How do you cultivate your creativity?

Are you creative? How do you demonstrate your creativity? (If you believe you are creative). When I was young I loved to make those pictures that built up in layers. I thought I had ‘nice’ handwriting (though not as beautiful as my Dad’s) and I dabbled a bit in writing poetry – an outlet for my teenage angst! But I wouldn’t have described myself as creative.

In fact, I was decidedly uncreative. My Mum did (and still does) embroidery; making each of us a stocking for Christmas. My Dad was musical, gifted in languages, could make anything out of wood, took photos…so very creative in my opinion! My brother could draw and would invent stuff like rocket-powered shoes. My Nana was a real artist and we spent summers daubing paint on a slate (I grew up in Wales), making flower art at her kitchen table. Nothing I did compared to the creativity found in my immediate family. 

Cultivating Creativity

In Brené Brown’s book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are’ (a book I would HIGHLY recommend by the way) she talks about wholehearted living. Brené discusses a number of guideposts to living a wholehearted life including ‘Cultivating Creativity’

What is creativity? 

Creativity is defined as the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; it is often synonymous with inventiveness. When I talk to clients and friends about their creativity there seems to be an idea that you either have it, or you don’t. Brené Brown believes that everyone has the ability to be creative. She says that creativity is important because

“The only unique contribution that we will everm make in the world will be born out of our creativity” – Brené Brown

Using our creativity can provide us with a sense of meaning and fulfilment – but how many of us use it? 

Challenging our thoughts about creativity

If you believe, as I did for many years, that you need to be artistically gifted with the ability to draw, paint or play music to be considered creative then let’s challenge that thought. 

When I was about 28 I decided I wanted to learn to quilt. I had a mad notion that I’d make a quilt each for Christmas; inspired by my Nana’s quilt that lay on my own bed. I wrote to her and she sent me ideas, swatches of fabric and advice. As I practised I found I loved quilting and realised that I could be creative in this way. I allowed it to grow, letting it spill out into my work where I shared my ideas and tried new things. It also made me challenge the limiting belief that I had that I wasn’t creative. I came round to the way of thinking that we could be creative in lots of ways. I went on to do a poetry challenge where I wrote a poem a day for a year; I finished the quilts for the gifts; I’ve made cushions, blinds, blankets, stockings. Sure I am still terrible at drawing/sketching/painting – art as I think of it, but it doesn’t mean I am not creative. 

Now, I use my writing as a creative outlet – through this blog and also, since lockdown, through my poetry. 

You might use your creativity in some of these ways: 

  • taking beautiful photos
  • planning your business
  • inventing new recipes in the kitchen
  • solving problems
  • in the way you dress (my eldest does this a lot!)
  • designing your living space
  • public speaking
  • making videos on youtube
  • playing with/distracting your children

The creativity killer

The thing that killed my creativity was comparing myself to others. I measured myself against others and found myself coming up short. I didn’t consider the time it had taken for them to practice or hone their craft. I bought into the family motto of ‘if at first, you don’t succeed, give up‘. In fact, Theodore Roosevelt said: 

“Comparison is the thief of joy”

A saying I wholeheartedly agree with. We have all seen, and likely experienced, the damage that comparing ourselves to others does. It magnifies our own insecurities and inevitably we feel that we aren’t enough. We spend so much time trying to be like everyone else that we forget who we are. We lose our authenticity and lose sight of the importance of being ourselves, of being creative and of practising gratitude. Without these things, we cannot live with purpose or connection. We cannot live wholeheartedly. 

Cultivate your creativity

So how do we let go of comparison and cultivate our creativity? Here are three ways that I have found to work over the years. 

  1. Find what makes you creative. Remember that when we are creating, we are also cultivating meaning. In order to add value to the world, we have to begin with our passion and creativity. Everyone’s creative process is different – do what works for you. Challenge your limiting beliefs about what makes you creative. 
  2. Let go of comparison. Letting go allows us to be ourselves. If we stop competing and trying to be someone we’re not then we free up time and are much more likely to succeed. You cannot fail at being yourself. It’s OK to want to improve and grow and learn from others – the key is to focus on progress and celebrate your achievements. If it’s not working, explore what’s really going on and your motivation for your goal. 
  3. Schedule in your creativity. This sounds like the antidote for spontaneity and creativity, doesn’t it?! The truth is though that many of us prioritise everything else above being creative. How many times have you put off that project? I have a quilt that I have been ‘meaning to do’ since 2013! What if you flip it around and choose to prioritise your creativity? What if you see that when it’s made a priority then it can spark innovation. It might be challenging at first to carve out time to cultivate your creativity but the feelings of satisfaction and fulfilment you will get will be worth it. 

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