Can you teach yourself creativity? If you’ve ever told yourself “I’m not creative” you likely caused your own creative block. Learn steps to teach yourself creativity.
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Think of the last time you said “I’m not creative.”
What do you remember about this? What was going on around you? What were you thinking about doing?
My guess is you were thinking of trying something new and talked yourself out of it by saying “I’m not creative.”
I see this all the time on Facebook groups dedicated to bullet journaling. People are scared to start using a bullet journal because they are afraid they won’t be able to make it pretty. Some people even buy notebooks and never write in them because they are so fearful of putting a mark on the page and messing up.
Does this mean they are not creative? Or does it mean something else?
What Does Creativity Mean To You?
Does Creativity Mean Unique?
Let’s be smarty-pants for a moment. The definition that comes up on Google for creativity is: “relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m overwhelmed. While I am attracted to the imagination part, original ideas and artistic work feel a little bit intimidating. They make me want to say “I’m not creative.”
What the heck does “relating to original ideas” mean? Does this mean that you have to come up with something completely new and innovative that no one else has thought of before?
Well, that’s not possible. There are billions of people out there. All of those billion people are always thinking of something. It is unlikely that you will think of something completely original.
So, let’s say you think of something new (to you) but someone else already thought of it. Does this mean you weren’t creative? It’s not like you copied them. Isn’t coming up with the ideas creative even if someone else already did? Couldn’t that mean we were both creative, the other person was just first?
Does Creativity Mean Art?
Although art is creativity, not all creativity is art (at least not in the general sense). Some examples of creativity that wouldn’t necessarily be art?
- problem solving
- figuring out how to fix things
- developing a computer program
The Problem With Believing Conventional Definitions
If you think you have to come up with something completely original or that you have to create art in order to be creative when these are not your natural gifts, what happens?
You tell yourself you’re not creative, that you aren’t good at it.
What happens when we tell ourselves we are not good at something or that we can’t do something? Frankly, we just don’t do it.
When we say we aren’t good at something such as “I’m not creative,” we put a wall up in front of that thing. We don’t take the time to go do it. It is a self fulfilling prophecy because then of course then it’s true we’re not good at it because we don’t do it.
Here’s the thing, even if we do start trying to do the thing we fear we will suck at, we might quit easily because it is hard. Seth Godin said it best on this podcast when he said people feel incompetent while learning something new until they are competent at it.
Isn’t that true? Do you remember learning to drive? You had to pay attention! It was hard. I almost went in a ditch a few times before I learned that you have to turn the steering wheel back after turning haha.
When you feel incompetent, you don’t want to do it. Feeling incompetent reinforces your belief that you aren’t good at something. Well, because you actually aren’t good at it until you’re good at it.
Have you ever started something but then gave up as soon as you started questioning your ability. You likely didn’t even give yourself a chance!
Alternative Definition: What is Creative?
It’s time to look at things differently.
Copyblogger has this wonderful poster showing definitions of creativity which I have printed out and taped to the wall where I do my work. The definitions on the poster are varied and capture the more nuanced description of creativity.
My favorite is by Sonia Simone: “Just making something. It might be something crummy or awkward or not ready for prime time. If you make something, you are creative.”
Um, I can do that. I make stuff sometimes.
And of course, look at the statement by Seth Godin: “This might not work.”
Yes! That works for me too. This says that even if you try and fail, you may still be using the creative process!
To normalize it further, Michael Grybko (a neuroscientist) says “it’s our brains doing what they do.”
It seems he is saying in order for me to not be creative, I’d have to be brain dead. I like him.
A Change In Perspective
The conventional definition seems to imply either you are or you are not creative. You either have come up with things no one else has ever come up with or you haven’t.
Instead, it seems creativity comes from practice, from allowing yourself to play around with things, to have ideas without beating yourself up.
So, Can You Learn Creativity?
I you have to teach yourself to be creative. Creativity comes from experiencing things, doing the “work” (or play) of creativity.
When you do new things, it opens your mind up to think about things differently. You have to be open to new experiences and go into them fully.
Consider times you may have been creative without knowing that it was creativity! The following must use the creative process:
- Solving problems (coming up with solutions and how to do things)
- Relating to people through story (“That reminds me of a time when…”)
- Being empathic. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes takes creativity because you have to put yourself in what you imagine their life to be
- Making connections between things. Seeing the connections between ideas.
- Seeing animals in the clouds
- Figuring out a way to get someone else to do something 😉
If you can do that stuff, I think you can also explore more creative pursuits.
It is time for you to stop saying “I’m not creative” and do a little creative booster challenge.
Try new things. The way I’m doing this is that each week, I’m going to either try something new or continue the pursuit of something that I am trying.
For example, I’ve decided to take a course on improving my handwriting called Positive Scribes. As I’ve gotten into bullet journaling, I’ve found that writing things out by hand helps me to be mindful of what I am doing. It helps me to be much more thoughtful.
In fact, it helped me to start challenging this core belief that “I am not creative.”
You see, I want my bullet journal to be pretty. I accept that it may be flawed, but I want to explore different avenues instead of just saying “I can’t. I’m not creative.”
Through the different lists I’ve made, I’ve started to explore things that I want to try.
So instead of saying “I’m not creative” think of yourself as a “creative sprout.” When you find yourself saying “I can’t,” commit to stopping yourself and doing it anyway. I created a cheat sheet to help you to challenge limiting beliefs. Enter your email and download it here:
When you have thoughts of not being good enough, pause and allow myself to be a learner rather than a perfectionist.
Marlena is the blogger behind apenandapurpose.com, where she writes about using journaling for self improvement and reaching goals in life and business. Using her experience as a Licensed Psychologist with a Master’s in Business, she teaches people how to break through negative thoughts and fear to do what matters. For more about me read my about page.