Creating Creativity: Made Not Born

Mistakenly, most people assume creative talent is something you’re born with. It either happens or it doesn’t. You’re creative or you’re not. Or they are but don’t see their creative pursuits as just that. It’s something they do, but it’s not really artistic.

If you’re in the first category, dismiss the idea you aren’t creative. We all are. Find what appeals to you. Think back to what you liked as a child. Allow yourself to try different art forms before finding something that really speaks to you. Don’t  be afraid to experiment. Don’t censor yourself because it’s not something you ‘see’ yourself doing. Or because you’re not excelling. Or because it seems silly.

If you are creative don’t grade yourself as ‘not creative enough to count’ or ‘it’s not really art.’ Think far and wide. I have a friend who makes the most beautiful cakes, decorated with fondant and decorations, following a theme. That’s creative. And brave because it’s ephemeral. Don’t take your ability for granted or think it’s not really creative just because you pursue it as a hobby. Don’t sell yourself short by thinking everyone can do it and it’s not that hard. Whatever you do is special and unique.

Creating Is Not Left-Brained

We’re all creative. But the mistake lies in thinking creativity develops in the same way we learn linear left-brain tasks. That’s learning a series of actions then repeating them for the same outcome every time. It has to do with memorizing. It’s getting clearly and consistently better and time passes. On a graph it would be  an ascending diagonal.

In fact creating is experimental, and creating comes about in a non-linear way. The path is winding. This is because creating isn’t repeating a task your mind has memorized. Rather you discover each step as you go along. Your rational left brain may have plan, but often the goal is just a stop along the way.

Mind Games

This is the cool thing about creating. You never know where you are going to end up. You can honestly surprise yourself. I have a flower painting from 2002.  That’s old! When I started painting I got a book on watercolors, fully planning on doing watercolors of flowers. Then I moved to acrylics of flowers. That didn’t work out either as I was trying to reproduce what I had in a photograph. I’m not saying that’s the wrong approach. I’m just saying it didn’t work for me.

Then I started doing abstract. This was a mind game, where I ignored that rational left side of my brain that’s criticized and kept asking what the hell I was doing. And just letting the right side come in and do his thing.  But if you had told me then I’d be doing painting in that style, or if I had tried that right away, it wouldn’t have worked. I had no idea I even could do that or what it was about.

Does that mean a fail? No. Does that mean some stuff ended up in the trash? Yes. But all those steps are necessary because a creative pursuit is a discovery of what appeals to us and what we can do. It was necessary for me to get me to where I am now in my painting.

The same way I started writing over twenty years ago thinking my genre was historical romance. The manuscript is still on my hard drive, and the stilted dialogue is hilarious. But from there, a character took form, and most of all, discovering what I wanted to say became clearer. There were so many times I could have said ‘I suck, I’m done with this,’ and I did. But I kept going back until it became something.

The Process

But how is creativity created? Exactly like that. By doing the process. First, that means just showing up. You aren’t going to crank out a masterpiece every day. But it’s important to give you craft attention, because even if nothing is happening on the physical plane, your mind is thinking and developing.

I’ve sat at my computer and written nothing. But the point is I showed up. I thought of my story line, and reread what I’d already written. I pinpointed where my narrative was and where it needed to go. That stayed in my mind and the cogitating continued long after I’d shut my laptop.

Artists often talk of a process. Abstract painters, such as Betty Kraus (you can find her on You Tube), start with mark making. She refers to this as ‘loosening up’. It can also be called getting into the flow.You’ll never see these marks on the final piece. That’s not the point. The point is this step let’s the mind know it’s going into create mode. Left brain takes a nap, right brain steps up to the plate.

I’ve developed a process for my blog writing. I jot down ideas. I add to them randomly, as they develop. Can I order the ideas? Is there a pattern? Is there a message or a though to share? Then one takes shape, becomes more ready. Sometimes a post comes to me quickly, like a download, and I record it because I’ll lose the train of thought. As I edit, mr writing becomes more concise and clearer. From an idea, I’ve distilled a useful (I hope!) post. I also now know, having developed my process, what my time frame is.

Creating Joy

The joy of creating is it will surprise you. Results will magically some out of nowhere, because we still struggle to understand how this part of our mind works. Many creators believe the mind connects to an energy outside of them. The process is not self contained, it taps into a collective consciousness.Realize there is no arrival it’s a continuous journey of learning and exploring and experimenting.

Regardless of your take on this, don’t censor yourself. It’s not silly or a waste of time. Despite creating being challenging and frustrating at times, it feeds the soul. It creates joy.

I blog a lot on creativity and you can find some of those blogs here, here and here.

Photo: Detail of ‘Escape’, 2020, acrylic on canvas. By the author.

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