Nick Ahad: Need to create is part of what it means to be human – and happy

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WITH this week’s Culture, free with the Yorkshire Post, not only do you get all the usual brilliant coverage of the arts in our county, but you get the secret of happiness.

Yes, that’s right, in just a few short paragraphs from now, you will have learnt how to find ultimate fulfilment in your life.

Once I have shared the secret, you’ll be amazed and also may feel the need to kick yourself for the fact that something so simple might hitherto have escaped your notice. Ready? Here goes... The secret to happiness is...creativity.

As Miranda would say, bear with (very quick, probably very bad, pop psychology lesson here).

Abraham Maslow was a humanist psychologist whose most popular theory became widely known in American academic circles in the 1940s. His Hierarchy of Needs theory suggested there is a pyramid of elements humans need to be happy. Imagine human happiness as a pyramid: the base is made up of the very basics, food, water. The next step up is security of family and shelter. Above that come friendship, intimate relationships, and above that self-esteem, the estimation of others and the like.

One of the key things to completing the pyramid was self-expression and creativity. I’m sure Abe is spinning in his grave, but that’s about the size of it. So. If you want to get happy, real happy, get creative.

I was reminded of Maslow’s theory of needs when one of our picture editors wrote the article opposite about an exhibition of work by Tom Stoddart on show at Leeds’s White Cloth Gallery. Andy’s copy was great, but we needed a few more column inches.

Later that afternoon, seeing Andy had abandoned his usual desk and was bashing at a keyboard in a corner of the office, I went over to see if he had finished his article. He’d been to take another look at the Leeds exhibition and was moved – well, you can read the story.

I was moved by how moved Andy had been reflecting on someone who shares his own creative passion of photography.

It doesn’t really matter what we do, as long as we are doing something creative. For some that means joining an amateur dramatics group, for others a book club. For some it means writing a novel in their spare time (there will be plenty who fall into this category at some of the region’s literature festivals over the coming weeks) – and even if that novel is never published and even if you only tread the boards in your local village hall, or exhibit your paintings to a circle no wider than your friends and family, at least you are creating something, expressing what it is to be human.

We did it when we still lived in caves and we should all find space in our lives to do the creative thing that fulfils us. It’ll keep you happy.