How to Be a More Creative Person

22nd Jun, 2017

Art was my least favourite subject from about grades 4-9. (From about the time I realised there were 'wrong' answers, to the time I decided to be brave enough to not care.) When my friends asked me why I didn't take art in high school, my standard reply was, "I'm just not a creative person."

If I was honest, though, I would have said, "I'm deeply afraid of trying to be creative, because what if I pour my heart into something and someone criticises it and says it's not good enough?"

Now, obviously this response highlights a problem with my thinking: just because someone thinks that something I made isn't good enough, that doesn't mean I'm not good enough! But...

I know I'm not alone in having truly believed that I wasn't a creative person.

So, I present to you a Choose Your Own Adventure article.

Start at #1, and from there progress to either #2 or #3, depending on what you resonate with.

(Of course, if you want to buck the system and read the section you aren't directed to, like I used to do with Choose Your Own Adventure books... I'm not going to judge!)

1 You are a creative person.

Whether you know it or believe it or not, you really are. Maybe:

A. You're blind to your creativity.

If this is you, you're probably not studying to be an artist, and you probably don't have 'artistic' hobbies. But your creativity is there, on show for all to see - you may just be interpreting it as something different. Go to #3.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up."

~ Pablo Picasso

B. You haven't let your creativity surface in a while.

Maybe you think that being creative is a waste of time (though if you're reading this blog, you're probably a little open to it!). Go to #2, and I'll also say this: being creative doesn't mean you're not intellectual, and it doesn't mean you're shallow or flippant or have way more free time than everyone else.

2 Creativity is scary.

As Seth Godin says, it's a terrifying thing to put something out into the world and say, "Here, I made this." It puts us in a vulnerable place, open to criticism and people laughing at us. That's frightening.

I don't think the fear of criticism goes away. Instead, the trick is to accept the fear. To accept that this creative journey is scary, and it won't stop being scary. To dance with the fear, and keep creating through it.

Steven Pressfield's book The Art of War is a great one if you need encouragement in this area!

Making something creative doesn't just open us up to criticism about the thing we've made. People can also criticise the decision we made to be creative. They can point their finger at us and say,

"What a silly thing to do! What a waste of money and time and resources, to do something to pointless!"

If you're struggling with this type of insecurity, read Brené Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection, especially the chapter on creativity.

3 Creativity isn't just painting.

My Dad is retired now, but in the last few decades of his working life, he was an accountant. Now, you may think of accountancy as one of the least creative professions out there. But I think it's one of the most creative.

The Oxford Living Dictionaries define 'creative' as such:

creative /kriːˈeɪtɪv/

adjective, relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something.

If we close our minds to it, that definition can seem limiting, only relating to 'using ideas and imagination to create a physical artwork.'

But what if we broadened our imagining of it?

For example...

If you're about to embark on a camping trip, it takes creativity to load the car.

Just like 3D Tetris, you need to use original thought, innovative ideas and trial and error to discover the optimal way of fitting everything into the boot.

If you're a research scientist, you need to use creativity to find cures for diseases.

You need your intellect, imagination and the scientific method to help you experiment effectively, try different things, make adjustments and do more experiments, in the hopes of finding a cure.

And in the case of my Dad, he needed to use creativity every day as an accountant.

He found novel ways of approaching tricky conversations with people, in order to maintain the cooperative relationship while also ensuring the best outcome for his company. He also had to be extremely organised and orderly in the way he went about his work. And order, which, as we'll see next week, goes hand in hand with creativity.

At the moment, my creativity looks like sewing, lettering and cooking - but creativity also plays an integral role in budgeting, planning my days, and studying!

In a way, this article really isn't about how to be more creative. To be creative, you don't have to do anything differently than you normally do.

You only need to notice the creativity which is already embedded in your soul and in your everyday life.

And if you still feel like you need some inspiration to be creative, I'll leave you with this video. In it, Neil Gaiman gives the greatest commencement speech of all time (in my opinion which is based on very limited experience, but also in the opinion of the aforementioned Seth Godin, who has surely listened to more commencement speeches than I have!).

Enjoy, and make good art - whether that's a birthday card, a painting, a meal, a schedule or a spreadsheet.