So, You Think You Aren’t Creative?

People say to me “You’re so creative.” Then they often say: “I’m not creative at all.” It happened to me just this week, and I’ve been mulling over it ever since, thinking of all the things I should have said to this person who discounts her own abilities. It’s made me realize that there are some beliefs about creativity that I think are all wrong.

RiskTaker_web
“Risk Taker” collage by Kit Dunsmore

The first has to do with what makes people identify themselves as creative, which depends on our definition of creativity.

Some people think being creative means being “original”: dressing differently, talking differently, living differently than the people around us. Some people think it means we make or do arty things. Artists who paint, dance, play music, or sculpt are creative and everyone else is not. Others include any kind of making when they call someone creative. Knitting, sewing, woodworking, and even cooking count as creative acts.

My definition of creativity is finding solutions to problems. They may be world problems (How do we avoid this war?), personal problems (How do I keep my boss happy and still have time to spend with my family?), or arty problems (How do I make the thing I see in my mind?).

The size and type of the problem doesn’t matter, and the originality of the solution doesn’t matter either. What matters is finding a solution and following it through. Creating order from chaos. Fixing the problem. That’s what creativity is all about.

The other creativity myth I dislike is the idea that creativity is a gift you are born with. Creativity is not a check box on a form, something you have or don’t have. Creativity is a muscle, not an eye color. Everyone has the potential to be creative. They may be weakly creative or strongly creative. It just depends on how often they try to solve problems, just like strength comes with lifting weights regularly.

Most of us solve problems all day long. Sure, they can seem trivial β€” What should I wear today? When should I make that phone call? What’s for dinner? β€” but they are still problems and they need solutions. Sometimes we fall back on something that’s worked before, sometimes we try something new. Whatever we do, we create our solution, and in the process, build our life. When we are successful with our creativity, things work better.

By my definition, scientists are creative. So are school teachers, engineers, doctors, social workers, store clerks, bus drivers, athletes, parents, students, even children. Everyone is creative in some way. But it can be hard to see.

I know it’s hard to see, because I don’t always accept my own creativity. I don’t think “making things” is what makes me creative, so even though I sew quilts, write books, and knit sweaters for dinosaurs, I don’t think of myself as creative. I think of myself as a Maker, turning my ideas into objects. The problems I solve along the way require creative solutions, so I am creative.

And so are you.

Do you think you aren’t creative? Why?

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Published by

Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

6 thoughts on “So, You Think You Aren’t Creative?”

  1. I was one of those friends saying “I’m not creative”. I equated creativity with art, crafts, baking, sewing, singing or playing an instrument. Over the past two years I have come to realize that I am creative in my own way. I am creative with stories and words. Who knew?

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    1. We seem to be really good at putting things in small boxes (“creativity = art”) and then we get stuck in them. I thought it might help to take a creative look at creativity. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Creativity requires space and time. Peace is a great way to describe the conditions needed. They’ve shown that our ability to find new solutions is hampered if we are stressed, frightened, or angry.

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