10 Steps to Creative Bliss & The Myth About Creativity

Amy Stamp, crativate

"A crafts and cocktails night? I'm not creative, I can't do that," you say?

You say you are not crafty, creative, or artsy. You can't even draw a stick figure, never mind a straight line. You are all left brain, all analytics. No glitter, no glue guns, no paint. You'll just come for the cocktails, not the crafts. Poppycock I say! It is my belief that anyone, and I mean anyone, can be creative.

It is a myth that some people are born bursting with sparkly creativity and others are born without a teensy tiny creative bone in their body. At least that's my belief. I also believe that with instruction and practice  anyone can learn to draw or paint just as anyone can learn to read or ride a bike. Even to those who are considered extremely talented artists, it is still instruction and practice that nurtures the skills needed to create great art. 

I taught many high school art students who doubted me. However, after a semester of instruction and practice, these same students proved themselves wrong. They were drawing self portraits, painting landscapes and doing both well. But simply being instructed and practicing is not a recipe for creative success.  One can certainly learn to draw, paint or sculpt by these means alone, but developing one's creativity takes a bit more.

Here are ten steps to creative bliss!

1. Change how you think about your own creativity.

First of all, one needs to let go of the notion that they are not creative. As if creativity is a genetic attribute inherited from your Great Aunt Bea who would bedazzle your birthday present every year. Sure, creativity can be an innate quality, but whether you're born with it or not, it must be nurtured. Everyone has the capacity for creativity... even you!  Start to believe that and the next steps will come easily.

2. Step out of your comfort zone. 

Do something you would usually scoff at. Take a class, sing in public, meditate, watch a documentary, interview a stranger, visit a museum or volunteer. Whatever it may be for you, do something out of the ordinary. Get uncomfortable in order to expand your personal conception of what you can do and test the self imposed limits you have set for yourself. The personal and creative growth fostered through this practice never ceases to amaze me.

3. Find inspiration. 

Now that you are starting to break down the preconceived notions that stifle creativity, it's time to find some inspiration. You can really find inspiration anywhere. Take a walk, read a book, visit a friend, try a new restaurant, look into current events, dig through old boxes in the attic, spend time with someone very old or very young, travel or listen to music. The main idea is to get off your butt and change the scenery. Alter your surroundings and your usual routine and you are bound to find the spark to ignite the creative fire the lies within you.

4. Exercise your creativity. 

Just like most other things in life, in order to improve you must practice. A hard muscle grows soft without exercise. It might take three (or seven) tries to bake that apple pie just the way you like it. When learning how to ride a bike, it doesn't matter how many times you fall off but how many times you get back on and try again. The same goes for honing your  creativity.  But how do you practice creativity? There are innumerable ways to do so. One of my favorite ways is keeping an "idea book". 

A quick idea book how to! It can be a large or small notebook or even just some paper you've clipped or bound together. The first thing to do is decorate your idea book. Draw on the cover, collage it, decoupage it, paint over it or cover it with photos. Do something to the cover to make it your own. Then on a daily to weekly basis, fill up at least one page of the idea book with anything you find compelling at that moment. Here are some examples of what you can do: journal, draw, doodle, paint, collect quotes, write out your favorite poetry or lyrics, paste tickets stubs or memorabilia that is meaningful to you, do some stamping, scrapbook, make a top ten list, finger paint, write a letter to your future self or childhood self, draw a self portrait or fill the page with different types of lines. Whatever you do, just make sure you fill up the entire page. Committing to this practice gets you in the habit of engaging your creativity on a regular basis. 

There are also a great number of books out there that provide ways in which to practice your creativity:

  • The Little Spark: 30 Ways to Ignite Your Creativity by Carrie Bloomston
  • Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith
  • How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith
  • Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
  • Living Artfully: Create the Life You Imagine by Sandra Magsamen
  • The Artful Parent by Jean Van't Hul
  • The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder by Jill Badonsky

5. Take risks and break rules.

Challenge yourself to think outside of the box. Color outside the proverbial lines.  Go beyond what is expected and shock people with your confidence and passion rather than with a checklist of all the rules you've followed. The expected is boring. It is when people stray from the gentrified norms that real creativity begins to shine through. 

Think of the people in your life who you consider to be creative. Do they follow the herd or do they forge their own path? The most likely commonality among them is that they take risks in their everyday choices, not just their creative endeavors. They follow their gut and choose an outfit or a movie based upon what they really like and are interested in. They don't make their choice based upon social norms or what is expected of them.

6. Keep trying. 

Even if you aren't thrilled with the results of what you are creating, keep trying. It can take so many tries to get it right. Giving up creates a toxic environment for both you and your creative juices. You aren't always going to succeed in making something you are proud of, and that's okay. We learn and we grow through our failures as well as our successes. If you stop trying then your creativity tends to die along with your efforts. To stay motivated when you are questioning your choices or feeling insecure, it is important to surround yourself with supportive people who believe in you. I also highly suggest that you read the following:

  • Art and Fear by David Bayles
  • The Courage to Create by Rollo May
  • Art from Intuition by Dean Nimmer

7. Ignore the critics. 

Remember that opinions are like assholes, everybody has one and the only one that should matter to you is your own. Crude but true. No matter what you do there will be people who like it and people who don't.  I have a tendency to focus on the negative instead of the positive when it comes to people's opinions. I think it is because I always want to please everyone. But I am coming to realize that the person I should be trying to please is myself.  The person you should be trying to please is yourself. So who cares about what people will say when you put yourself out there. You've already won the battle as long as you stay true to yourself and try your best.

8. Let go of inhibitions. 

What is still holding you back?  Is it fear of failure or rejection? Are you still thinking that you just aren't a creative person? This is where I will share with you a quote my mother used often and effectively, "get over yourself."  What did she really mean by this?  In the grand scheme of things these little insecurities and self imposed boundaries are insignificant. In comparison to the larger things in life, why worry about rejection or failure? There are bigger things to worry about like keeping food on the table, staying healthy, world politics, war, religion, disease, crime, homelessness, whether or not the Yankees were going to go all the way this year (just as important to her)... and the list goes on. When put into perspective, whatever is inhibiting you from fostering your creativity is really small beans. So do what you have to do and just get over yourself. This may sound harsh, but she was a woman who believed in tough love when needed. There are definitely people out there with way bigger problems to worry about. So let your inhibitions go and lets my mother's tough love work its magic for you.

9. Dig deep. 

Most inspiration comes from life experience. Sometimes it's the good times that inspire us and sometimes it's the bad. At times it may seem difficult to draw upon personal experiences and emotion to foster creativity. But if you dig down deep and truly explore how those experiences affected you, you may find out how compelling and universal your story is. It is through our own story that we connect with others on personal and intimate levels.  By infusing this story into your creative endeavors you will find that your work truly resonates and touches people in a way generic creations just don't. If you put your heart into your work then you will see your work touch the hearts of others.

10. Never stop.

No matter how your creative journey develops, never ever stop working to live a more creative and artful life.  Try to infuse creativity into your life everyday. If you do it enough it becomes second nature. Before you know it you'll be crafting all of this year's Christmas presents!  Ok, so maybe not. But you will definitely notice a change in your everyday experience.  You may feel your stress reduce and your appreciation for the little things increase. You may feel more motivated and little less inhibited. But I am definitely 100% sure that you will begin to feel like you are living a more fulfilling and expressive life. 

You are creative, I'm sure of it. So pick up that glue gun, grab some glitter and get to a craftivate event right away. I believe in you and you should too. 

Here's to living a sassy, crafty, happy life! 

Amy  xoxo

And so it goes...