badass creativity



An aura has formed around the creative process that obscures what it is and how it works, often with a layer of mystical woo-woo.

If you don’t wear black turtlenecks*, if you’re not running with the wolves, if you don’t hear the muses whispering in your ear, if the universe isn’t speaking to you or through you or laughing with you or maybe at you

if you’re not jolted awake at 3 am with yet another dazzling epiphany, if you would rather stick needles in your eyes than knit or read the New Yorker or rock contemplatively in a rocking chair while writing in your art journal and sipping herbal tea

if you’ve never been to Burning Man, if sunsets bore you, if you don’t believe in angel guardians, if you’ve never owned one of those little dreamcatcher things hanging in windows, if the only conversation you’ve ever had with your Spirit was about that guy you kept promising yourself you wouldn’t sleep with while continuing to sleep with him

if you’re good at sports, if you’ve never written bad poetry in high school, if you’ve never dated anyone who wrote bad poetry in high school, if you’re not even sure why people write poetry of any kind…can you still be creative?

Damn straight.

Badass creativity is about more than self-expression; it’s about learning, process and mastery. It’s about coming up with ideas, lots of little ideas that add up to big bold ideas that just might change your life, or the world.

It’s about impact. It’s about working from that sweetspot where your gifts and the world intersect, where what you do has fascination and relevance. It’s about working close to your soul, and delivering that work to the world with style and savvy.

It’s about finding yourself – and finding an audience.

Badass creativity is a state of mind.

It’s necessary.

The world changes, and changes again. Old structures crumble. As the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman observed, his generation went out and found jobs, but his children will have to invent them. We can’t just “be who we are” but must construct personal brands and online identities. We no longer “live our lives” but design them.

We search for ways to be remarkable enough to cut through the clutter of an overcrowded marketplace — to be seen, be heard. We build online platforms to promote our creative content through other forms of creative content. Meanwhile, as the world becomes more interconnected, as digital technology empowers people to collaborate and communicate, we must find ways to influence each other toward solutions to the deeply complex problems that we face (ie: save the world).

Badass creativity is a way of life.

It’s no longer a bohemian novelty or a form of self-indulgence but central to our survival as individuals and as a species. Yet our society seems to conspire against it.

The old myths about who is and is not creative – that you either have it or you don’t — continue to shape our perceptions about our ability to come up with great ideas. (Author Gail McMeekin found that when she told people the title to her bestselling book, The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, people would often say, “That has nothing to do with me. I’m not creative.”)

Meanwhile, our education system continues to teach to a linear way of thinking that bestselling author Peter Sims refers to as a “death knell for creativity”. We learn to cringe at our mistakes and give up after failure. We learn to be careful. We learn that risk comes in one flavor: bad. We think of creativity as a hobby, something we can nourish in the sidelines of our busy lives.

But badass creativity is a way of observing , questioning and discovering, of experimenting and refining, that can improve every aspect of the way we live, including our relationships and health and productivity, and even our ability to feel alive.

Creativity is your birthright.

Yet in a society that bombards us with constant stimuli and neverending distraction, where the value of productivity ranks right up there with hope and faith and love, it has never been more necessary to carve out the elements needed to generate creative thinking. A creativity-committed lifestyle rarely happens randomly; you design it, through understanding the strategies that enable creativity and building them into your life.

And somewhere along the way, a badass creative makes the connection between what she makes and who she is.

She makes meaning from the raw materials of her life….that can provide value not just for herself, but others.

In this six-degrees-of-separation world, where we are influenced not just by our friends, but their friends, and their friends’ friends that we’ve never even met, what we do resonates out along those invisible lines of connection.

A badass creative understands herself as part of this web of interdependence.

Creativity binds you to your ‘tribe’ and connects you to those people formerly known as your audience. A badass creative is a thought leader, taking people someplace they haven’t been before. She brings them into something larger than themselves. She might even start a movement.

Badass creativity isn’t something you just do for yourself, but the world.

*I actually do wear black turtlenecks. From time to time.

follow me on twitter

Aug 30, 2011

13 comments · Add Yours

“…if you’re not running with the wolves, if you don’t hear the muses whispering in your ear, if the universe isn’t speaking to you or through you or laughing with you or maybe at you…” –
I used to have this t-shirt, that said, “You’re Just Jealous Because the Little Voices Are Talking to Me!” What you wrote kind of puts a new light on what it said.
Maybe I should get a new one as the old one found Religion, and I no longer have it.


Ps. One of my favorite books on this subject is “de Bono’s Thinking Course” by Edward de Bono.


“We learn to cringe at our mistakes and give up after failure. We learn to be careful. We learn that risk comes in one flavor: bad. We think of creativity as a hobby, something we can nourish in the sidelines of our busy lives.”

This. Creativity is not a trait; it’s a way of being. What is failure; how do we define a mistake? We have a preconceived notion of doing something, an expectation, and when we don’t meet it, that’s failure; we’ve made a mistake. Get rid of the box – everything can be a learning experience. There will still be things we’ll think, gosh I shouldn’t have done that, but you can learn from everything; you can assimilate any experience into your life and your worldview. Creativity means being open to being shaped, to attempt to shape as well. The current mode of thinking is too rigid – we don’t want change; we don’t want shape or curve or anything else. Stasis is a sort of death, though.


Wow. Right on the mark. And I love the strong tone! Creativity isn’t about WHAT you do, it’s how you do it. To me it’s about living in “the zone.” It’s about curiosity and learning and observing. And maybe most importantly, perseverance. Thanks for putting strong, clear words to this idea!


Absolutely brilliant! Every teacher should read this. How much creativity have we stifled in the name of education?


Good one. Over the years, I’ve shifted away from sweating and fretting over being “creative”, and find myself more focused on “persistence”. When I try and distil it in words for other people, I usually say “you need persistence and passion”. Love it, and keep getting back up and doing it. If you lack either one, you’re toast.


Excellent as always, Justine.

It frankly amazes me sometimes that people in what we consider to be technical fields — like programming or mathematics or engineering — don’t feel that the work they do can be described as creative in any sense of the word.


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing a musician who played on many of Motown’s big hits. When asked if he was aware of the impact of Motown, he stated that he wasn’t aware of any movement at the time. It was simply about making music, working hard, and the people he was playing with. His humble attitude and passion for music spoke volumes about the man. I truly believe there are some people who create and don’t think about being creative.


Well said. Woe be the fool who thinks the guy who wore the black turtleneck made his mark due to his attire, instead of pursuing “learning, process and mastery.”


Absolutely love this- am captivated by it.
Badass Creativity isn’t about flowery narcissistic affectation. It’s not about ego, or jockeying for political position, being self-protective or exclusive. It’s where eudaimonia hits the pavement and things get done.


thinking kills creativity..


@Steve Of course there are. Reflecting on the nature of creativity and being creative are two different things. You don’t have to do both in order to do either.

@repaige Disagree. Different levels of thinking are actually required.


I love, love, loved this post. I found your blog for the first time today and it is EXACTLY the combination of convention-defying, creativity-calling, butt-kicking badassery I need at this point in my life. Thank you! I’ll be tuning in for more…


Add your comment