You Are Creative!


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.

Einstein Quote

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.


creative brain

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?

50 thoughts on “You Are Creative!

  1. Helen says:

    My dad used to come home at last lunch time too and mow the grass . I always thought it was time management but it was probably head space . I need to set aside time to be creative , in any form. And I like trying new things and thinking “outside the box” though I don’t slways carry it through . And I don’t believe I am amy more creative than those who claim not to be . I am creative because I allow myself to be . I thought I couldn’t bake then last year I entered a baking challenge with a friend , just between us, and it turned out I can bake .

    1. I had never heard of anyone else mowing for the same reason, and so I love hearing your dad did that, too. I really like your thought that, “I am creative because I allow myself to be.” Yes! :)

  2. Carol says:

    Thank you for a very inspiring article, I’m saving it to read when I get that “I can’t do this” moment.

    1. You are welcome and I hope it helps in that moment!

  3. Judy says:

    Awesome post, Yvonne! It’s funny, I never thought of myself as being creative. When I initially got bitten by the quilting bug, I was shocked by my own creativity! People who had known me since childhood would ask “Where did this come from?” and I would just shrug and say “Who knew??!” It is amazing what happens when we allow ourselves to just do and enjoy the ride not worrying about ‘messing it up’ or making mistakes. And the story about your dad mowing just makes me smile! :)

    1. I love hearing about people who just jump right in and start making things without even thinking to pause or worry about “creativity”. I truly believe we all have it inside us to be creative.

  4. Jan O says:

    To me, having the time to “play” is what leads to a creative result. With time enough to focus on something, I kind of “get in the zone” and the project seems to flow. But that focused feeling may have more to do with the making, the production, than the concept….
    PS – I love your graphics, especially the pencils and the gear brain.

    1. I agree that “play” is a really important aspect that we tend to overlook. It is fun to be incorporating it back into my life.

  5. Shauna says:

    It is funny, but I have never labeled myself as creative. However I love creating quilts. I can relate to all of those creativity killers. I’m working on recognizing the creativity in myself and accepting it. I find that I’m the most creative when I relax and let myself just be. I’m my harshest critic and if I relax then everything flows better.

    1. I can tell you have a love of creating quilts, and I find your use of color, quilting design choices, and fabric selection to be super creative! I agree that we can be our own worst critic, and finding ways to ignore that inner critic can be crucial to good flow and fun. :)

  6. quiltingitout says:

    I love this. Since I was pretty young I remember thinking I wasn’t artistic or creative. One of my sisters was the artistic one in the family I was always better with numbers and science and things that could be proven to have a definitive answer. I hated art class in high school and barely put any effort in. When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter and my husband was about to deploy I decided to try crocheting to keep myself busy. I finally realized I could be creative and to stop listening to those doubts in my head. Since then I have picked up knitting, hand embroidery, baking, sewing, and quilting. It feels so good to create and I wish I didn’t waste all of that time doubting myself. Awesome blog post Yvonne; very inspiring. Wow sorry about the novel about myself I really got into it. :)

    1. YES!!! I love how you found your creative voice, and I absolutely love getting to hear your personal story – no apologizing for sharing. One of the best parts of these kind of discussion posts are the comments, and I hope that someone else reads your story, relates, and is inspired to find their own creative voice. :)

  7. Christine Sherman says:

    This is a really great post Yvonne. So many valid points made. It reminded me I’m not going to get anywhere without trying. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It can feel scary, but the other thing I am passionate about is that we are doing our best work now, and so we just need to embrace it and go for it! :)

  8. knitnkwilt says:

    I always enjoy reading about creativity–at the moment I’m reading “How to Steal Like an Artist.” Most important for me is setting up a situation where “failure” (even if I am the only one who knows what a project tried to be, even if I learn from it) doesn’t waste fabric. So most of my experiments are 25 x 25, 40 x 40, or 40 x 60, sizes for charity quilts for projects for my various quilt guilds. A “failed” design will still keep someone warm.

    1. I think your attitude about “failure” in quilting, that it still keeps someone warm, is a great way to embrace creativity and an adventurous spirit!

  9. carol n says:

    I follow now on bloglovin. I just go to my sewing room, never a problem, just never enough time!

    1. That is awesome to hear that it is never a problem for you! :)

  10. For me, just starting a project leads to creativity. I used to scrapbook with a group of friends and my sis would always say ‘I can’t do that’. My response to her was just start. Having time to play around, put this piece here, that one there, led to a ‘creative’ layout. It’s the same for me with quilting. The more I do it, the more ideas I have and the more I want to try. There’s also something inside that drives creativity. I have *always* got to be trying a craft of some sort; there’s something in me that pushes me to create. I’m not truly happy unless I’m trying to make something.

    1. It is so lovely to hear people like you who are so self aware and know that you need to be making or creating something to be happy. :) And yes – creativity does not get used up at all! The more you make, the more there is!

  11. Very well said Yvonne. I identify with so much of this. I was often told that I was too logical and academic to be creative. It’s such a lie. The truth is, you can’t be a good academic if you’re not creative. I think Einstein said it well.
    There is always self doubt behind the creative process, often caused by comparison and criticism both from the self and others. What would the world be like if Monet or Picasso had taken all that to heart? Or if The Beatles or J.K Rowling had given up after the first several rejections? And wasn’t Harry Potter eventually published by a German comic book company that had never released a novel before? It just goes to show that some people who claim to be the arbiters of what is good creative work have no conception of what most other people consider good creative work.
    I believe Sam Hunter has a good article on her blog about what constitutes art and when we become artists. Her thought is “we become artists at the point at which we decide we are artists.” I thought it might interest you if you haven’t read it. I’ll see if I can dig it up.

    1. Thank you for the link, I will definitely go take a look.

      Comparison is such a difficult thing. We all do it, but some of us take it too much to heart and become paralyzed with moving forward.

      1. It’s definitely a challenge. But what I’ve noticed is that it often doesn’t seem to make a huge deal on the quilt world, as far as business goes. As in, my work isn’t as lovely as Karen’s, but if I put pictures of what I’m capable out there, and charge less than she does, then I’ll likely get some customers. Or this quilt pattern isn’t terribly original, no one will buy it, so I won’t release it. Well, I saw the latest designs from one established pattern company, and to me they both looked like copies of quilts from a couple of years ago. It was probably completely unintentional, but nonetheless I was upset that this company had done something so boring. Other quilters wouldn’t even notice because they don’t follow the same designers I do, or have the same pattern stash. Another blogger I follow posted a pic of something that she designed in EQ7. It was the exact same pattern a friend of mine recently released. What a coincidence! But there are only so many things you can do with half square triangles, or maybe she’d seen that quilt at a show or online and not consciously remembered. I pointed it out because I didn’t want the blogger to get in trouble for any copyright infringement. People in the music industry get sued for that all the time – think George Harrison, Cold Play – and it’s part of how the creative purpose works.
        As for the “my work isn’t good enough by contrast” on a personal level, that’s something that’s drilled in to a lot of people from a young age, and it takes time and self awareness to deal with it.

  12. Dena says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I agree, we are all creative. I enjoy the process of creating and often reflect on struggles that turn into victories when I look at the final piece. Creativity is personal expression and a vehicle to learn more about ourselves. Do I have patience for one creative technique over another? Do I tend to lean toward more one genre over another? What color do I really like? Questions like these begin to surface and are slowly answered with each new project.

    1. I really like the way you approach thinking about your finished work to help guide you in the future; those are all great, reflective questions worth pondering. :)

  13. Cheryl says:

    You always have such thought provoking posts, I really like the quotes you have in this one. I hope that I am bringing up my kids to be creative and just try new things.

    1. The fact that you are thinking about your children’s creativity is almost the entire battle, I think, Cheryl. :) And how awesome for them to get to see YOU being so creative! :)

  14. Kaja says:

    I love your thoughtful discussion posts Yvonne: this one is brilliant and the comments are part of a great discussion. I grew up thinking that being creative and being able to draw were one and the same. I can’t draw, therefore I’m not creative. I got going when I stopped using that ‘creative’ word and just started thinking of myself as someone who wanted to make stuff.

    1. Yes – the comments are where the meat of these discussions occur!! I do think that there is no one right way to do anything, and I am glad you were able to think of yourself as a maker. :)

  15. RuthB says:

    Creating always surprises me. Things work out differently from what you had in your head on some projects and an on others exactly as you sketched them. Luckily quilting for me is quite pictorial and with a little patience i can get the design down where I would struggle painting it. It is a very versatile medium with so much to continuously learn it lends it itself to exploration. Just going with it and letting yourself explore is for me the best part and when i feel the most creative.

    1. The great thing about quilting is that there are enough styles, methods, and designs to please just about anyone. If you don’t want to know where you are headed, use improv! If you really want to know how it is going to turn out, but a quilt kit! It is really satisfying when something turns out just how I had envisioned it, and it is also a fun adventure when things change along the way. :)

  16. Yup. I am creative. I rock. :)
    I have never doubted my creativity. Interestingly, I don’t feel comfortable describing myself as artistic. Somehow, I see that as separate from ‘my’ sort of creativity. For example, I can drawn, but I am more likely to draw something I can see, such as an arranged still life, than a doodle or something random from my imagination.

    1. You do rock!
      I completely related to not being as comfortable describing myself as artistic. I have no trouble saying that I am creative, but I just somehow cannot classify myself as an artist.

  17. Jasmine says:

    I appreciate the reminder not to stifle the creativity in my kids. I love seeing their creations whether with Legos or pencil and paper.

    I do believe we all create something, we just need to see it. Dinner on the table or even a simple smile is a creation. Although we all know I love to create finished quilts!

  18. karenbolan says:

    The overcontrol is hitting me as my biggest creativity killer right now. In school, the teachers that gave assignments with vague instructions were my favorite, but I know a lot of people struggled with them because they just wanted to be told what to do. Sometimes overcontrol can be comforting (when you’re tired, for example), but it surely doesn’t spark creativity. I have done some of my most creative work in overcontrol situations when I rebelled and intentionally broke the rules.
    I have been frustrated in my job lately since there is so little room for creativity. Working all day to subdue my creativity can affect my creativity long after I return home. I so appreciate the quilting blogs for pulling me out of it and letting my mind relax into all the different possibilities. It is such a comfort to remember my creativity is still in here.

    1. I have been on both sides of the overcontrol issue, and I think it is ultimately one of the large stressors in my old job and why I left. Interesting, I will ponder that some more.

      I am so glad that quilting helps you find your creativity and hopefully bring you back to center a bit. :)

  19. I have to move to create :) So I take my phone along on walks with the dog (I can’t create and run at the same time, lol!!), and voice record ideas. Then I use less productive times to transfer the ideas into a notebook/sketchbook. I don’t edit any out, because often there is a seed there that I will use later. If it’s pouring down rain outside, watering the house plants also works. but if it’s been a tough time, they get over watered!

    1. I love hearing how the creative process works for others – movement – that is fabulous!

  20. Thanks for this thought provoking post. I’ve always been making things but thought I was copying other people’s ideas, it’s only recently that I’ve felt more able to call myself a designer as well as a maker and so able to call myself creative! Your post has reminded me that I promised myself time away from the to-do list to learn and try out new techniques. I need to do that soon before things start to get stale – practising fmq would be a start.

    1. Copying other people ideas… I would still say you were making / creating and being creative. I would say you were not designing or perhaps creating “art” but the process of making something from a kit or pattern can still be a creative process (in my opinion). I can certainly understand wanting to branch out and learn and grow, and I hope that you do carve out that time to learn new techniques! :)

  21. LOTS of lovely advice on this one and I love it. I truly must be listening to music when I am by myself and sewing, it completely zones me out and all I have is sewing and the music in my head – it seems to help my creativity just flow, too rather than feel distracted by other things going on around me and consistently losing focus on where my thought process was going. It is hard sometimes though to not compare, which is something new that I am struggling with but working on. I am trying to learn what altered my thoughts to compare my work (that I think is less) to everyone else (who I think is just marvelous). You do give lots of inspiration to more people than I am sure you are aware of and I am sure it only continues to grow because you are truly so encouraging! Your creativity shows it just in itself!

    1. Music is a huge help for me when I am sewing, too. When I am at my computer sometimes I’m better with no music; it just depends on whether I am trying to write or read (my critical thinking / reading skills seem to be impaired with music on!). :)

  22. sally says:

    I so much agree with this, it does wind me up when people say things like ‘you’re so clever, I could never do anything like that’! And I find it incredibly sad that creativity is squashed in children, particularly given the mental health issues we are facing in society. I’ve never seen a 2 year old who ‘can’t’ play imaginatively, who feels that they can’t create, and who has no ideas, The biggest thing with me and creativity is to keep using it, I find ideas breed and grow.

    1. As you know, I have been working to make the quilt tops with 2 lovely children. The first time they came over I was just hoping they would want to learn a bit about sewing. I dumped out my scrap bucket and they *immediately* designed blocks they wanted to sew together. “I am making an ‘L’ for my name!” “I want to make a sailboat!” It was magical, inspiring and so much FUN! :)

  23. quiltjunkie says:

    Wonderful post! I’m so glad I stumbled on this (and you) via Pinterest. I’m sharing this and bookmarking it so I can read it whenever my brain tries to convince me I’m not creative. Thank you!

    1. I’m so glad you found this article, too! Welcome and I hope it helps you feel more creative and inspired. :)

  24. Vicki P says:

    THIS is why I follow your blog – thoughtful, inspirational insights into why and how we quilt. Oh, and also the amazing, mind-blowing patterns that I absolutely love! Are you sure we aren’t sisters? :-)

    1. I’m glad to know that articles like this are important to you. Thanks. :)

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)