ABCs of Positivity: C Is for Creativity
Whenever the topic of creativity came up, my husband’s grandmother, Mary, would bemoan the fact that she just wasn’t creative. Her sister did amazing needlework. Her niece is still a master gardener. Mary did so poorly in the kitchen that she once bought food from the neighborhood Italian place and took it to a potluck, trying to pass it off as her own. She wasn’t arty or a gardener or much of a cook, but she was an amazing storyteller. Funny as all get-out, just a little bawdy, and told with such detail that I felt I was witnessing the stories as she told them. I would try to reassure her that her creativity revealed itself in her stories, but I don’t think she believed me because that wasn’t what she perceived creativity to be.
We have been trained to relegate creativity to artists: songwriters, poets, novelists, playwrights, musicians, painters, sculptors, dancers, actors. That is a fallacy too many of us have bought into – certainly these are creative people, but these are not the only ways people can be creative. Mary’s storytelling, untrained though she was at it, was her art.
I was blessed (and cursed?) to have a very creative mother. So much so that I’m not sure she ever purchased an item of clothing that she didn’t take home and “improve” in some way – usually by adding lace to it. Same with picture frames and other household items. I think this must have been the reason we always had craft supplies around. When my younger sister and I were in high school, our older sister taught us how to make jewelry. So we went to the end-of-bolt fabric store, which also sold beads and jewelry findings, and spent a week making earrings. We convinced our parents to let us go to the swap meet and set up shop. Didn’t sell a single pair of earrings – but I’m still impressed we had the wherewithal to try.
Of course, my little sister passed the creative gene down to her daughter, Samantha. I remember Sam going to a friend’s house for a sleepover. She came home shaking her head. “I asked her, ‘Where’s your craft stuff?’ and she didn’t have any!”
But as I taught in my workshop – and as I began this post – creativity is not just about artsy-craftsy. Ask anyone who’s been married for a couple decades – they’ll tell you it takes some creativity to keep things interesting and figure out how to wade through troubled times. Firefighters, hostage negotiators, and other first responders frequently have to be creative to solve problems on the spot. Henry Ford wasn’t creative in the artistic sense, but the story is that he got the idea for the auto assembly line after visiting a meatpacking house. Creativity also means seeing old things in a new light – finding a new use for something already in existence.
Reasons to Develop Your Creativity
- It’s a key component to problem-solving.
- Use it to improve your relationships.
- It’s vital to your self-expression.
- You’ll need it if you ever want to start a business, win an award, or receive a promotion.
- It’s helpful when deciding where to go on vacation – and knocking items off your bucket list.
- You’ll need it if you want to remodel your home or office.
- It will improve your health.
- It will be a huge factor when you eventually decide to write that book.
- It will give you greater confidence.
- It will make you feel like a child again.
Steps for Developing Your Creativity
STEP 1. Devote yourself to creativity. Set goals, enlist the help of others, and put time aside each day to develop your skills.
STEP 2. Develop your sense of curiosity. Rather than viewing curiosity as indulgent or a waste of time, see it as a mechanism for enhancing your natural creativity. Instead of reprimanding yourself, reward yourself when you explore your curiosity about something. Find opportunities to explore new topics.
STEP 3. Be willing to take risks. Though your efforts won’t lead to success every time, you can’t know if you don’t try. Boost your creative thinking and talents by taking a chance next time you hear yourself dismissing an idea as silly, frivolous, or stupid.
STEP 4. Applaud your efforts. Make note of your creativity progress, celebrate your efforts, and constantly be on the lookout for ways to reward your creativity.
STEP 5. Make time for creative outlets. You won’t be able to develop your creative talents if you don’t make time for them. Schedule some time each week to concentrate on some type of creative project.
STEP 6. Your mood matters – a positive mood will allow you to tap into your natural creativity. Eliminate the negative thoughts or self-criticism that impedes your creative thoughts and processes.
STEP 7. Thank your fear of failure for trying to protect you – then release it. Fear can paralyze your progress. Get over worrying about mistakes – you either succeed or you learn. Failure is part of success, because each time you fail, you’re one step closer to achieving your goal; you now have one more piece of the puzzle in place.
STEP 8. Do some brainstorming. Rule: no criticism allowed; there are no bad/wrong ideas; the more the better; do it in a group; piggy-back off others’ ideas.
STEP 9. Look for a variety of solutions. Mindmapping is an excellent way to unleash creative ideas. Or, make a list of 15 ideas for ways to solve your problem; then, cross off the first 10 answers and come up with 10 additional ideas.
STEP 10. Read stories about great inventors.
Practicing Your Creativity
- Take a different way home from work every day this week – notice something you’ve never noticed before.
- Wear something interesting – new jewelry, new tie, fun socks, fun headband.
- Go to your favorite restaurant and order something you’ve never ordered before.
- Buy and read a magazine in a subject you don’t normally read.
- Watch a movie in a genre you generally avoid.
- Take an interest in other people – talk to the person next to you on the plane, in line, at events.
- Spend time around/watching children at play.
- Buy or make a creativity journal – write and draw in it regularly.
- Use your phone’s digital recorder to capture your ideas so you can explore/develop them later.
- Surround yourself with items that represent creativity to you: a crystal ball; bottle of Heinz ketchup to denote your goal to come up with 57 new ideas); oversize scissors to encourage you to come up with ways to cut calories (or expenses); jumper cables to jump-start your creativity.
- Build a creative space, stocked with books, videos, games, modeling clay, paper and pencils/crayons/markers, toys, music, candles – whatever inspires you.
- This week, change “yes, but…” to “yes, and…”
- Take a class in something you’ve never studied before.
If nothing else, adding skills to your creative toolbox will bring more color (brilliance) and delight to your life.