Nine years ago today, I began writing this blog. It wasn’t my intent to still be writing it nearly ten years later. I started it as a way for me to understand and explore this (at the time) seemingly mysterious quality that I felt I did not possess. To recap, I had just turned 30, left my job in Washington, DC as a museum educator and returned home to Cleveland – a place I had not lived permanently in 12 years.
Before any of that occurred, I had been fascinated by creativity.
After all, I had a degree in Art History and had always been more expressive than others but never really felt creative. In my late 20s, I started reading everything I could on the topic. At that time, the selection was limited the Artist’s Way and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I completed an online Creativity Coaching class and I started attending a monthly applied creativity group gathering in my neighborhood. Here, I learned that I was not alone in my quest for understanding this thing we call creativity. There were other seekers just like me out there and they were practicing their creativity every day and integrating it into their lives and careers.
And then I moved back to the Midwest.
I had dreams of being a creativity consultant and trainer, but when I told people this while out networking they just looked at me like I had 3 heads. I needed to find that creative community I had experienced in DC, so I turned online. At that time, blogging was unheard of and hardly anyone even knew what Twitter was, but I was determined to once again connect with those other creatives and seekers I knew were out there.
I started this blog as a way to document my own explorations and a way to educate others. Through my posts and social sharing I was able to connect with other like-minded souls. For awhile, I was one of a handful of individuals actively pursuing this quest as well. I can count Tanner from Creative Something and Mike from Brainzooming as my earliest cohorts in this space online.
But then life got in the way.
As much as I loved writing about creativity, I also had a job and sometimes school to attend. I eventually did have a career in training – but in a marketing role, where I found a use for my newly found creative confidence. I let this blog (and sometimes) my creativity fall by the side, as what I determined were more important concerns took over.
Do I regret this? Sometimes.
What I don’t regret are all the people I have met along the way and all the lessons I have learned about creativity. Writing this blog and experiencing my own creative growth have given me a new career and a confidence about my own writing. It has also taught me much more about what it means to be creative:
1. Creativity is unpredictable, yet predicable – This may seem like a contradictory statement, but it’s true. Creativity is a not a duality but an all of the above. So while creativity sometimes seems to be unpredictable, it is very predictable. There are certain tools and routines that help you become more creative. It is usually through the incubation phase of the creative process where a seemingly unpredictable idea comes from. But the idea is not random, it’s a product of everything you know, and thus very predictable. The key is to keep absorbing as much as you can, so your brain can connect the dots.
2. Creativity requires intention and attention – To be creative, we need to choose to be creative first that is where intention comes in. By starting from a place of creativity we can truly embrace all that we can create. This is where attention comes in. Putting an intention to be creative is a wonderful first step, but it needs to be followed by action and steady action that often comes with creating something new every day and not just when we feel like it. This steady momentum is why some of the greatest creators are successful.
3. You must fail first to succeed at creativity – Find me one creator who has never failed. No, seriously, I’d love to meet them. Most people aren’t successful as soon as they pick up a paint brush or type words onto a blank page. More than likely, they’ve failed along the way. I know I have. Creativity is a process and we all must work through our own process to determine what success looks and feels like. With that said, creativity usually includes wrong turns and mishaps, and sometimes those same things we thought we failed at lead us to our greatest creative success.
4. Creative inspiration surrounds us – The problem is that we never go looking for inspiration, so when it happens we think it is magic, but it’s not. In order to be creative we must accept that all of our ideas are really built from someone else’s. They come from filling a need that someone else has or are a new life on existing ideas. That’s why we need to open our eyes and absorb everything around us and then process it. Some people process it through meditation or exercise or taking a shower or working on their craft. It’s this synthesis of ideas that makes creativity special.
5. Everyone is creative in their own way – So far this has been the biggest lesson I’ve learned about creativity. I always thought creativity meant that I needed to know how to draw well. But then I met creatives that excelled at cooking, decorating and even improv. It made me see creativity as a more uniquely innate attribute. For myself, I’ve learned to embrace being creative in all sorts of ways, and it’s allowed me to see my creative potential in a new light. I admit I am a dabbler and that is what I excel at. I am also a big vision strategic thinker, but I can’t draw a straight line – maybe some day I’ll learn. But for now, I am happy being able to improvise a recipe, make a collage or write a blog post. And that is my expression of my creativity. I am sure in the future it will evolve to encompass more creative acts and I look forward to it.
Looking ahead to the next 10 years, I want creativity to be the norm. I’ve watched it move from the fringes to the mainstream in a short amount of time, but really:
I want to live in a world where everyone believes they are creative.