Creativity is part of everyone. It is part of our nature as human beings. The problem is that a lot of us have barriers when it comes to our own creativity. Yes, even me sometimes. We have some not-quite-right ideas in our heads about what it means to be creative. These ideas come from lots of different places. And odds are, you don’t even realize where they came from. It could be something you did in art class in first grade. It could be something a parent said when you expressed interest in art at a young age. (“You’ll never make any money doing that!”) It could be a negative reaction you got from something you were very proud of. (Um, what is it?) It could be an impression you got of a creative person that you knew. (All artist are a mess.) Or even something you yourself thought. (Only people who are self-important are creatives.) But wherever our barriers to creativity come from, they often affect our willingness to both value our own creativity and then express it. I know that everyone has creativity inside of them. And part of what I want to do is help people express their creativity. With that in mind, I thought I would look at some misconceptions about being creative and see if I could do a little setting the record straight.
False: It’s only creativity if it uses paint, clay, or other art supplies.
True: I truly believe that every person is creative. Sometimes the biggest hurdle we have to overcome is how we think of creativity. Of course people can be creative with paint and pencils and clay, but they can be creative with other things too. Do you remember Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet? He had something to say about creativity. He said, “Prepared and fast foods have given us the time and freedom to see cooking as an art form – a form of creative expression.” Today, more and more people recognize that food is an art. If we limit our definition of creativity to items in the art section of our local craft store, we are missing out.
But there’s no need to stop there. Words are art, dance is art, science is art. Even Albert Einstein, one of the greatest scientists of our age considered himself an artist. He said, “I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited; imagination encircles the world.” And so even if the only place you feel creative is in your imagination, foster that. Feed those dreams. Because, and this leads me to my next point, it’s not about what you create as much as it is that you do create.
False: People have to like art for it to be valuable.
True: In recent years, I’ve seen a trend among art educators in our schools. I’ve talked about it before, so I won’t get into it in detail here. But it’s called process art. The basic premise is that the act of being creative is more important than the product of that creative process. Another way of looking at it is this. When someone completes an art project, the result is “ugly.” And I use that term very loosely. Many would think that because the piece of art is not beautiful, it is not valuable. But the idea behind process art is this. The product of the art experience does not matter. What matters is the act of making it. All that time spent sculpting or drawing or writing… what came of it just isn’t that important. The fact that you did it to begin with is what matters.
People are starting to get this when it comes to kids. But I wonder how many adults can see this about their own creativity. Let’s be honest. If you spent an hour with a pack of colored pencils and ended up with something that looked like a bunch of Easter grass threw up on the page, how do you think you would feel? Would you judge yourself? Say your efforts were worthless? You see, I don’t think they are. I think we should value experimentation. Value the process. And not worry so much about what comes of it.
False: Creativity is a waste of time.
True: There are actually a ton of benefits to being creative. And that creativity doesn’t have to be something formal or fancy. Even a coloring book will do. Forbes magazine wrote an extensive article on the benefits of creativity. I won’t rehash everything they said, but here are some of the big takeaways. People who are creative are happier and have better mental health. People who are creative get an immune system boost. Being creative reduces dementia and it also makes you smarter. If you want to feel better, think more clearly, and get healthier, creativity is the way to do it.
False: It’s too late for me.
True: Creativity is for You
Let’s get real. If you haven’t been creative for a while, it’s probably going to be rocky. You might feel uncomfortable. Of course your skills won’t be at the expert level even if they ever were. But the key to really releasing that creativity in yourself is to press through those awkward days, weeks, moths of discomfort until you get through to the other side. That other side, it’s freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom of mind. Freedom to fully be who you were made to be. Creativity is such an important part of living life to the full. I want to see each and every one of you bust down those barriers to being creative and find the freedom to express yourself and the blessing that comes from doing it.