I recently stumbled across a study published in 2012 that reports roughly half of Americans do not describe themselves as creative. Why is this? How has being creative turned into a binary label that we apply to ourselves or others?
I believe everyone has an innate ability to create. We need to change the way we think about creativity if we’re ever going to improve the way we view ourselves in relation to it. All you need is an idea and the courage to let that idea happen. Creativity is the result of acting on those ideas, not simply something that you are. It can be easy to minimize the painstaking efforts required to make something meaningful. It can take years of plying a craft before achieving remarkable results.
Leonardo da Vinci is said to have worked on the Mona Lisa for up to 14 years. Even at that, one of his contemporaries commented that “after he had lingered over it four years, [he] left it unfinished”. Andrea Bocelli didn’t land his first major role until the age of 34. Dr. Seuss was also 34 when he wrote his first book, and it was rejected by at least 20 publishers!
Let’s also take a moment to declare that creativity is not exclusively confined to artistic expression. Just because you may not be a great painter, singer, or writer doesn’t mean you are not creative. Maybe your creativity manifests itself in other ways like cooking, counseling, Excel spreadsheets, or any number disciplines that require thought and action.
Just be patient and don’t expect to complete your masterpiece overnight. Don’t get frustrated by comparing your work to the work of those who have spent a lifetime refining their technique.
I love baseball. But try as I might, I will never play the game professionally. That doesn’t mean I don’t thoroughly enjoy throwing a ball around with my kids or playing in a recreational league. It would be unfair to believe that since I can’t play as well as Felix Hernandez or Mike Trout I shouldn’t play at all.
As with other skills, some are more naturally inclined to create than others. Some make successful careers out of their creative endeavors and most will not. But, that’s ok. Find something you love to do and let your process happen. Allow yourself the chance to become proficient in your craft. Don’t let the success of others fool you in to thinking your efforts are invalid or worthless. Embrace the freedom to create even if it’s just for fun.
If you think you’re not creative, stop buying into the lie! You are creative. You have ideas with great potential to affect the world around you. I dare you to let those ideas happen.