I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard others (including myself) utter these words when the subject of creativity comes up,
“Oh, me? I’m not creative at all.”
The idea of what qualifies someone as being creative is just bonkers when you sit and think about it. Is there an all-knowing entity that decides ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to different forms of art or creativity? Hell, what even qualifies as art? Is art the only way to make something that is considered creative? WHY ARE WE EVEN HERE?!
The fact is that when most of us were children we created with abandon. No agenda whatsoever. We played with paints, drew stick figures with worn down crayons and made up stories to entertain ourselves. We didn’t care if something looked misshapen and blobby or weird or had colors that clashed – we created because it was fun and felt good.
What happened to that joyful form of creation? When did we stop trying to do things just because we wanted to? What happened to make us eventually sound like this?
“I’m not creative”
“Nothing I do is remotely interesting”
“I can’t draw so I’m not an artist”
It’s depressing to know that there are people out there who don’t believe that they have a creative streak in them just because they don’t work with oil paints, or do underwater basket weaving, or something else just as weird (and totally awesome). Creativity isn’t something only meant for the elite, everyone is creative.
The main reason why I didn’t view myself as creative for many years is that I didn’t do the ‘normal’ things were considered to be creative. I’ve never owned an easel, I didn’t have a fancy camera set-up or the ability to draw portraits with charcoal. I play the cello, but nothing concert-worthy. I didn’t have the skills necessary to be an artist.
Ha – what a laugh. I know now that everyone is creative, they just probably don’t realize it. For example, my mother-in-law is an amazing gardener; her backyard is something I would love to create for myself in a future home. She’s able to make her garden look as though it’s always been there, it’s so natural and flowing and just gorgeous. Is her passion and talent for gardening creative? Absolutely.
You are creative. You have ideas. You inspire others around you. YOU MATTER.
I read this quote by Ira Glass many years ago, and I remember thinking, “YES. This is it!” It’s as though Ira reached out and gave me the final piece of the puzzle I didn’t realize I was trying to solve. What I had been doing was wondering why the hell everything I did was crap and – more importantly – why I thought it was crap.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” —– Ira Glass
For so many years – especially after social media became a daily habit for most of the world – I was terrified of making anything and having anyone see it. I was worried that it wouldn’t be good enough, that someone else was doing it better, that my ideas weren’t original.
Guess what? I was RIGHT.
My ideas weren’t original because nothing is ever original. Humans have been creating (and re-creating and re-creating) the same things for centuries. Nothing is new. It’s been done before by someone else, probably done better than you.
The best part of all of this?
That means you don’t have to give a crap about being original. Being original is overrated, and quite frankly, impossible. You can just focus on the here and now and keep making. Honestly, the more you keep trying at something, you WILL improve. That will definitely happen. It might not be at the same speed as someone else, but you will get better. If you’re not happy with your creations when you start, don’t worry about it. That’s just your good taste talking.
You’re going to be disappointed in yourself in the beginning – AND THAT’S OKAY! You probably won’t fall in love with a lot of your creations, especially at first. Sure, you’ll probably love it because it’s yours, but you know it’s not really the greatest work. You keep going. You might think that you’re never going to get ‘there’ (wherever the hell ‘there’ is) but I promise you – it will happen. There will come a time where you look at something you create and you think, “Yeah, this is pretty great.”
And then you’ll try something else and the cycle starts all over again. Whee!
So now we’re creating things – awesome! Whether it’s cooking or writing or doodling on blackboards, you are creative and you are CREATING, goddamnit! But what happens when our ideas suddenly dry up? Our normal activities aren’t so interesting anymore and we don’t know what to do. What do we do when we can’t think of anything else to create?
I remind myself to go out of my comfort zone and try new things as often as I can.
I know, I know. Hear me out.
It’s such a simple idea and yet it’s repeated over and over. But, guess what? The reason it’s such a solid piece of advice is because IT WORKS. Pushing yourself to try new things and work another part of your brain will get those ideas flowing and you will get excited to try them out.
- Be in nature – Walking outside with no goal in mind is the single best way of coming up with ideas, I swear. There’s something so instinctual and natural being outside that it’s completely therapeutic to me. I just wander around a park or my neighborhood and suddenly I have ideas coming at me from out of nowhere.
- Copy someone else – I’ve straight up copied a piece of art that I liked just to see if I could do it. 9 times out of 10, your creation will end up looking nothing like it’s inspiration, but that’s great! Now it’s your creation. Nobody can copy anything perfectly, so no matter what you do, it will end up becoming your own. Obviously, don’t go around plagiarising other people’s work. Give credit when credit is due.
- Yay friends – Spending time with friends and family. We draw a lot of inspiration from the things around us and that includes people. My friends are an endless supply of inspiration and they help me see the world in a different light.
- Learn with others – Skillshare is something that I’ve used for a few years. I’ve been lucky enough to have my work pay for my annual subscription, but there is a free version as well. The different types of classes can be overwhelming, so I try to limit myself to a certain category and stick with that until I feel ready to move on to something else. It’s also a good idea to treat it like an actual class, one where you have to show up consistently and do the homework. And seriously, DO THE HOMEWORK. You aren’t alone, there are hundreds (thousands?) of students that also do Skillshare and it’s great to see other people’s work alongside your own.
- Childhood memories – What did you enjoy as a child? I think this is a fantastic way to tap into a different side of yourself since there are probably things you did back then that you don’t do now. I used to be an avid reader as a kid and for several years I stopped reading for pleasure. I’m pretty sure the college required reading kind of took the joy of it out of me. But once I remembered how much I loved that as a kid, I picked it up again. Now, I read more than ever and it is great to lose myself in a book like I used to. I also enjoyed writing stories when I was little – so I decided to try out blogging. And now look at where we are!
- Become curious – What questions pop up during your day? “I wonder what kind of bird that is?” “How does this app work?” “This cheese is delicious, I wonder how I can make it.” The last one is what started my cheese making endeavor and I have been trying out cheeses for several years now. There is so much to learn, but it all started with a simple question. Follow your curiosity, my fellow cats!
Try one of these ideas – or try ’em all! I can’t stop you.
It took several years to get where I am but now I feel comfortable calling myself creative. Hell – I call myself a freaking artist.
Because I am.