If I hear the phrase ‘but I’m just not a creative person’ one more time, I might possibly scream. So many of my friends utter these words without a thought for what they are actually saying. To be fair though, it’s an easy sentiment to fall into. Somewhere along the corridors of time it was decided that in order to be “Creative”, you must be an artist of immeasurable talent. Van Gogh, Matisse, Dali – now those guys were true creative geniuses. Great writers are also lumped in with this crew; Woolf, Dickens, Orwell, those were some creatively talented peeps too.
And so, when I go over to my friend’s house for a dinner party and admire her beautifully set table I raise an eyebrow when she solemnly declares, “I just got the idea from a magazine, I don’t have a creative bone in my body”. Really? You bunched those peonies into exquisite mini bouquets and created place settings worthy of Martha Stewart yet you say you don’t have one ounce of creativity?
I encounter these kinds of conversations on such a regular basis that it got me thinking. Why are all these talented women selling themselves short? What is it about creativity that makes people think you can only lay claim to it once one of your masterpieces is hanging in the Louvre?
Newsflash! Being a creative person really isn’t what you probably think it is. I wonder if all this confusion is because of the A word. Artist. Artistry is so closely entwined with creativity in our psyche that perhaps we have confused the two. When did we decide that if you don’t have natural talent in the Arts you aren’t creative?
Perhaps it’s time to start reassessing exactly what being creative means and start exploring how each and every one of us (yes, you too!) can unleash our inner creative talents. Here are 3 steps to get started:
Identify Your Talents
We are all uniquely talented in our own individual ways. You just might not have figured out exactly where your talents lie. If you can’t immediately answer the question “Where are you creative in your life?” this doesn’t mean you aren’t creative. Or talented. It just means you haven’t given the topic the thorough dissection it deserves.
The key is to look into those aspects of your life that you find enjoyable and effortless. If this proves difficult, think back to your childhood, what did you love to do? If you want to reconnect with your inner creative, try to recall your childish interests and hobbies. You might not get the same kick out of painting My Little Pony but maybe painting still does it for you? Here’s the thing about being creatively talented, it doesn’t have to manifest itself into the usual artistic outlets one would expect i.e. writing, painting, sculpting.
One of my self-declared non-creative friends styles her kids in the most incredibly cool and original outfits that make me wonder if they come in adult sizes. She has no idea that people would pay her good money to do the same for their kids and could probably eek out a very profitable career as a tot-stylist (yes, there is such a thing). Look a little deeper at those areas of your life where you employ your own stamp of creativity and do more of it.
Set Aside Time
In our busy lives, carving out time to work on a creative project might seem like wishful thinking. Would be nice but… hey reality! Yet the more important question should really be “What will happen if we don’t carve out creative time?” The answer is that if it remains untapped, creativity generally withers and eventually dies. It’s a facet of our brain that, if we refuse to use, will simply stop working the way it used to.
Creativity needs to be nurtured. It is the one expression that is truly yours and yours alone. Sure, someone else might have a similar talent but I can guarantee you that no one else will express it exactly the way that you will. Who are you to rob the world of experiencing that?
Make sure to set aside time in your week to work on whatever creative endeavors that excite you. Whether it’s giving your garden a makeover, revamping your wardrobe, journaling, scrap-booking, drawing, experimenting with new recipes. The medium doesn’t matter so much, what matters is setting aside the time for yourself to work on something that inspires you. Chances are, those precious few hours will funnel inspiration back into your life in a myriad of ways.
Originality isn’t everything
In this social-media driven age of Mommy blogs, Instagram celebrities and street-style photographers – sometimes it really can feel like it’s all been done before. It’s important not to get dragged into the mire with this line of thinking. This is something I struggled with for years. I tinkered around with endless article ideas on my computer, deleting them after Google informed me that Yes, it’s all been done before. Many times. Who needs another article on Happiness?
But then I asked myself, is anything really original anymore? There are remakes and variations and homages on almost all creative projects throughout time. My thoughts on happiness might not be purely original but they are all mine. And so I put my brave girl pants on and started to write. This time however, instead of moving my words directly to the recycle bin, I put them out into the big wide world. Yes, it may have been done before, but no one will bring a unique perspective to it quite like you will.
Having been the girl who for years was filled with excuses about not tapping into my creative potential I can tell you this. Nothing feels better than taking action. Focusing on my writing gave me a sense of purpose in my life and pulled me out of a fog of mild depression that had lingered for years. Even if you take thirty minutes a week to work on something that inspires you, those thirty minutes might just be the thing that changes your life for the better.
These wise words by Martha Graham forever changed the way I looked at creative aspirations and will hopefully change the way you view it too. “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
Victoria Cox currently resides in NYC. She's a contributor to The Conversation, Tiny Buddha, Elephant Journal & Dumb Little Man. You can connect with her on Instagram @vcox23