After several years of running visual thinking courses, I’m really certain that the folk I’ve met through these training sessions could now be taken as a ‘sample’. I’m no genius, but I’ve noticed a TREND!
There is a dead-set, fixed belief amongst really competent, inspiring professional types that they aren’t creative.
They often even apologise in advance for ‘not being able draw’ or ‘not having a creative bone’ as they meet me. I thought I understood – they set the expectations low and see what emerges.
But, NO! I have to admit now, people really walk around thinking they haven’t any creative talent.
So, if this is you, please, PLEASE, read on…
Here’s six massive myths about creativity you need to jettison from your belief system, now. The world needs you at your most creative, awesome, inspired and capable!
Because they just aren’t true…
Not convinced? Ok, see which of these beliefs you would raise your hand to…
1. Being creative means being like Monet or Picasso or one of those other famous artists and I’m not that –
So, do you think, like so many of us, that creativity applies only to artists? That is, people who paint or draw or play a musical instrument? It doesn’t apply to ‘regular’ people like you?
Reality is, we have far too narrow a definition of WHO is creative and what IS creativity. The terms are often used interchangeably with artist and artwork.
But is that useful? Err, no, not in my experience.
Because creative ability is in ALL of us. Yes, let me say that again – You ARE creative.
You are equipped with an amazing series of neural centres – that organise all our thoughts, decisions and plans, see patterns, make connections and imagine new possibilities.
Creative thinking is about allowing ourselves to generate ideas – sometimes wildly obtuse and divergent from the original point – make associations and blend information from different sources and contexts.
Human beings are unique in lots of ways, and human beings are especially smart in lots of ways. We are capable of acquiring and retaining immense amounts of information over the life-time of an individual; we are capable of learning and fine-tuning a great many skills and new activities; and we are capable of using and interpreting speech. But one of the most striking species-specific features of Homo sapiens sapiens, surely, is the degree of creativity and innovation which we display in our thought and behavior, both within the lives of individuals and across different human cultures. This manifests itself in story-telling, in art, in the construction of bodily ornaments and decorations, in humor, in religion-building, in theory-construction, in problem-solving, in technological innovation, and in myriad other ways. – Peter Carruthers, The evolution of creativity, 2002
2. Creative people are born that way and I wasn’t –
Many of us think that creativity is part of our family DNA lottery.
You believe you don’t have the creative gene, and so that’s not going to change.
Well, GREAT NEWS, creativity can be learned like other skills.
There are robust techniques that have been shown to improve our creative thinking abilities.
‘Openness to experience’* has been found to be a precursor to creative thinking and is a skill that can be improved if you set an intention to do so.
Habits such as learning a new language, trying different foods, reading a different genre of novel, meeting people, travelling and experiencing new landscapes and cultures can contribute to this ‘openness to experience’ and profoundly affect your neurology.
The key is to shake up your routine, expose yourself to different and new experiences and unfamiliar ways of thinking.
3. Creative brilliance happens in a ‘blinding flash of inspiration genius-ness’ and is instantly recognisable –
Do you believe that there is no rhyme or reason to the arrival of a creative breakthrough?
That the process is unpredictable and mysterious?
And, therefore, impossible to orchestrate and reproduce?
We all think everyone else’s great work was 1) great the moment it emerged, sans edits, AND 2) was instantly recognisable by everyone else that it was, in fact, amazing work.
The fact is creative work is often a long process.
Ideas sit inside people’s heads, sometimes for years, often half formed until something else happens (see Steven Johnson’s Where good ideas come from). Another person inspires, a life event comes to pass, a new perspective is glimpsed and the creative endeavour takes on a renewed path.
I point to the experience of acclaimed author, JK Rowling. She submitted her manuscript for the first Harry Potter novel to 12 publishing houses before one agreed to take it on. At that time she was advised by the editor to ‘get a day job, as there just isn’t any money in children’s books’. In hindsight we see how far this statement was from the mark. So genius isn’t always instantly recognisable.
4. I can’t be creative, I don’t have the right qualification / skills / experience –
Whitney Freya, author, speaker, artist and founder of the Creatively Fit Program opened her art studio and began holding art classes with no formal training in fine arts. She maintains that this has been a huge bonus in that people who came to her classes felt they could have a go. A lack of training was not an obstacle and Whitney was proof for them of that fact. Whitney’s lack of training gave those who came to her classes inspiration.
What if you don’t NEED qualifications? What if they got in the way? What if you gave yourself permission to jump in and try it for yourself without judgement or criticism? See how certain practices or material FEEL when you use them!
We are so heavily influenced by the need for qualifications – sanctioned bits of paper – that we are frozen and unable to pick up the tools and use them. Sometimes, I think we believe that without the right qualifications we don’t have the ‘authority’ to have an opinion, let alone express it in public.
Hidden behind the long skirt of the ‘not the right qualifications’, is the fear issue of being seen by others to perform badly. In the learning process, we often don’t hit the mark of the standards we hold for ourselves in our other aspects of our personal or professional lives. But we forget that in those areas where we are already competent, we have been building those skills for years, sometimes a decade or more.
The last thing our fragile egos can bear is looking like a complete ‘numpty’. Oh, eh gads, unforgivable.
If you can recognise where your fear of looking foolish is blocking your creative endeavours, you are half way there! Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself!
5. If I try to be creative, I will quickly run out of ideas –
I personally stand up and wave my arms about for this one.
In 2005, I returned as a ‘mature age’ student to study fine art at university (for the sheer, unadulterated pleasure of it). I secretly feared I would find this was true for me. I might have one good idea, but no possibility of more… Really.
But to my unending surprise and delight, my experience was in fact the COMPLETE OPPOSITE.
Being at art college seemed to release a flood of creative ideas. In my second year, I attended an illuminating talk by Tracey Moffat, an acclaimed Australian artist who works in photography and video. She talked about her life and experiences as an artist. She said that she suffered – not from too few – but being ‘plagued’ by TOO MANY ideas. Constantly inundated by creative concepts and project ideas, there were too many to ever work on them all. Her approach was to wait until a creative idea to dogged her for years before she would give it any attention.
Make the creative concept sing for its supper!
6. I’m too old to learn anything new –
One of my favourite artists, Rosalie Gascoigne, a New Zealand-Australian sculptor, who is famed for her assemblages and collages had her first serious exhbition in Paddington, Sydney, in 1974, aged 57. Instant success followed and a mere four years later she had become a major figure in the Australian art world, with a survey at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Many people find they have so much more life experience to draw on and so being ‘too old’ is not relevant.
I would argue it gives you so much more material to work with!
Recent studies in neural plasticity have shown that we do in fact have the capacity to learn all sorts of new skills and abilities into our more ‘mature’ years! Our brains are amazing. We should take them out for an adventure more often!
So, how to expose yourself to new and different experiences?
I have EXCITING news to share about a *side project* I’ve been working on! (have always wanted to have the rockstar claim to a ‘side project’)
The Life is Your Canvas on-line workshop is open for registration. If you haven’t already jumped on and reserved your spot, click here…
I am hosting and leading training sessions, along with five fabulous people – Whitney Freya, Cheryl Cruttenden, Tania Bosak, Christian Herron and Tim Hamons – who I GUARANTEE will stimulate different parts of your brain, expose you to new experiences and ways of thinking.
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