I don’t do crafts or cutesy. I'm actually not good at it. It sounds taboo to say that I'm not crafty, and people tend to roll their eyes at me, like ”okay, art school.” Fair. But art school was about concepting an idea first, then turning that idea into something you can see or physically experience. Crafts are pre-made templates with set rules to follow.
I've never been partial to rules.
I find extra beauty and inspiration in the ordinary. That's a nice sentence...I purposely made it that way. What it really means, though, is that I have a wild imagination that I've learned to tame for a business world. If I didn't, I'd be like Elsa still living in her ice castle, unable to connect with anyone over this awesome power she has.
Someone who says "I’m just not creative” is simply too used to the sentence. The bottom line is that everyone is creatively capable, just in different ways. Those who “lack a creative eye” simply don't know a sentence yet that better describes them. For example, you'd be hard pressed to find a person that doesn't love beauty — it's quite impossible because beauty is subjective. But to actually lack a creative eye would suggest that you don't recognize anything as beautiful — not a sunset or tropical waterfall, not a baby deer sleeping in its mother's embrace, not your newborn child. The spectrum is far and wide.
I've come up with 3 easy challenges below that will help you harness the power of your imagination. Ready, Elsa?!
What do you find beautiful? Write it down. What else? Write that down too. Really allow yourself to imagine looking at this scene of beauty in your head. Close your eyes if it helps. What stirs your soul? Gives you chills? Makes you breathe in deeply and truly relax? Gets your heart racing? Creativity is a matter of harnessing these feelings and molding their energy into something tangible.
I studied poetry in school, but I'd be lying if I said I saw the beauty right away in the line “My love is a red red rose.” I thought, well that's boring.
Over time, however, I came to appreciate the stoic beauty of a single red rose, with its stem and thorns and leaves. No two are exactly alike. A rose isn't just red, but a shade of red all its own. Cheeks are rosy. Lips are red as a rose. The red of a rose is deep, rich, and varied, just as love is.
The initial idea for this post stemmed from the thousands of times someone has witnessed me draw something, and subsequently remarked that they "can't even draw a stick figure." The thing is, I've had a passion for drawing my entire life. I practiced it everyday, took classes, and eventually majored in it. You'd be able to draw—or do anything— if you did it that often. Drawing is associated with creativity, but the two are not inextricable.
So, I have a simple challenge for the “I can’t even draw a stick figure” crowd:
Grab a pencil and paper. A sticky note will do just fine.
Draw a line on the piece of paper, and then set your pencil down and look at the line. You've just drawn a stick! A straw! Look at that distant sky scraper you just drew. You're incredible.
Creativity is the way you use your mind, not the level of your skill.
For some, a more inward approach might work better: like the small act of making an extra effort to be present. Take a deep breath in an open space, or if it's too crowded, find a quiet place to sit for a few minutes, away from the bustle. Acknowledge the energy around you: how is it different from a few minutes ago? Deep breath again. Relax even more. Sink into the moment. Be present in your own mind. Say hello.
You can start noticing more inspiration in each day simply by making an extra effort to be present in your thoughts. Try not to focus on what you're thinking, but what you're feeling, and jot it down. When I write a story, it never starts out as a story. It starts out as a bunch of words strung together based on a feeling I have. I won’t say I’m at the beach, happy, in the sun and sand. I’ll say toasted almond Sunday. Salty and golden like a pretzel. Dog shake happy. Give thought to what you feel, rather than what you see, and notice the creativity begin to flow.
The goal of these challenges aren't really about sparking some grand change that takes you from being "the analytical one" to being an "out-of-the-box thinker." The world wouldn't keep spinning without all kinds of personalities, thoughts, and processes. Rather, I hope these challenges encourage you to reframe your way of thinking about creativity, especially if it has strayed from the childlike wonder that it once was. Steven Guarnaccia, a veteran illustrator and one of my teachers from Parsons, said this recently in an interview with American Illustration:
I actually think everyone, not just artists, should draw, in the same way that everyone is expected to have some basic level of writing skill. It seems a shame to me that children stop drawing at the point at which they deem themselves not “good enough” drawers (this extends into other areas of activity as well). Being good at something, good enough to excel at it, seems to be the baseline for endeavor in our culture, where in fact simply being adequate at something can give tremendous satisfaction and you still reap the benefits of the activity. I know this to be true personally from playing merely adequate ping-pong.
After reading that, I resolved to stop being so hard on myself when it comes to all of the things I want to learn, but haven't mastered—or even started—yet. And yes, that includes my less-than-stellar craft skills. Hopefully those who feel they lack the creativity gene find some encouragement and inspiration in this post! Got any more tips for boosting creativity without a craft kit? Leave a comment, I'd love to hear from you!