If you think you’re not creative, read this

What we’re told as children sticks

When you were a child, did someone tell you to stop daydreaming when you gazed out of the window, or to stop ‘being silly’ when you made up stories or games? Or did someone tell you directly that there was no future for you in music, drama, art, photography or dance? I can immediately give the lie to that one, by the way. According to the UK’s government website “the UK’s Creative Industries are [were] worth £84.1 billion per year to the UK economy” in 2016. So purely on economic terms – a very limited perspective – there is most definitely a value in the arts!

When we start believing what we tell ourselves

Or perhaps someone told you that you weren’t creative, that you were no good at drawing, singing, dancing, writing stories etc., and because you were a child at the time, it stuck with you? The adult that told you those things probably had your best interests in mind, although their perspective on life would have been influenced by their own limited experiences. They might have been worried about your future career, or wanted you to pass your exams, or wanted to keep you safe from criticism. But stuff we hear when we’re children sticks. We end up telling ourselves that we’re not creative. We start to think, truly, that we’re ‘not creative’. Well, I believe with a passion that all of us are creative – and what’s more that creative skills are crucial to the survival of our species – so let’s start to undo a few damaging cultural myths.

First a couple of resources

If you’re interested in rediscovering your creativity, you might like to take a look at Julia Cameron’s bestselling work on ‘creative recovery’, particularly The Artist’s Way. You can find out more on her website here. I’m not being paid to promote her work – I simply like what she says!

If you’re interested in reading more about creativity, take a look at Rob Pope’s book Creativity published by Routledge in 2005, which covers all the bases.

There are different kinds of creativity

One problem with that voice in our head that says ‘I’m not creative’ – aside from the obvious, that it becomes self-fulfilling – is that the definition of ‘creative’ is rather woolly. To get better at something we’ve got to practise – according to experts like Anders Ericsson. (Take a look at Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson, for example). How do we know what to practise if we don’t know what ‘creativity’ means?

Over the next few blog posts, I’m going to look at ten definitions or ‘versions’ of creativity, inspired by Rob Pope’s book. These are based on a short essay I’ve written for a book called The Creative Critic, due out in 2018.

What’s the point of defining ‘creativity’?

Two reasons:

  1. Once you know which version of creativity you’re talking about when you tell yourself ‘I’m not creative’, you can find out about it and practise it.
  2. You might discover that the version of creativity you’re holding on to is one that doesn’t serve you very well anymore (especially if you had a negative experience of an aspect of creativity as a child: playing the violin, ballet lessons, being forced to draw a still life etc). You may also discover another version that serves you better.

By the way, these blog posts on creativity are written using the small steps method. To find out more about taking small steps, click here.

Ten versions of creativity

Drum roll please, the ten versions of creativity are…

  1. Playfulness
  2. Craft
  3. The Creatives
  4. Creative industries
  5. Creative learning and teaching
  6. Creative practice
  7. Creative thinking
  8. Self-actualisation
  9. Self-expression
  10. Creative therapies

Up next: What is playfulness?

Aside from ‘The Creative Critic’, the links to books in this post are affiliate links.

I created a list of books about creativity here. No affiliate links in it, I made it for fun!


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