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  • Writer's pictureEthan Nicolle

Creativity as a Tool for Survival

Photo by Burr Martin of Bleeding Cool News

Below is the foreword I wrote for the book I just completed with the Make a Wish Foundation. I coordinated over 50 artists and helped a young man with a brain tumor rewrite his time travel epic, Time Wreckers. It was a huge project that took four years to complete. You can read about the panel we had at Emerald City Comic Con on Bleeding Cool.

This is about much more than the book we made. It is about the idea of creativity being something more than entertainment. I realized it when I had my daughter, that nearly everyting she does as a 1-2 year old is a creative act.


One of the most fascinating things about having a child is watching how they use creativity as a tool of survival as opposed to a hobby. For adults there are plenty of things to imitate. We have pre-written vocabulary, personalities we can copy from TV show, quips from books and movies, style from magazines, everything we do can be second hand. But for a child new to this world, everything is new and the only tool they’ve got to process it is creativity. I got a sample of this when I created Axe Cop with my five-year-old brother. But where this idea really hit me is with my own daughter. She will make up a word on the spot for something if she doesn’t know the proper term. If she knows the word, she has her own twist on how to say it. For "brother" she says "brubby," for sister she says "eesh eesh," and for shoe she says "Whoof." She invents dances and makes logical connections that are completely outside the box because she’s not imitating, she is creating and nothing is stopping her.

I hadn’t realized until my daughter came into my life that creativity is a tool of survival that we all use in the beginning. I always saw it as more of a luxury. Something right-brained people have while left brained people are more technical. But we all had to start out with it to learn the basics of walking and talking. We have to be willing to think way outside the box to kickstart our way into being human.

As we grow, it seems that the creativity either gets set on a shelf because it is too hard, looked down on (it’s always easier to conform than to create), or compartmentalized into a hobby like drawing or writing. Few people really remain creative as a way of life, but when you meet someone who does embrace creativity as something more than a hobby, as a tool of survival, an innate part of their entire person, you’ve met one of life’s great treasures. A person who doesn’t play along with imitating the way they are "supposed" to be done, speaking, acting, writing and drawing the way we expect them to. This person is the definition of an adventurer and when you know someone like this, you have found someone who keeps life fascinating. Just as it was back when creativity was a survival skill for all of us, when we were brand new to this world.

I knew as soon as I read Noah Ingram’s writing on Time Wreckers that he was one of these people. It was confirmed to me when we spoke on the phone. Noah is not just a creative writer. His writing is a symptom of the fact that he himself is a creative being. He is creative in his thinking, in his outlook on life, in his sense of humor, in his very person, Noah Ingram survives on creativity. That’s why Noah could write an epic story like Time Wreckers partially using voice recognition software, just speaking it as it comes out of his brain. I know creative people who will never write a tale like Noah has written here, and for him typing and writing are incredibly difficult. For most creatives, their art becomes so precious that their lives become miserable, clogged by fear. For a creative survivor like Noah, life is what is precious and their art is not a thing to make a statement, it’s just a natural outpouring of a creative soul.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to live life with a brain tumor but when I see Noah’s personality, energy and uninhibited creativity it is clear to me that, unlike many of us who compartmentalize our creativity and run mostly on imitation, using second-hand jokes to be funny and mimicked mannerisms from what TV tells us is cool, Noah isn’t afraid to make it up as he goes along. He doesn’t hide nervously waiting to figure out how best to fit in. He just does it. I know so many “creative types” who were born without brain tumors who live a crippled and miserable existence because they don’t have the creative capacity to see the world the way Noah does. In his disability Noah has gained a super power, one that is available to all of us but most take for granted. Creativity not just as entertainment, but as a way of surviving. I hope Noah enjoys the book that we all came together to help him make, but I hope he knows that this world needs guys like him more than he may ever know, because a lot of people are born into unfortunate circumstances, but it’s rare to find someone who lives life the way Noah Ingram does, and in a culture driven by a paranoia about what others think of us, confined to tiny boxes and surviving on imitating and conforming to doing things the way they are “supposed to” Noah shows us that survival itself can be as epic an adventure as the one you are about to read.

Ethan Nicolle

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