I Remember the Day I Identified as Creative
I was in college. My professor gave a writing assignment: Describe yourself.
I thought long and hard. Who am I?
It was the first time it occurred to me that I was creative.
Up to that point I liked to wander around the art building on campus to look at the pieces produced by the art students. I was drawn to their work — to any artistic work.
I liked to write. I liked to do little art projects.
But I wasn’t like them.
I gave it some more thought.
And then I made a decision. I actually wrote on that paper that I was creative.
I suffered self-doubt.
Was I really creative?
I expected pushback or challenge from my professor. But none came. Later, in conversation with others — friends, family, other students — I referred to myself as a creative person. Again, no pushback. In fact, they nodded agreement.
The only pushback I ever felt was from myself.
I’m going to break a rule here and quote a study that I read once, but can no longer find (or even remember) the source for. In this study, a company wanted to understand what made some of their employees creative. They polled their staff.
Here’s what they found: The only difference between the creative people and the non-creative people is that the creative people believed they were creative. Once they believed, then they started acting creatively. They assumed the role. The output followed.
Isn’t that fascinating?
Don’t Confuse Creativity for Craft
Being creative doesn’t mean one can draw. Or write. Or compose music. Or design fashion or buildings or furniture.
Being creative means one can think. Or ideate. Or imagine. Or envision. Or innovate. And then can apply it to a discipline.
Drawing, writing, painting, composing, designing — those are the craft. The expression of creativity.
Creativity is the spark. The ingenuity. The inventiveness.
So I decided that if I was going to call myself creative, I needed to cultivate it. I got a manila folder and wrote “Creativity” on the outside.
And then I started collecting things. Things that I considered creative expression. Images, humor, writings, art, fonts, ideas, inventions, headlines. Whether they were made or written by someone else or myself.
I cherished that folder. I turned to it again and again during school and later during my early career when I needed inspiration. Items were added. Items were removed.
It reminded me of an old suitcase I had received from my grandmother when I was a boy. It was one of those hard suitcases with snap-buckles that could pinch a finger if you weren’t careful.
In that old suitcase, I kept all my boyhood treasures that I had collected — stones, arrowheads, collectibles, patches, postcards, feathers, marbles, coins. When I found myself alone on rainy days, I opened that suitcase and lived those memories and cherished those treasures.
They gave me energy.
They sparked vivid thinking.
I still collect creativity.
But the simple manila folder can’t hold everything I’ve collected over the years. The pieces and ideas and inspiration are all around me though — in my notebook, on my laptop, on the walls of our home, in my office, on our bookshelves, in our yard.
Even on my website, I keep of a collection of images and artifacts that inspire me because they are visually appealing. Because they get my heart and mind racing. Check them out.
Cartoonist Gene Luen Yang said, “Creativity requires input… You’re gathering material with which to build.”
That’s the way my mind works.
Lots and lots of input.
Lots and lots of output. Some of which actually has merit.
I’m okay that a lot of my ideas don’t have merit.
You have to come up with bad ideas so you can appreciate the good ones — and the work it took to come up with them.
I no longer have self-doubt about whether I am creative.
I identify as creative, thus I am creative.
I use that creativity in my day job as a Marketing & Insights Consultant just as much as I do in my historical fiction writing — the rest-of-my-day job. And I exercise my creativity skills daily with quick exercises that prove very effective.
And now I’m just trying to convince everyone I meet that they are creative too.
A Call to Action
Believe that you are creative! And then do something about it. My free eBook might just help:
5 Exercises that Will Make You 10 Times More Creative
I use these exercises to keep the juices flowing — in myself and in my clients. (I am a marketing consultant, after all.)
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