Humans are designed to be creative, it’s in our make-up, in our very nature. We are entitled to express ourselves creatively in ways that other creatures cannot. Creative qualities lie within every human, regardless of their talent or whether they’ll get to be the next Leonardo Da Vinci. When we refer to someone as being ‘naturally creative’ we unconsciously assume that there is an opposite – a person devoid of creativity, someone who couldn’t even draw a stick man. In other words…a concrete block! As non of us are concrete blocks we can start to realise that the problem is not that we aren’t creative, but that we have not been taught to access this part of ourselves on a regular basis and with confidence.
When I say ‘this part of ourselves’ I don’t mean some distant inner place that is harder to get into than Fort Knox. Creativity is stored in the right side of your brain where our imagination lives. You can access this side of your brain anytime you like.
What is creativity? The dictionary describes it as ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something’. Therefore creativity is cooking, it’s making, it’s scribbling, it’s rearranging your furniture, it’s imagining your next holiday, it’s making up a tune to sing to your crying baby at 3am, it’s diagnosing a problem, it’s finding a solution, it’s gardening, it’s strumming a guitar. All of us have done at least one of these things at some point in our lives.
When we think of creativity we conjure up images of Monet’s Water Lilies or Van Gogh’s Starry Night. We set ourselves grand goals to achieve, like we’re going to be the next Pablo Picasso overnight. We strive to be perfect painters/writers/crafters/poets/musicians (select the word that applies to you). And when we don’t achieve this we think we have failed, that we aren’t creative, that we aren’t good enough.
This strive for perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. Perfectionism crushes creativity and paralyses our ability to express ourselves freely. It is in our very nature to be imperfect and creativity is the best way in which to express this imperfection. It is not that we aren’t creative people, it is that our negative thoughts and assumptions of failure mixed together with the perfect ideal is the grand recipe to stop us from even trying to be creative.
What if we didn’t have a perfect ideal? What if we forgave ourselves for not getting it quite right? What if we turned negative thoughts into kind thoughts? What if failure wasn’t an option because there is no such thing in creativity? By creating you are quite literally expressing your humanity, it will not be perfect, it won’t be liked by everyone and things might get messy. The point of creativity is that it is uniquely you. Your creative expression turned into any form you choose it be.
For some of us we are untangling the experiences, situations, cultures and words that became obstacles in our creative expression.
Our first pure creative expressions happen when we are young toddlers, appearing as scribbles, mark-making and endless circles. We have no inhibitions, we don’t apologise for our scribbles, we don’t even care about the results, we just do it because it’s natural. It’s in our DNA. These scribbles then transform, with schooling, into letters and numbers. It’s around this time that it’s so important to continue to encourage our children to be creative. Do away with the pressure of turning a drawing into something conceivable to an adult like a letter, number, house, dog, cat, mum etc.
The UK Government tends not to support the arts in primary schools. Any funding for subjects such as visual art needs to come from the school directly. Due to a lack of funds primary schools tend to prioritise spending on other areas of learning over visual art. This also means that there isn’t likely to be a dedicated art teacher who can guide the children with age appropriate art. By age appropriate I don’t mean ‘simple’ art projects, I mean challenging art projects that are guaranteed to have great results leading to an increase of confidence and risk taking. By the time we are around age 9 years old we enter a stage of development where we are eager to produce very realistic drawings and are very willing to push ourselves to achieve this skill. If a school (or home) can’t support this important development then it’s likely that the child will give up being creative altogether. Later on, as an adult, we become intimidated by art.
The good news is that you don’t need a rare magical talent, an art degree or a mysterious gene in your DNA. You just need to start. Don’t even think about it, just start. Making random marks with your paint brush is better than never making any marks because you aren’t the next Bob Ross. Experimenting with cooking and creating a mess is better than never cooking because you aren’t the next Jamie Oliver. Writing down your thoughts and ideas is better than never writing because you won’t create a best selling novel. It’s not about perfectionism, it’s about passion. It’s about accessing your creativity and forgiving yourself if you fall short of perfect. If perfectionism is the enemy of creativity then passion is the soul of creativity.
Good luck. Now go and have a creative day – play, explore, be free and most importantly “be yourself, everyone else is take” Dr Seuss.