Be Creative—Even If You Think You Aren’t
Like many of you, I grew up thinking I was not very creative. Even now, my drawing of you would be about the same as my first grade stick figures. In college, I took art for elementary teachers and learned the mechanics of drawing and attained the “grease monkey” drawing level. My results were the same in sculpting, ceramics, chalk, paint and every other medium. I could imagine something creative but could only express it in a very rudimentary and child-like form.
In sixth grade the music teacher made me the narrator for the Christmas program because he said that I “can’t sing”. I tried to learn to play the piano, saxophone, guitar, drums, harmonica, banjo and several other instruments with annoying, oftentimes squeaky, results. I got an A in my college acting class only because of how hard I tried, and my effort on homework assignments. Everyone felt embarrassed anytime I took the stage. So, my childhood and young adulthood were filled in vain with a strong desire for creativity.
My experience highlights the biggest fallacy in the minds of most of us regarding creativity. We think creativity is found only in the arts. Even the dictionary on my computer says, “… esp. in the production of an artistic work”. That is just wrong.
Much has been written about creativity and what it is, and still there is no universal agreement on defining the creative person. But, if we peel it back to the very basic premise, then:
Creativity is an expression of individuality and originality.
Therefore, by the very nature of humankind, we are all creative people, because we are each a unique individual. You are an original work of art. There is no one like you in the whole world. Any expression of your individuality and originality is a creative work. You may not be the traditional “artsy” creative person, but you are creative in your own way.
What do you think? Even though there is no art involved, do the situations below describe creative people?
- The engineers who designed the Accelerated Bridge Construction process used recently in our town. They replaced a freeway bridge by building a new bridge alongside the old bridge, then in a 56-hour period, demolished the old bridge and slid the new bridge into place. Amazingly, traffic was never stopped because of rerouting traffic through temporary on/off ramps.
- James Evans, who saw garbage fly from the back of a truck on a Texas freeway and started what eventually became the Adopt-a-Highway program. Messy roadsides were turned into a great volunteer project, which can be advertising for a business, or service to honor someone, or just a way for a group to get together and contribute to their community.
- The team that raised $700 for a Relay For life event by bidding for or against making the hospital dietitian, who eats no fried food, eat a chicken-fried steak dinner.
- Or the French auto mechanic Arthur Granjean who created a mechanical drawing toy in 1959 that we now know as the Etch-A-Sketch.
Examples of creativity are everywhere! They can be found in the kitchen when you don’t have all the ingredients for a recipe, in the boardroom when the quiet guy in the back of the room looks at things a little differently, in the classroom when a child says what they are thinking, and just about anyplace you choose to look for them.
I challenge you to take a creativity scavenger hunt journey around your neighborhood and identify anything creative that you see.
Here are just a few ideas for sparking your own creativity:
- Look at what someone else has done and make it your own (creative plagiarizing).
- Discover your most creative time of day and set that time aside as your hour of creation.
- If something is interesting to you, try it and see if you are good at it or if it turns you on.
- Take a class or have some lessons.
- Find a friend to support your creativity who will give you permission to consider yourself creative.
- Recognize and point out creativity in others.
- Share your creativity.
- Identify your strengths, both what you are naturally talented or good at, and what excites you. Then develop them.
Most people don’t think they are creative until someone actually says that they are. When a teacher or parent says to a child “That is very creative”, a creative child is born. When an adult is identified at work as someone with creative ideas, their creativity soars and everyone turns to them when they need a new perspective.
You are a creative person. You now have my permission to be that creative person that has always been. And, if you are a baby boomer or beyond, remember that it is never too late to find the creative genius in you.
Never, never, never forget—creativity is not just visual art.