Busting the Creativity Myth

Not a natural born artist? No problem. Simple tools help cultivate the talent within.

After reading a David Eddings fantasy series, 15-year-old Darci Cole of Mesa, Arizona, knew she wanted to write her own book. She sat down and created a sketch of a fantasy world, plot, and characters. But when she came back to it a week later, she knew it was terrible.

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“I put it aside and thought, ‘I guess I’m not a writer,’” she told LifeZette. “It was my one shot.”

Cole didn’t give her novel a second shot until literally ten years later. It was a steep learning curve. “It takes educating yourself and reading a lot of what you love in order to find what works,” Cole says. She tried writing with a desk, writing outside, writing with a paper and pen — nothing really worked.

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Finally she found her niche — writing on her laptop on the same spot on the sofa every day during her boys’ naptime. She now has completed four novels, including one that has been submitted to a literary agent. She also provides material for and participates in a popular writing blog called Thinking through Our Fingers.

Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” recommends starting off with a practice she calls morning pages, or three longhand pages about anything at all.

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Creative thinkers like Cole are in somewhat short supply these days. One study showed that only two percent of adults register as truly creative. But research is proving the value of creative thinking, including in business.

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What does this mean for the non-creative types? What if you’re not into art or music — or interpretive dance?

Creativity is likely something we all had as children and can cultivate again as adults. Michael Levin, who has taught collegiate writing for 25 years, believes creativity is something that was “trained out of us by well-meaning teachers or parents.” He and other creative thinkers share five tips to help you begin rediscovering your creative side.

Embrace Embarrassment
“If you want to make a masterpiece, you have to be willing to create a little garbage along the way,” says Dr. James Clear, psychologist and author, in “Mastering Creativity.” This means redefining success and failure. “You cannot control outcomes, but you can control your efforts,” says Levin. Embrace the embarrassment you may feel at first and redefine your creative success in terms of how hard you try.

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Remember you’re following in the footsteps of great creative thinkers: Sir Isaac Newton worked for twenty years to write his theory of gravity. Johann Sebastian Bach composed more than 1,000 pieces of music. And Vincent van Gogh produced more than 2,100 artworks, none of which were appreciated until after his death.

Commit to a Schedule
Get up an hour earlier to practice your music. Bring a writing notebook with you on the bus to work. Take photographs on your lunch break. Make a new dinner recipe every Wednesday. But make a plan and stick to it consistently.

Levin says, “It cannot be a ‘sometimes’ thing. Your muse will date someone else.”

Get More Sleep
A study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that sleep debt accumulates. If you get six hours of sleep for two weeks straight, your mental and physical performance declines to the same level as staying awake for 48 hours straight. Catching those zzzs may be the ticket to more creative thinking.

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Start Small
If you refuse to start writing your book because you want to make sure it’s the next bestseller, you’ll lose out on the creative process. Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” recommends starting off with a practice she calls “morning pages,” or three longhand pages about anything at all.

This process is good for all types of creativity, not just for writing. “As we begin the daily practice of pages, we discover that we are more interesting than we realized, and this heightened interest leads us to make developing our creativity a priority instead of a luxury,” she told LifeZette.

Get Outside
Going on weekly outings to explore something of artistic interest. And talk walks.

While the morning pages ritual and the artistic dates help you explore your interests and receive creative input, walking outside helps you to “integrate the perceptions of the first two tools,” says Cameron. She makes a bold promise: “Anyone using these three tools will experience a creative breakthrough.”

Building your creativity will help you become more successful professionally and personally. Just be patient with the process.

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