13 Things I’ve Learned About Creativity

1. Everyone is creative.

It makes me a little crazy (and sad) when I hear someone say “I’m just not creative” because I know the truth. They ARE creative. It just looks different than what I’m up to. Or they have a limiting belief that tells them creativity is only about art.

Creativity is everywhere in our lives. Business. Science. Gardening. Child-rearing. When someone excels in an area, you can bet you’ve found a creative thinker. Because creativity is what happens when we break away from the hum-drum, accepted way of doing things and find our own path. When we put two unrelated things together and come up with something unique and awesome.

So find your sweet spot and go create! The rest of us need your leadership in that area.

 2. At it’s core, creativity is problem-solving.

Ideas Innovation Creativity Knowledge Inspiration Vision Concept

From the painter trying to express what she feels to the business person looking to break through market noise to share his message, all of us look for solutions. When we succeed we’ve found a creative sweet spot.

3. You can’t figure it out ahead of time.

I’ve wasted a lot of time looking for the ‘right choice”. What I learned (usually the hard way) is this: when they say it’s  “The Right Answer”, it’s their answer, not mine. When I play it safe I’m not being creative.

4. Stop comparing.

Too often, we take our baby steps and measure them against someone else’s finished effort. Hardly fair but I see it all the time.

When I taught creative writing I would remind my students that even Hemingway had an editor. No one starts out as a genius so give yourself a break.

5. Creativity is scary.

Creativity results in things that are new and unique. And being different can be dangerous. In the not so distant past,  you ran the risk of being thrown out of the tribe (where you’d probably get eaten) or branded a heretic.

Henri Matisse famously said “Creativity takes courage”.  So be brave, Grasshopper and embrace your personal vision. Acknowledge the fear but don’t let it stop you.

6. Genius looks just like you.

We all struggle with the same things in life. Fear. Jealousy. Uncertainty. Where to get a great cup of coffee.

They didn’t start out at the top of their field. They started right where you are today. They practiced their craft or profession. And I’ll guarantee you they still deal with fear and uncertainty.

7. It’s not about talent or inspiration.

One day I heard myself saying “I’d give anything to….” and stopped.

It was an AHA moment for me. I had to admit I was lying to myself because, in actual fact,  I wasn’t giving anything. No time. No effort. No focus.

What makes a success isn’t the talent or a gift alone. It also takes effort and persistence.  If I want to succeed, I have to do the work and show up , even when I don’t feel like it.

8. Keep going.

Paper ball forming a lightbulb, white background

Persistence is so vital, I’m going to say it again. Don’t let anyone discourage you. Believe in yourself.

Walt Disney was fired from his first job because he ‘lacked imagination’. Steve Jobs was fired and went on to found Pixar before Apple realized how much they needed him back.

When (not ‘if’) you hit a wall,  look for another way. Sometimes that means going in a totally new direction, which is okay. Trial and error is how we learn.

9. There’s only one way to fail.

You can only fail if you give up. Isn’t that comforting? Because it means you never fail as long as you’re embracing your creativity.

Tell yourself “I’m still on the road. I simply haven’t found my solution yet.” (See # 2).

10. Creativity is a paradox.

You need to know the rules of your craft or profession and then forget all about them. You need to work hard but you also need time to daydream. Creativity is scary but it’s also satisfying.

11. You can’t run out of creative energy.

It’s a renewable resource. Don’t be stingy with yourself or with the rest of us. Share!

12. Creativity burns calories.

Yup. It’s true. But only if you embrace the fact that the healthier you are in body, the easier it is to access your creative energy. I’m  not talking about training for the Iron Man Decathlon (or whatever it’s called).  For me it’s a walk everyday out in the fresh air to keep those creative juices flowing. Find your balance and make it part of your creative practice.

“We think of creativity as an intellectual exercise but it requires tremendous energy. Learning to cultivate your life force, your life energy is a very important part of this,” Micheal Gelb, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

 13. My brain isn’t a computer.

Computers simply need data and lots of it to work their (seeming) magic.

What we need are experiences. Life is what refills our creative well. Don’t mistake Facebook for relationships and Twitter for conversations. Julia Cameron recommends a weekly artist date.  Step away from the computer and give it a try.

I’ll be here when you get back.

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