Overwhelmingly, people seem to think that creative people are born creative. That some people just “have it”, like red hair, or kleptomania. And if you aren’t composing symphonies before you hit puberty then sorry, you’ve lost the creative lottery and you’ve been relegated to the unthinking herd.
The truth is that if you’re human, you have creative potential.
A handful of renowned experts on the topic of creative thinking even go as far as suggesting that creativity is crucial to leading a fulfilling and meaningful life.
One source of this myth is a poor understanding of what “creativity” means. There’s a tendency to think of it in terms of outputs. We see the result of the creative process — the culture-defining songs, movies, art, and architecture. An overwhelming sense of inadequacy emerges from the gap between what you know to be good creative work and your own present creative ability. This view overlooks that the superstars’ success is also rooted in years of persistence and obscurity.
This belief that creative ability is an inherited gift instead of a learned skill not only puts it on a pedestal out of reach, it also disregards all the effort put in by the people who are using creative thinking to drive the world forward.
One of the major implications of this myth is that novices try being creative once or twice and then give up when the first few attempts don’t produce a tangible token of their genius.
Creativity is a skill that you can develop. It’s like a muscle. The more you use it, the more you have, and the more comfortable you become with how the process actually works. As with any new skill, the first few thousand attempts suck, the process is painful and frustrating, you have zero self-confidence, and nobody cares about the almost beautiful thing you made.
“Non-creatives” are just people that have become comfortable not trying to solve problems in new ways (and would rather leave it to the “artsy” people to figure out). It’s easier to say, “I’m just not that creative” than it is to drag yourself through the messiness of the creative process. Because it's kak, there’s always a chance of failure, and it requires vulnerability and personal growth.
The lesson here is to accept and embrace that you do have creative potential, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself to make great work from the beginning. It doesn’t matter if it’s the beginning of your career, or the beginning of a new project; the pressure to make something excellent will kill whatever passion you had to begin with, which will go on to stifle your creativity before you even get started.
Go easy on yourself. Put in the time. Make mistakes. Learn from your mistakes.
This article is part of a series dedicated to revealing some key misconceptions about the creative process to help people like you reach their creative potential.
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