Creativity can feel like a luxury or even feel frivolous. Drawing? Painting? Writing? Those are nice, but not when you need to work to make ends meet. But as you might already sense, creativity is vital to humanity. It allows us to express ourselves and therefore connect with others in a meaningful way. You can do it, too; what you create doesn’t have to be perfect. As actor Ethan Hawke explains in a TED Talk in June 2020, the simple act of giving yourself permission to be creative can have profound effects on your life and what you put forth in the world.
In a nine-minute video, Hawke dispels the notion that creativity is some sort of lesser-than in our lives. One of his most salient points is made by illustrating that when something very bad—or very good–happens in our lives, we turn to human expression that resulted from creativity.
“Do you think human creativity matters?” Hawke begins by asking. “Well, hmm. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about poetry. Right? They have a life to live, and they’re not really that concerned with Allen Ginsberg’s poems or anybody’s poems until their father dies, they go to a funeral, you lose a child, somebody breaks your heart, they don’t love you anymore, and all of a sudden, you’re desperate for making sense out of this life, and, ‘Has anybody ever felt this bad before? How did they come out of this cloud?’
“Or the inverse—something great. You meet somebody and your heart explodes. You love them so much, you can’t even see straight. You know, you’re dizzy. ‘Did anybody feel like this before? What is happening to me?’ And that’s when art’s not a luxury, it’s actually sustenance. We need it.”
Hawke then goes on to talk about how creativity changed the course of his own life as well as his brother’s life, who is a retired Green Beret colonel in the United States Army Special Forces. For Hawke’s brother, his creativity didn't take the form of visual arts, writing, or music. It came in the form of his leadership, and this demonstrates that simply being passionate about something allows you to exercise your imagination and come up with original ideas.
Watch the entire TED Talk below.
Actor Ethan Hawke talks about the importance of creativity and how allowing yourself the space to be creative can change your life.