We have all said the words, “I’m not that creative.” We have all felt that way. The problem is, that is a lie. We are ALL creative. It’s part of being human. We are creative when we learn to talk and take our first steps. We are creative when we play pretend as toddlers. We are creative when we lie to our parents as teens, cook our first meals, and do our taxes. Creativity is the act of putting your brain to work solving a problem.
So why do we tell ourselves that we aren’t creative? There are so many reasons, but the biggest confidence killer is perfectionism. Perfectionism tells us that our efforts aren’t good enough. It discounts the amazing things we do, and judges us for not living up to ridiculous expectations. Perfectionism compares us to others without context. After all that, it’s hard to blame anyone for not feeling creative. The good news is, you can reconnect with your creativity and battle perfectionism.
1. Develop a Creative Habit
Creativity is a skill, not a personality trait. If you develop a habitual practice, whether it’s once a day or once a month, you can strengthen your creativity and your confidence. Think of it like working out. If you only work out occasionally, you don’t see much benefit. If you make a habit out of it, you see consistent benefits!
A creative practice can take as little as five minutes at a time. Try doing brain games, like Sudoku or Mad Libs. You could also doodle for a few minutes a day, or write a haiku for a coworker. Anything that flexes your brain for a few minutes a day will help build your creativity.
2. Copy Stuff You Love
Kids do it all the time, and we praise them for it. When a child draws their favorite cartoon character, we put it on the fridge. But adults associate creativity with originality. To be creative, we have to come up with something that no one has done before. That’s impossible!
Painters used to spend years replicating other people’s art in school. They wouldn’t be allowed to explore their own style until they had mastered the old techniques. Now, we look at it as a failure if every line you draw isn’t totally original. I say, copy stuff. The best thing I did for my visual art was copy techniques of other people’s work. Copying, tracing, coloring; they are all tools to help us learn. Fill your practice with beautiful work, and eventually you will find your own style.
3. Recognize What You Already Do
Can we all agree to give ourselves credit for the hard work we put in! We practice, we risk, we fail, we do it again. We create things everyday and then tell ourselves they don’t count. Creativity is everywhere. Take a minute to reflect on everything you do that stimulates that creative brain!
Cooking meals, decorating a home, even solving a problem requires creative thinking. You know that weird text conversation you had with your bestie last week? That required creativity. (Why does it always come back to aliens? Just me?) Think about those times, and let yourself enjoy your creative feats. If you reflect on creativity, soon you’ll be able to recognize it in action.
4. Make Something Ugly!
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking why make something if it’s going to be ugly. Or maybe you’re thinking that you make ugly stuff all the time. Okay, I don’t know what you’re thinking… either way, take the risk and make something that really sucks. But don’t just start an ugly project, finish it. Be proud of your failures, because they are making you more creative.
So, go ahead and try that wasabi cherry recipe. Stick those cherries right in your Manhattan, then pour the whole thing down the drain when it’s too dang spicy to drink (true story). That’s a beautiful thing. Find an awesome craft on Pinterest, then try it out even though you only have half the supplies. I’m sure flour is the same as cornstarch when you’re making DIY thinking putty. It’s fine. Draw a picture of your dog, even if it’s a stick figure. You drew that stick figure. You are an artist, and that is art. The important thing is that you’re creating.
5. Find an audience
Now show it to someone! Build an audience to hold you accountable and support your work. Personally, I love the maker community on Instagram. I’ve found a supportive group of people that share and lift each other up. There is nothing I love more than telling someone how awesome their work is.
You don’t have to have a huge social media following to share your creativity. Throw a dinner party and serve a creative recipe or home-brewed beer. Text a picture of your latest knit creation to your best friend. Start a 30 day lettering challenge with your significant other! No matter how you show your work to the world, get it out there.