Beauty in the Cubicle, or Why Inspiration Is on You


My recent post on how Excel has made me happier has received good attention within the Excel community. Many people have noted they too feel more creative with a strong command of Excel.

I thought of creativity by spreadsheet after hearing this quote today from Hugh MacLeod, a cartoonist and author. 

“Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with dry, uninspiring books on algebra, history, etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the ‘creative bug’ is just a wee voice telling you, ‘I’d like my crayons back, please.”

While it seems empowering, it perpetuates a damaging distinction.

The idea is that you can’t be creative in “the real world,” or at least that’s what you’re taught to believe. But if you can’t be inspired by “boring” algebra and history books, are you really creative?

Education has lots of room for improvement. But blaming boring books for a lack of imagination is just not fair. Because finding creativity in the mundane is part of life. If you think homework is tedious, just wait until you’re running reports in a cubicle!

Microsoft Excel, like an algebra textbook, may seem boring. It’s rarely used outside business reporting and analysis. Yet it’s also a creative outlet. The idea that you need to be doing “creative things” to be creative is not true.

But remember, I was an econ major. And as I’ve learned, economists exist to make accountants seem interesting.

What do you think? Am I misreading the quote? Have you felt creative with Excel or other mundane applications?




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