Demystifying Creativity

By Rebecca Wilkinson, MA

Wellness Counselor and Art Therapist

Many people do not think of themselves as creative. They think of creativity as a special skill or talent that we are born with. They might admire other people who are creative but they don’t think of themselves that way. They might see creative people as unconventional and right-brained and see themselves as analytical and left-brained. Even people who are more creative might think of creativity as a special state of mind that we are sometimes blessed with.

What does it mean to be creative? Creativity is commonly defined as imaginative and novel ideas and activities. It is often associated with artistic sensibility and originality. A broader definition of creativity includes expanding perspective, exploring possibilities, experimental problem-solving, and flexible thinking.

What we often don’t realize is that creativity is, above and beyond all other things, a process. So, whether we are naturally creative or not, we can all engage in and benefit from the process. On the other hand, why bother, especially if you don’t consider yourself to be naturally creative? Because creativity has significant positive impact on our lives. It promotes mental flexibility, focus, and problem-solving skills. It helps reduce stress, improve mood, and strengthen immunity. But perhaps the most gratifying reward is that when our creativity is activated, we experience flow- a state in which we are fully immersed, energized, and engaged.

Despite these benefits, actually jumping into the creative process can sometimes feel forced and uncomfortable. So how do we warm ourselves up to creativity?  First, think about what is motivating you to be more creative. Is it to be more playful?  More artistic?  More expressive?  More mentally flexible? To break out of your routine and do things differently?  To solve a problem?  To get a different perspective on things?

Once you decide what you want to apply your creativity toward, choose simple structured exercises to get the process started. These can be very concrete and tangible. It may be helpful if the result of the exercise does not have a high degree of importance or value at first. Just engaging playfully in the activity, starting and being in the process, is more important than the product.

Here are some easy ways to tap into your creativity:

  • Spill Writing: Write anything that’s on your mind for 3 minutes without pausing (if you don’t know what to write, write “I don’t know what to write”, “this is stupid” “nothing comes to mind” etc.)
  • Write about a problem or issue with your non-dominant hand
  • Doodle—it warms up the right side of the brain
  • Make a gratitude list
  • Welcome mistakes; think of mistakes as rough drafts, information gathering, working out the kinks, etc…
  • Pause and observe—find 10 things in your immediate environment that you never really noticed before
  • Get curious—ask questions
  • Switch up your routines
  • Pretend to be characters you either like or dislike for a few minutes. Have them tell you what they think about the situation you are addressing.
  • Get inspired—find, look, and listen to other people who inspire you

Remember, it’s about getting the creative process going.  Regardless of how creative or not you consider yourself to be, see if some of these exercises don’t get your creative juices flowing.  You might not become an Einstein or a Frida Khalo, but you will build up your creativity muscle.

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