Does the very question send you into a song-and-dance about how you don’t have a creative bone in your body and you never have?
Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who owns every bit of your creative spirit. You make your living doing graphic design or photography or playing piano. You may even refer to yourself as “a creative.” I know some people like that—and I envy them.
For the rest of us, this creativity question brings up agita, judgment and excuses. And maybe memories, too. Like that time when we made something artistic … and somebody mocked our effort. A teacher, a parent, that mean kid who sat a couple seats behind us in second grade.
That long-ago episode had an impact. And there were others like it. So now, all these years later, we say we can’t paint. We don’t draw. We only sing in the shower.
Or maybe we give something a try. We pick up a lump of clay, or take a jewelry-making class, or join a choir. We laugh at our own efforts. And remind ourselves that we never were creative.
What about being creative at work? It’s a nice idea, but it isn’t really practical is it? Not when you consider the kind of work we do. We have to make a living, we can’t do it playing around.
Here’s a whole new way to look at this creativity question, courtesy of Chase Jarvis who founded CreativeLive. You may be familiar with the online education platform. They offer live classes in Photo & Video, Art & Design, Music & Audio, Maker & Craft, and Business & Money.
As you might guess from the subjects they cover, Chase says emphatically, “Everybody is creative.” Yes, that includes you. And me! (I’m one of those people who says, “I’m not creative at all.”)
We all create something, he insists. You. Me. Every single one of us. Creativity is fundamental to our work, and to who we are as human beings.
The mistake many of us have made is equating creativity with art. Chase suggests a broader view. Whether we bake a cake, write computer code, or raise a family … we’re creating.
And this creativity we all have, it’s like a muscle. The more we use our creativity, the more creativity we have. So, obviously, we should be using it. Every single day.
What stops us from fully owning our creativity, making the most of it, bringing our whole creative self to every project we take on and every goal we pursue?
We’re afraid. There’s bound to be feedback. What if it’s critical? What if somebody doesn’t like it? What if our stitches are crooked? If our ad campaign fails? If our presentation goes south?
What if we feel foolish? Well, I could go on, but maybe I’m projecting. You know what you’d be fearing if you really put creative effort into something.
How to get past that fear?
Here’s a suggestion from Chase’s new book, Creative Calling: separate what you produce from you and your identity.
Refer to it as the blog post, the dinner, the sales deck. Replacing “my” with “the” puts a little space between you and what you’ve produced. Maybe it’s not perfect. The imperfection is not a reflection of your worth as a human being.
And, whatever it is, produce a lot of it. Here’s a story, which may or may not be apocryphal. On the first day of a pottery class, the teacher divides the group in two.
- One half of the class has an assignment: make one beautiful piece of pottery this semester. Pour all your effort into polishing and perfecting that one piece of pottery.
- The other half has a different goal: produce as much pottery as you possibly can. Never mind quality, it doesn’t matter if its perfect or even good. The mission is volume.
At the end of the semester, the people that put all their effort into making one masterful thing had one piece of pretty good pottery.
The group that focused on volume produced better work, and obviously much more of it.
Repetition is the key, along with dropping judgment and just putting out the work. That gives us a freedom. And freedom makes the work better.
One last idea about becoming more creative. It’s Chase’s blueprint for creative success:
- Imagine what you want to produce. The financial report, the website, the conference—what is it?
- Design a plan. What steps will you take, what habits will it take to get you there?
- Execute the plan. This is all about getting it done.
- Amplify your impact. Develop a community around your work so there are people who care what you’ve done.
Are you starting to rethink your work? Even if you’ve never considered yourself creative, here’s a good way to start.
Post a (creative) comment below about how you can embrace your own creativity.