A lot of the posts I write about creativity exist to encourage creative folks to practice. But what if you’re “not creative?” Then we need to start from Square One. This is a beginner’s guide to creativity, and includes all the things I wish I had known from the start. Let’s just jump right in.
Creativity Lesson #1: Your Potential
The first thing you need to understand, especially if you consider yourself not currently creative, is that creativity can be achieved by anyone and everyone. It is not magic. It is a skill. If you don’t know how to play chess, you are not a chess player. But if you learn to play chess, then you become a chess player. Creativity is the same way.
Does that mean, when you start playing chess, you will be an amazing chess player? Probably not. It takes time and work to improve your chess skills. The same goes for creativity. But you are still capable of it. It is not impossible for you to learn just because today you don’t consider yourself creative.
This mental switch is essential, even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal. From now on, you cannot refer to yourself as “not creative.” From this day forward, you will refer to yourself as “learning to be creative.”
“Are you a creative person?” someone will ask you.
“I am currently working on being a creative person!” you will reply. One day, with practice, you will change your response to an enthusiastic “Yes I am!”
So that you don’t feel like a liar when you tell people you are working on being a creative person, let’s do a creative exercise. Simply by doing this exercise, you can say for certain that you are working on being a creative person. Just as by playing a game of chess you can be sure you are officially a chess player, or by writing a novel (published or not) you are “a writer.”
Creative Exercise: Design Crash Course
For this exercise you will need nothing more than a pencil/pen and paper. It can even be done on the blank side of a piece of paper you planned to throw away, like an old piece of junk mail. I say this to make the point that special tools are not necessary for creativity. One can be creative without a stretched, natural canvass and full compliment of oil paints.
Start by drawing a circle in the middle of the paper.
And again and again until you have a complex design in front of you. It might look great, or it might look shoddy. It doesn’t matter. You just created something using all the base skills of creativity. You performed in a way that other creative people perform. You worked on being a creative person.
Yet this simple exercise is one step further along the path to harnessing the mindset of creativity. Creativity, from the outside, can seem like magic at times. It can feel like something some people have and some do not. But it is a skill, and anyone can practice it. Doing a five minute exercise does not make you an expert designer, of course. Doing hundreds of exercises is what makes expert designers. And each expert will tell you it didn’t happen through magic, but through work and practice.
I hope this has been helpful at changing your mindset from “I am not creative” to “I am working on being a creative person.” The mindset switch is only step one, though it is a big one. There’s plenty to do if you want to continue on this path. In future “Beginner’s Guide to Creativity” posts we’ll cover other things you need to know. In the meantime, don’t neglect practice. The only way to become comfortably creative is by practicing creativity every chance you get.
In case you’re still unsure about taking the leap towards being a creative person – that maybe you don’t have what it takes – I leave you with the words of Vincent Van Gogh:
“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
You can be creative. Silence any voice inside that says you can’t.