Do a google search on creativity and you might be surprised at what comes up. Creativity is the use of the imagination or original idea, especially in the production of an artistic work. Creativity is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. Creativity is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. Creativity is the skill of the future and a crucial factor for business. Creativity is for artists. Creativity is for kids. Creativity is for everyone. Creativity is…is…is…is…is… Creativity is something everyone seems to have an opinion on. But what is creativity really? And why is it important? Do we really need to be creative to live life to the full?
Perhaps I’m biased. No, I’m pretty sure I’m biased. I am an artist and author after all. And when it comes down to it, I do believe creativity is important. But I don’t think creativity is something that is only within reach for certain people. I agree with Pablo Picasso, who said, “Every child is an artist. The trick is staying one as an adult.”
Creativity is who we are.
In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about creativity as being part of who we are as people, an inherent quality of our makeup. This well-known book is all about feeding your inner creative and bringing it back to life when the worries of the world seems to have squelched it. (It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it.) You see, Cameron says creativity is part of our genetic make-up as human beings but that the world is pretty good at dampening anyone’s creativity. Even people with art studios struggle with it sometimes. So what can we do to encourage creativity in ourselves?
Silence the critic.
Silence the inner critic (and the outer ones). Have you heard that joke, “How many people does it take to make a masterpiece? Two – one to make it and the other one to tell them when to stop.” You see, there is something about people that we are constantly criticizing ourselves and what we do. We’re always looking at what we create and deciding that it just isn’t good enough. That’s true for everyone from little kids to art studio owners to artists who are household names. If we want to silence those voices, we have to counter their critical lies with positive truths.
The next time you catch yourself being self-critical, making one of those I can’t statements, write that thought down. Then rewrite that thought with the opposite, positive idea, with encouragement. Make it an I can statement. For example, if you find yourself thinking, “No one will want to see the kind of art I create.” Change it into a positive statement. “The kind of art I create is valuable and has worth regardless of who sees it.” Then write down your positive statement and put it somewhere you can see it on a regular basis.
Get out and create.
But don’t just think about being creative. Do it. Make time for creativity in your life. Encourage kids to take part in art activities in school. Do an art-based date night or ladies’ night. (My studio is a great place for an art party.) Set aside five minutes at the end of your day to doodle before you go to sleep. Listen to a creativity podcast. There are lots of ways to make space for art in our everyday lives.
Another thing you can do to fuel your creativity is to try new things. Explore new artistic interests. Never thrown a pot before? Come down to the studio and give it a try. Are you a writer? Take up doodling. Buy a pack of crayons or watercolors. Or put your paintbrushes down and use your fingers to paint the page. Buy some yarn and watch a video on how to knit or crochet. It doesn’t matter what you do. The point is to find a new way to challenge yourself and explore a material you don’t ordinarily use. This wakes up the sleepy creativity inside.
Make room for failure.
Give yourself (and others) freedom to fail. Being creative isn’t about being right. It’s about trying new things. It’s about exploring. And yes, it’s about failure. Because being creative isn’t about meeting someone else’s expectations. There is no right answer when it comes to creativity. To create is to make something new. And besides, who ever made something fan-worthy the very first time they tried. Thomas Edison took at least 200 attempts at the lightbulb before he found something that worked. Why should you or I be any different?
Creativity is our nature.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this. Creativity isn’t some talent that some people have and others don’t. It’s part of who we are. It’s in our nature as human beings. God created us in his image, therefore we are creative creatures as well. We’ve just done a really good job at convincing ourselves that we’re all science and no art. We’ve convinced ourselves that art is all about the product when it’s really about the process. Let go of the idea that your art SHOULD conform to x, y, or z and just let it BE.
The good news? No one’s creativity is really dead. If you feel like yours is, you might just need a little more time, a little more nurture, and a little more grace. Let go of the ideas you have about what creativity is and just let it come out of you however it wants to. You might even surprise yourself in the process.