Introduction: Why Do We Think We Are Not Creative?
“I’m not creative.”
“I’d love to quilt, but I’m just not talented.”
“I can never pick the right colors to use in my quilts.”
“I have this idea for a pattern, but I couldn’t make it. It wouldn’t be good enough.”
“I love the look of free motion quilting, but I wouldn’t know where to begin to start, so I don’t.”
I have heard people say these things and more over my years of visiting quilt stores, quilt shows, or even online in discussions. These thoughts are tremendously common, and the reasons for why are very understandable. We are all born creative, and we all experience events that work to hamper our creativity. An article I found on the Art of Creativity summarizes this quite well:
Our experience of creativity in childhood shapes much of what we do in adulthood, from work to family life. But if creativity is a child’s natural state, what happens on the way to adulthood?
Amabile’s research has identified the main creativity killers:
- Surveillance: Hovering over kids, making them feel that they’re constantly being watched while they’re working.
- Evaluation: Making kids worry about how others judge what they are doing. Kids should be concerned primarily with how satisfied they—and not others—are with their accomplishments.
- Competition: Putting kids in a win/lose situation, where only one person can come out on top. A child should be allowed to progress at his own rate.
- Overcontrol: Telling kids exactly how to do things. This leaves children feeling that any exploration is a waste of time.
- Pressure: Establishing grandiose expectations for a child’s performance. Training regimes can easily backfire and end up instilling an aversion for the subject being taught.
I can definitely related to evaluation, competition, and pressure being the top reasons I can feel like I am not creative. If you have the time, I invite you to revisit my previous post about Creativity and Time which explores this in more detail.
The Truth: You ARE Creative
The truth is that you are creative. And if you want to to awaken that creativity and start to put it into practice by learning a new skill it is not too late! There is no better time than now and if you’ve got no one to encourage you, then I’ll be that person and cheer you on.
The biggest difference between someone who is creative and someone who is not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. So I want to champion and nudge you into starting to believe this about yourself. Once you have a particular identity and set of beliefs about yourself, you become interested in seeking out the skills needed to express your identity and beliefs.
Are you ready to trust that you are creative? Let’s explore thoughts and mindsets to help keep you in a creative zone.
There Is No Such Thing As Failure
Taking a leap to try something new and expand your creativity can be a scary step. Those creativity killers that were mentioned earlier can easily creep out to tell you that what you have done is not successful. Whenever you try to do something and do not succeed, you do not fail. You have simply learned something that does not work. Try asking yourself, “What have I learned about what does not work?” or “What have I discovered that I did not set out to discover?”
Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives — at least the successful ones — learn not to take failure so personally.
“Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often,” Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein’s creative genius.
Quilting blogs are a continual source of comfort and reassurance for me. We share what does and does not work for us, and that makes the successes even sweeter. Having a community to support me through the good, the bad, and (yes) the ugly can makes the process easier for me.
Daydreaming And Mindfulness
Daydreaming is anything but a waste of time. Many of us know from experience that our best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere. My father used to leave his job in the middle of the day when facing a difficult problem and go home to mow our grass. By getting his brain focused on a different and more mundane task, he was able to think about the problem differently and he would often come up with a solution. When I would get home from school at the end of the day to find our lawn mower in a random spot in the yard, I knew that my dad would tell us about a solution to a problem he found over dinner.
Perhaps daydreaming isn’t for you. Perhaps mindfulness or mediation might be. Science backs up the idea that mindfulness really can boost your brain power in a number of ways. Whatever method works best for you, having the ability to step outside yourself can reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mental clarity when you do need to focus, which leads to better creative thought.
Seek Out New Experiences
By exposing yourself to new experiences by trying something new, taking a class, or watching a tutorial online, you are creating new sensations and states of mind. And that openness to experience is a significant predictor of creative output. I can clearly see this in the quilting community and urge you to peruse Pinterest or YouTube for tutorials and techniques if you are ever looking for some creative inspiration.
Sometimes I just collect up these ideas and experiences and am amazed at how I can think of putting ideas together later. I believe that our brains, if allowed, are constantly seeking connections and that the more we expose ourselves to, the more creative connections we can create later.
Establish a Routine
This may seem counter intuitive when it comes to creativity, but the truth is that we are what we do repeatedly. So when starting something new, it can be helpful to establish a routine to help keep yourself committed to developing the new habit.
A great example of this is the Quilt Design A Day (QDAD) group.
The goal is to spend a little time (15-20 minutes) each day, creating a quilt design. The design can be as simple or as complex as you like. To spark our creativity, we have users contribute images and color palettes for inspiration. In addition to producing a design daily, QDAD helps members strengthen their creative process and hone their creative style by sharing constructive feedback.
When I have the time, I really enjoy the creative spark that participating in the QDAD can give my day.
What makes you get into a creative zone, and how do you remove creative block obstacles?