Creativity is rapidly becoming the number one skill companies will hire for in the future*. But you are either a born creative or not, right? No! This is a myth. Creativity is a skill and therefore you can develop it.
Contrary to popular belief you don't need talent to be creative.
Being naturally good at something doesn't necessarily mean that you will master it. And conversely feeling like you have't got any talent doesn't necessarily stop you from getting very competent at what you want to master.
That not only goes for traditional ideas of creativity (drawing, photography, writing, making music) but also for ways of thinking (constructively, laterally, motivationally, intellectually). If you want proof of this, read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’ where he deconstructs what we think of as genius in a concept called 10,000 hours. Spend 10,000 hours learning something and you’ll start to get pretty good at it.
If reading that book doesn’t convince you, check this out – below and to the left is Van Gogh’s drawing of a carpenter (1880). He drew this during the first two years of teaching himself how to draw. Fair to say it’s not as good as his masterpieces. He struggled with proportions (the head is too big for the body) and placement (where things go in relation to each other). In fact, the drawing is not far off something most of us would be able to do after a few weeks of practicing.
[The images above are used as examples in Betty Edwards book 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' - highly recommended read if you want to learn to draw].
But he persevered and two years later was able to produce the drawing on the right -Woman Mourning (1882). See the improvement? The head size is spot on and the chair is awesome - all its elements fit together and are scaled correctly. Repetition, application and determination achieved this improvement – in other words, hard work!
So what do you need to develop your creativity:
1. Embrace failure – see it as a positive learning tool and suck it up like a chocolate milk shake. Ever watched a baby learn to walk over a period of weeks? Can you remember how many times they fell? A LOT! Literally hundreds of times for every tiny step they make. Do they give up? No! They just keep trying. So you just need to keep doing, making, experimenting, re-doing, making, experimenting.
2. Don’t take failure personally – failing when you are learning does not make you a lesser person. It is not a reflection on whether you are kind, thoughtful, engaged (all qualities I think lovely people have). It’s also not a reflection on your intellect or more importantly your ability to grow. If anything, sticking at something when it doesn’t come easily, shows a great strength of character.
3. Ignore criticism unless it is constructive – no doubt you’ve packed away your desire to be creative because someone along the way criticised something you made or an idea you expressed. It only takes one person to say something to send your vulnerable creative self shivering into the corner of shame. Don’t let this past hurt stop you trying again. You need to be the warrior that protects your creative self, your best ally. So what if what you make isn’t a masterpiece, who cares, at least you’re doing it. You often find the people that criticise in a dismissive way are not putting things into the world, so they are not making themselves vulnerable and therefore are not as brave as those who do make and share.
But how do you know when to listen to criticism? When it is feedback that gives you something to build on and is delivered with the intention of making you better at what you do. It looks something like this “I like the way you have done x, that works really well, I wonder if you tried doing y if it would be even better”.
4. Start from where you are - if you want to learn to draw and haven’t picked up a 2B pencil since primary school, just draw a line today and a doodle tomorrow. Then get yourself a great teacher (on-line, in book format, evening lessons) and just start. And if you do want to learn to draw, I can highly recommend Betty Edwards ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’.
Remember that everyone started somewhere – check out the Van Gogh picture above again of the carpenter and take courage. However my top tip is that having a good teacher will dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes you to get proficient at what you want to create.
5. Create before you consume - my hero and guru Chase Jarvis talks about this – not sure it is his meme but he backs it 100%. We live in a culture that wants you to consume 24/7 – I’m waiting for Netflix to figure out a way for people to binge watch series in their sleep! So DON’T look at social before you practice your craft or write that blog (yes I’m writing this pre looking at my phone for the day) or think about that challenge that needs solving at work. Sit down with a cuppa and whatever materials you need, to do ‘your thing’ before you consume other people's ideas and creations.
6. Find inspiration – this could be from people not in your field. I have a list of virtual mentors that I literally could not be without - Brené Brown, Mel Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Chase Jarvis, increasingly a guy called Rob Dial. They all bring stuff I need to the table. In fact, two of the five listed are motivational coaches and only one is a photographer. Other inspiration comes from reading widely, my wife (we all need a believer!), our family and friends, nature and yoga. Whatever gets you energised, follow it.
There are many more things I could share on this subject but I hope for now, if you have even the tiniest spark of creativity knocking on your heart saying “hello, can I come out now” that you let it out to play. It’s desire that counts, not achievement.
Happy creating! Sx
Let me know any tips of how you keep creative in the comments below – any daily practices you employ or people you follow that keep you inspired.
Inspirational People and their creations
Chase Jarvis - awesome photographer and social entrepreneur and creator of Creative Live – online courses in creativity and business www.creativelive.com
Brené Brown - storyteller researcher on shame and vulnerability, author of Daring Greatly www.brenebrown.com
Mel Robbins - motivational speaker, author of the ‘5 second rule’ www.melrobbins.com
Tim Ferris - brain box and thought leader, author of ‘The 4-Hour Work Week” found at https://tim.blog/
Malcolm Gladwell - journalist and author of ‘Outliers – the story of success’
The Number One Soft Skill Employers Seek - Amy Blaschka, Forbes. Available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyblaschka/2019/02/28/the-number-one-soft-skill-employers-seek-and-five-ways-top-leaders-say-to-cultivate-yours/ [Accessed 19/07/2019]
Why is Creativity Important to Employers - Education Scotland. Available at https://education.gov.scot/improvement/documents/creativity/cre24_infographics/cre24-why-is-creativity-important-to-employers.pdf [Accessed 19/07/2019]
Leaders agree: Creativity will be 3rd most important work skill by 2020. Nick Skillicorn. Available at https://www.ideatovalue.com/inno/nickskillicorn/2016/09/leaders-agree-creativity-will-3rd-important-work-skill-2020/ [Accessed 19/07/2019]