I’m known to be the creative one in my group of friends. I’ve grown up with a natural creative bent on life. I might have a large dose of quirkiness to thank for a life-long relationship with swimming in creativity. I’m a dreamer, a seeker of ideas and inspiration.
So often I’m asked by friends and even strangers, “How can I be more creative?” I’m usually caught off guard because my answer is more than just a casual conversation. My answer requires the time it takes me to drink a pot of hot coffee, it’s so in depth and I’m so passionate about it.
After having been asked a million times, and after thinking it through, I’ve made a list that won’t require a seat at Starbucks for a long period of time. Unless you really want to – then I’m game.
Here are five rules for creativity I feel spark a creative outlook in an individual.
>>1. Let go of the identity that you’re “not creative.”<<
I hear this from so many people. “I’m just not creative.” That’s a lie. I always tell people that the creative seed is there, you just need to nurture it.
Our minds carry great power. The way we think and talk about ourselves is the way we feel about ourselves. Over the course of our lives our identities are formed based on life events, our own perceptions of ourselves, the opinions of others, and the things we’re good at and enjoy. We package our identity into a little box, and anything outside of that box we automatically assume is off-limits to us.
I understand this identity crisis. I so often find myself saying, “I wish I was business minded.” I have friends who are so entrepreneurial that they can think of ways to make money just by chewing gum…and that makes me so jealous! I find myself saying, “I am SO not a business woman. I’m not entrepreneurial and could never have a successful business.” Well, you know what? If I think that way and speak that over myself, of course I won’t succeed in business!
While an entrepreneurial quality isn’t innate in me, it can be learned and honed. It will be harder for me than it would be my business-minded friends, but I can make it easier on myself if I let go of my self-identity as a terrible business-woman.
The same goes for you! While creativity might not come easy and you won’t be batting in the majors (at first!), when you start identifying yourself as creative, you create the power to live a creative life!
Being creative does take energy and effort. When you get your mind to focus on a creative identity, put that into action. And even when you start putting it into action first, the identity will fall into place.
Start small if you need to. If you only see the big picture the tendency is to get overwhelmed before you even start. Also remember, creativity doesn’t need to be an art project. It can be organizing your closet or sprucing up a spreadsheet to be more affective. Whatever area in your life where you would like your creativity to blossom (closets and spreadsheets, for example), focus on that.
A huge part of doing is to remember NOT to compare yourself to others. This is dangerous territory and the reason why a lot of people never pick up a project in the first place; They’re too intimidated by another person’s creativity. Listen, your creativity is your own journey, not your favorite blogger’s, your best friends, or your spouse’s. Don’t measure your creative life against someone else’s because that’s not fair to you and your journey.
>>3. Look for the beauty in everything.<<
This is at the heart of my creativity. Be observant. Everything has a story to tell. From the iPhone photo I post on Instagram, to a portrait session, to refurbishing a piece of furniture, to composing a tweet (seriously). Look for a new perspective, a new way of telling a story, but most importantly…find the value in something that might be devalued, and make it your goal to show its beauty.
This was the mindset I took to the Round Top Antiques Fair this past April. Lesli and I took a day trip to Round Top, Texas to peruse miles and miles of booths and tents full of anything and everything you could ever imagine. Les asked me what I was looking for , and while I had a few specific items I was eyeballing, I told her that my favorite thing about browsing these types of places is to try to find a purpose or use for something out of its place. A broken crate would make for a cool pendant lamp above my sink. A dryer barrel would be a great flower planter for my backyard. Nail that old movie theatre seat to the wall for the most interesting book shelf you’ve ever seen.
When we look for beauty, our thinking starts to wander outside the box, and inspiration gives way for creativity to start flowing!
>>4. Don’t be afraid to fail.<<
Fear of failure is probably why most people don’t even venture out of their comfort zone to tap into their creativity in the first place. They’re afraid it won’t be perfect. They’re afraid of criticism. They’re afraid it won’t be as elaborate as their friend’s.
Here’s why: You should be pursuing creativity for yourself, not for anyone else.
If you’re pursuing creativity for yourself, then why should you be afraid to fail? Let me tell you a little secret. It’s a little harsh, but I know you can take it because you’re awesome.
You’re going to fail. I don’t mean that to be mean, but it’s just a part of the process. But the beautiful thing about it, is that failure helps make us better. It helps our thinking to move to a zip code even further from the box and helps us shift perspective. I wish I had minimum wage for every hour I’ve spent in photoshop and the project didn’t come out in the end. But those failures helped me grow and learn. Say “whatever” to fear and go rogue! Experiment! As soon as you realize that failure is just a part of the process and that it makes you a better creative, it makes life so much easier.
>>5. Always be willing to learn.<<
This is a great follow up to my last point. While you shouldn’t be afraid to fail, you should realize that you will at some point. And when you do, take that experience and learn from it. There’s nothing worse than someone who can’t take constructive criticism when it’s given in a respectful, loving manner with the intent of helping them become better. But please, do realize that there are good critiques and bad ones. You’ll learn over time to decipher the good ones and let go of the bad ones.
This is another point I value very highly in my own life. I’m a writer, right? Writers spend hours and hours holed up in a room all by themselves, clacking away on their laptop, expelling the words that are swirling around on the inside. When I emerge from my hole, my work emerges from the trenches with me. And trenches are dirty. I’ve taken the time to focus my creativity into my writing, but I’m messy and my work is messy. I’ve surrounded myself with several people, critique buddies, and mentors whose opinion, advice, and critique I value very highly. I know that I can learn from their wisdom. I gladly hand over my work to them for constructive criticism because I realize that doing so will help make my work better in the end. And I’m not always going to get it right on the first, second, or third try. It’s a process that’s constantly evolving until my work becomes the absolute best it can be. That’s the mission and learning is a part of the process.
So when you are working on a creative project, be a sponge and absorb anything you can to help make yourself better. Surround yourself with people you trust with your work who are in it to help you get better. A negative criticism doesn’t mean your work is junk. Creativity is subjective to a point. Simply be willing to take step back from your project, be willing to learn, and your creativity will grow!
Now, I know there are creative people who are reading this. What advice would you give to someone who asks you that question, “How do I be more creative?”
And if you’re the one asking the question, what other questions would you have? What is the hardest aspect for you to grasp when it comes to being creative?