Unlocking Your Creativity

Copyright 2006 Vivian Banta

As an avid crafter, I often give handmade presents to those among my family and friends who appreciate this type of gift. For her birthday last year, I gave my best friend an amethyst necklace, bracelet and earring set. She loved it but responded as so many people do with a self-deprecating compliment: “You’re so talented. I could never be that creative.” This statement just kills me.

This is the same woman who juggles a career as a kindergarten teacher with her roles as a mother of three and supportive wife of an entrepreneur. Although she is far from wealthy, just about anyone who visits her home leaves it raving about how gorgeous it is and how envious they are for her flair for interior design. And yet, she thinks that she is not creative!

I’ve come to think that many of us grow up with a narrow view of the meaning of creativity. We are taught that you are creative if you were good at writing stories or if you excelled at drawing or painting in art class.

True creativity, to my mind, though is better defined as a way of thinking or perceiving the world and its possibilities. Seen this way, creativity can be seen not only in the innovations made by enterprising inventors but also in the time management skills of a parent who has to get three children to three different extracurricular activities, pick up the dry cleaning, get an oil change, pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy, shop for groceries, and make dinner in the space of a few hours.

So, how do you unlock your own creativity? I’m sure that there are many approaches to this, but here is a 5-step approach that I have used successfully with my clients.

Step 1: Make the choice to be creative. First, you have to get past that mental block about what you think is creative. If you have it in your head that it is impossible for you to be creative, it will be. Be intentional in your choice and define what creativity will be for you and by what criteria you will determine your success. Expressing your creativity may involve one of the traditional channels (art, music, poetry, etc.) or it may come out as new ways of coming up with solutions in the workplace. Maybe it means expanding your culinary skills or redecorating your home or maybe it means an innovative approach to a science or other type of research project. What it looks like is all up to you.

Step 2: Expand your horizons. Creativity doesn’t usually arise from the familiar. Imagination sometimes requires us to expand our horizons to get kick started if we haven’t ventured out for a while. Some things that have worked for my clients include the following: Visit a different place. It could be a new town, country or even a shop or restaurant you don’t normally patronize.

Read magazines or books on topics that you wouldn’t normally pick up. If you usually read “People” or “Vogue”, try reading a fishing magazine or one about politics and vice-versa. Keep in mind that it is not about converting you to another point of view or hobby; it’s about you trying to see the world through different eyes.

Learn something new. Take a class or teach yourself a new skill. Again, this is a way of stimulating your imagination and has the side benefit of being a great confidence builder.

Saturate your senses. Experimenting with different tastes and scents through new foods, playing with fabric of different colors and textures or listening to music you wouldn’t normally listen to are all ways of exposing yourself to new sensations.

Step 3: Be brave and take a leap. Part of exploring creativity is to take a chance and brave the unknown. On the plus side, there are few rules here, so any effort is worthy.

Step 4: Expect some failures…and growth. Another reason people shun creative effort is the fear of failure. Failing once, even many times, does not equate to complete failure. If this were true, none of us would have learned to walk. Can you imagine if the first failed attempt of a baby to take a step was met by a parent who scooped up the child, deposited him or her in her playpen and said, “Too bad. Oh well. I guess you’ll never walk”? Failure, while certainly not fun, can provide the opportunity to learn, grow and may even expose new opportunities or ideas. Many of this world’s “failures” led to incredible inventions, after all. It took Thomas Edison more than 50,000 attempts to create the alkaline battery that we still use today. So, cut yourself a little slack!

Step 5: Recognize your achievement. Too often, when we do something creative or new, and someone acknowledges it, we brush it off with a “Oh, it’s nothing. Not a big deal.” Don’t minimize any attempt or progress you make towards unlocking your creativity. If you took the leap, be sure to hold your head up, throw your arms out and celebrate it!