree with (we create children, a perfect example of the purpose of our lives).

  2. I’ve once read that creativity and intelligence are two sides of the same medal. One doesn’t exist without the other. That makes so much to me. There is no science without trying something new and no great art without having something to say.
    I loved the way you described the different forms of creativity, a great series!

  3. I work with artists and artworks every day and have a background in teaching art. It is ironic that being able to draw has very little to do with creativity. The same with being able to write.

    Creative writing and creative drawing relates to the ability to write and the ability to draw the same as being to able to drive relates to competing in the Paris to Dakar rally.

    That being said, I agree that to be human is to be creative. And the best creativite act is being an individual.

  4. Excellent post Tony. I like it. I completely agree. It’s a shame that people have linked creativity solely to art and don’t think of themselves as creative if they are not artistic.
    Part of my work as a doctor is trying to help people create their own health – in fact, I don’t think anyone can create health for another person. The only healing is self-healing and self-healing certainly requires what you’ve termed as “creative adaptation”

  5. Amen, brother. I’ve seen some VERY creative cooks, lawyers, engineers, accountants, and real estate agents in my day. And as far as I know, none of them could draw much more than a stick figure.

  6. Tanner – Exactly. Almost everything will fit into one, sometimes, both.

    Katie – True. Just like there are multiple types of intelligence, there are multiple type of creativity.

    Gerhi – I’ve taught lots of people to draw that thought they had no artistic ability.

    Bob – Very cool! I love the perspective of creating health. That is an excellent approach.

    Jason – It’s all around us. Sometimes you just have to know where to look.

  7. Is it just me, or do other people feel upset/frustrated/sad when someone they love says “I’m not very creative”?

    Every time I hear a family member or close friend say that I want to jump up at them and shout “You are to creative! Just look at what you’ve done!”

  8. Creativity needs community…and a little intelligence…and aboveall alot of Imagination. The subject is covered in a book written in French by two experts on Innovation – Brice Auchenthaler and Pierre d’Huy (L’Imagination Collective – soon to be published in an English edition called Imagination 2.0. They take customer creativity one step further, into the kitchen of collective thought with the idea of CACO :Consumer or Co-worker Assisted Conception…So yes, not everyone is necessarily creative but everyone can participate..its up to companies or creators to use this creativity or participative idea generation intelligently.

  9. When a man say,s I am not creative, bring him to a best-buy or any where that sells TV,s and put him in front of a big screen, and listen to the creativity come alive. Oh this would look great in the den, we could move the room around,put the sofa in the other conner move my recliner to the left side of this master piece and, put the book shelf in the hall, so this big screen could fit, and man my boy,s would love this for superbowl we could have barb,q ribs, a keg of beer etc… talk about creative adaptation. And women, it just takes a pair of shoes to get thiers going, don,t take this to be shallow, you just can,t imagine what follows a new pair of shoes. Just for fun, but I believe everyone as a creative mind. Explore yourself

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