Thorns in the Flesh: The Essence of Creativity (and Personal Growth)


The essence of creativity lies in a sensitivity to defects. — E. Paul Torrance

While reading Why Fly? A Philosophy of Creativity, I came across the idea of “thorns in the flesh,” which, in the author’s words, means “finding answers to questions, no matter how ridiculous or impossible those questions may at first seem.”

He suggests never ridiculing or suppressing the questions, but instead actually seeking out and asking ourselves controversial and unanswerable ones in order to encourage creative thinking and exploration.

Thorns in the flesh. It runs counter to everything we’ve been taught.

In school we learned to follow rules, stay in line, never speak out of turn, and not to cause a disturbance. To be creative, you have to do all of those things, over and over again (in spite of criticism — both external and, especially, internal) in order to make any sort of breakthrough. It’s not comfortable. Everything within you says to retreat into something you know, something safe.

The same is true for personal growth.

To change, to make anything better, means challenging anything that doesn’t work — to be a thorn.

Something isn’t right. Something is off. Something needs to change. Maybe you can’t even put your finger on it. So you keep pivoting and examining and pushing and prodding. Until eventually, you find the source of the discomfort. And you address it.

To make anything new, to be anything new, the answer lies not in greater comfort, but somewhere in the thorns.

About the author

E.H. Bellefontaine

Evangeline Henry Bellefontaine is the fictional writer behind Maison d'Evangeline (and More Beautiful Good on Medium). She writes mostly on the topics of bibliotherapy (books + therapy), personal growth, and doing the work. Follow by subscribing to Bibliothérapie.

By E.H. Bellefontaine

Guiding Quote

A house extends skyward.
Like a tiny but proud cathedral,
it wishes to generate the highest
and the best in its inhabitants.
— John Truby

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