Creativity is a curious concept. People can be quick to label themselves as a creative or uncreative person. But what does it really mean to be creative? It can be expressed in many different ways: through art, music, photography, writing, engineering, architecture, choreography, performance, film, and so much more.

I don’t have a creative bone in my body.

That’s not true at all!

I’ve heard it many times but I don’t believe you. Creativity, expressed simply, is “imaginative problem-solving”. We all have an imagination, right? I sure hope so! Albert Einstein said it best:

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

Here’s another definition. Professor Margaret Boden from the University of Sussex has been researching the science of creativity for more than 30 years and this is what she says about creativity:

“Creativity is a fundamental feature of human intelligence in general. It is grounded in everyday capacities such as the association of ideas, reminding, perception, analogical thinking, searching a structured problem-space, and reflecting self-criticism. It involves not only a cognitive dimension (the generation of new ideas) but also motivation and emotion, and is closely linked to cultural context and personality factors.”

There are certain talents that help us to excel in a particular pursuit, such as being artistic, musical, co-ordinated, precise, or perceptive. Attitudes are also a factor: Audacity, innovativeness, confidence, patience. But the key to being an unabashed creator is in starting where you are.

Unexpressed creativity has no value.

Express your creativity in three steps.

1. Start where you are.

Roll up your sleeves and begin.

Often we can get caught up at the first step — not knowing where or how to start, or thinking there’s not enough time. Or, worst of all, not believing that we are capable, qualified, original, experienced, or clever enough. What a travesty!

“Analysis paralysis” can be a hindrance to creativity or learning new skills—Reading every book on the topic first, Googling, Pinteresting, subscribing to magazines. Attending endless courses. Of course, these can all help, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re actually taking action.

Another trap is the paradoxical thought of needing to be good at something before we try it. “I’m not flexible enough to do yoga.” Huh?! “I can’t meditate because my mind is so busy”. But this is why we do the practice!

I often hear “I’m not good at drawing”. If you can put pencil to paper and move it around to make shapes, I promise you: You can draw. If you want to draw better, then practise — with patience and regularity.

For some creative pursuits, it’s necessary to research and learn about processes and techniques before you start. But don’t let that hold you back from taking action.

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.”

– Karen Lamb

2. Follow through.

Keep going until you’re finished. Or, until you get stuck — then take steps to get the help you need. How many projects have you started only to abandon partway through? There are many reasons why our best intentions are left by the wayside. Perhaps your schedule became too hectic or you got stuck at some point.

The most common reason why projects are left unfinished is that we lose momentum. When excitement, drive, and energy wane, those positive motivators can be replaced with self-doubt and stagnancy.

Discouragement is a killer of creativity.

There are three key elements that will propel you to the next stage of your creative endeavour:

  • Accountability – sharing your process and intentions with your loved ones
  • Inspiration – being boosted by creative works or people that you admire
  • Purpose – remember why you started in the first place.

Above all, keep going; keep pushing through. It doesn’t have to be “good”, that will come with time and practise. Just don’t stop.

“Pause. Breathe. Cry if you must. But keep going.”

– Unknown

3. Share your work

Arghh — this is what nightmares are made of!

Let’s break it down. Firstly, what have you got to lose? Surely, your loved ones want you to succeed? Of course!

However, this is not always the case. There may be people in your circle who make snippy comments, such as “you must have a lot of free time” or “why waste your time on that”, etc. Please remember, these people are on their own self-development journey. Often these sorts of negative comments reveal gaps in their own emotional wellbeing, such as jealousy, insecurity, and self-doubt. Far better for this negative talk to come from someone else than your own inner narrative. Tell me one successful artist who doesn’t have haters? And the more successful the artist, the more haters they have!

Gravitate towards your fans and cheerleaders. Ride on the positive encouragement of many, rather than the negative few.

Put your creative work out there into the world with pride. Then, start on your next project.

I’m often asked whether I always knew I wanted to write.

The answer is yes — I have always loved the idea of writing a book. However, I’ll admit something. I’d thought that someday I’d like to write children’s books, rather than adult novels. It wasn’t until I started on my novel that it came to me like an epiphany: That was a self-imposed limitation; a way of keeping my dreams small and manageable. The idea that I would only ever be “good enough” to write stories that had a low reading level, few words, and supported by images.

Of course, it’s foolish to think that writing children’s books is “easy” (it’s not). I’m also not going to presume that I’m an exceptional writer of adult fiction. But it’s interesting to look objectively at the ideas and beliefs that could be holding you back from your true potential.

What limiting self-belief is holding you back from starting?

If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

2019 was my first foray into horror story writing. To my great surprise, the story I wrote won a flash fiction competition (under 1000 words) by the Australasian Horror Writers Association. It amuses me that I have spent the past year writing a 100,000 word novel, yet the first story I sent out into the world is merely 250 words and in an entirely different genre! If I hadn’t tried on a whim, I might never have known that I was capable of writing something that others found entertaining.

What lights you up right now?

What are you excited about? Learning a skill, daring to try something new, getting stuck into a creative project, sharing your passion with the world? I’d love to hear from you. Please share in the comments below.

What’s the one thing you’d like to try this year? If you were unabashed and unafraid, what could you achieve? What’s holding you back from starting the thing?

It’s time to announce your next creative pursuit.

“Be brave enough to be bad at something new.”

– Jon Acuff