Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Creativity Interrupted

Is creativity in Pakistan simply misunderstood or are there other forces at play? Arshad Awan poses the question.
Updated 19 Jan, 2024 05:12pm

Life is a continuous exercise in creative problem-solving. Yet, it seems that in Pakistan creative problem-solving is heading in a direction that leads us to misunderstand the concept of creativity and the solutions it proposes. As Pakistanis, by not stretching ourselves we have also failed to accelerate our creative competence.

Creative individuals often face a higher level of challenges in dealing with misunderstandings than more conventional or ‘normal’ people. This stems from creative people’s unique perspectives, unconventional thinking and complex expressions that sometimes make it difficult for others to grasp their ideas and intentions fully. Additionally, their sensitivity to criticism and fear of rejection may contribute to a heightened sense of misunderstanding; a sensitivity that often stems from the fact that their work is deeply personal. Creative people invest a significant part of themselves in their work, be it art, music, writing, or any other form of expression. When their work is criticised, it can feel like an attack on their identity and abilities. These emotions can contribute to a sense of misunderstanding by distorting the way they perceive feedback, interact with others and share their unique creative expressions.

This sensitivity can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can drive creatives to continuously improve and refine their work as they seek validation and approval from themselves and others; on the other, it can make them more vulnerable to negative feedback, causing emotional distress and self-doubt. Why is this?

Because creative people think ‘outside of the box.’ In Pakistan, the average person is often unaware that such a ‘box’ exists. Thinking ‘outside the box’ is a metaphor for breaking free from self-imposed limitations and conventional constraints. It means thinking in an innovative and unconventional way and refers to the ability to approach problems, ideas, or situations from a different perspective and break away from conventional thinking patterns. When someone thinks ‘outside the box,’ they are willing to explore unexpected solutions, ideas, or approaches that may not be apparent to others. This thinking style enables creative people to generate new concepts and approaches to different challenges and problems, contributing to innovation and originality in various fields.

Creative individuals are inclined to ask ‘dangerous’ questions because of their innate curiosity, desire for innovation, and willingness to challenge established norms. These questions serve as a means to explore unconventional ideas, push boundaries and uncover hidden truths. They often arise from the urge to break away from convention, address underlying problems, and stimulate fresh perspectives. For creative thinkers, asking dangerous questions is a means of intellectual freedom, a pathway to problem-solving, and thought-provoking thinking – all aimed at positively impacting their fields and society as a whole. The questions they pose are not intended to be reckless but rather act as tools for responsible exploration, learning and contributing to progress.

Creativity teaches people to dare and be willing to fail – a quality that makes many people uncomfortable in our country. Creativity is a potent teacher, imparting the valuable lesson of daring to venture beyond one’s comfort zone and embrace the prospect of failure.

Creative individuals understand that innovation often resides in uncharted territory, motivating them to take risks and explore unconventional paths. This willingness to step into the unknown fosters resilience and growth, as it acknowledges that failure can be a stepping stone to success. Creativity empowers individuals to shed the fear of making mistakes and instead, view them as opportunities for learning. Doing so engenders a mindset that not only thrives on uncertainty but harnesses it as a catalyst for progress.

Creativity makes people unique individuals, an occurrence that threatens the status quo more than anything else. Pakistan is in a status quo of unending struggle and consequently, there is no place for creativity in our social lifestyle or self-awareness. Our social fabric is locked into an unceasing battle against an entrenched status quo, leaving little room for creativity to flourish. The weight of tradition hinders innovative thinking, leading to a challenging environment for people seeking to break free from conformity. However, it is essential to recognise that amidst this struggle, pockets of creativity persist as individuals and groups strive to carve out space for innovative thought and self-expression.

Furthermore, creative confusion has at times been intentionally cultivated as a strategy, because creative people, with their distinctive thinking, can be viewed as disruptors, potentially threatening established institutions and norms. Institutions may attempt to slow down or deter creative initiatives that challenge the status quo by fostering an environment of ambiguity and complexity. This deliberate confusion can serve as a mechanism to maintain control and conformity within traditional structures. This is unfortunate because many organisations are in dire need of more creativity.

Pakistan is riddled with bureaucracy and systematic ways of approaching matters. Bureaucratic systems often prioritise stability and adherence to established protocols which stifle creative thinking and innovative approaches. Creative individuals may find their ideas dismissed or obstructed by rigid processes. Bureaucracies resist change and this can be disheartening for creatives who thrive on pushing boundaries and exploring new solutions. Bureaucratic red tape and slow decision-making processes can lead to frustration and disillusionment among creative individuals seeking efficiency and agility in their work.

Creatives may feel constrained by the need for approval and adherence to rules and regulations, limiting their creative freedom. The clash between a bureaucratic culture and a creative mindset can result in misunderstanding and conflict, as the two often have different values and priorities. As a result, in Pakistan, creatives are misunderstood. At best, they are seen as a means to an end — a cog in producing propaganda for a cause; at worst, they are perceived as a threat that needs elimination.

There isn’t a pretty way out of this predicament. To be creative in Pakistan is to be misunderstood. That’s all there is to it. What alternative is there in a world of conformists and wannabes?

Arshad Awan is a brand strategist and educationist.