Breaking the myth: Creativity can’t be learned
When I first tell an acquaintance that I am a graphic designer, I typically receive the warmest responses filled with encouragement. “Wow, you must be so creative!” “I bet you are such an artist!” “I could never do that, I am more math brained.” Though these responses boost my morale a bit, I’m always left puzzled. You know those off-handed comments that people mention in small talk, sometimes those comments linger with me, and I begin to over-analyze. Most likely, I’m not alone in this conundrum! Today I wanted to share why these friendly responses rub me the wrong way, and how you can change your mindset if you currently agree with those responses.
What begins as friendly small talk, can often tell a lot about the mindset that others have. Though these responses encouraging my career path and skill set are overall positive, I find that they are also self-deprecating and critical of oneself. Why is it because I am a graphic designer, that somehow my creativity level is put on a pedestal above my peers? Though I have a bachelors of fine art (BFA) in graphic design, that doesn’t make me any more or less creative than the mommy blogger, computer engineer or social media expert.
So, can you learn creativity? My answer is a resounding YES! Let’s dive into how:
Why yes, creativity can be learned
Everyone is creative, but it looks different for each person. Many people associate creativity with fine arts: painting, design, photography, music, theater. This myth wildly limits the spectrum of creativity, and excludes the rest of the population. Creativity isn’t reserved for artists, it is a mindset that just requires a bit of cultivating.
Spend time honing in on your creative perspective, and refine from there. Maybe this looks like problem solving, writing, teaching or parenting. One of my favorite topics in school has always been math. In pre-calculus, I especially enjoyed proofs. Did I lose you here?!? I can hear your gasps now, that I actually enjoyed proofs! They were a form of problem solving to me. I challenged myself to solve the puzzle as fast as I could, and explore what substitutions I could make to work my way to the solution. Math is highly creative, and involves creative strategy and brainstorming. Take the time to discover what makes you creative, and embrace it!
Cultivate your creativity
It isn’t one single moment, a spark of genius, or one idea. The beauty of creativity is that it is an ongoing process. It is all about the mindset, and positioning ourselves for creative thoughts. If you count yourself off of the “creativity” wagon, than you are stifling that creativity and neglecting the freedom to explore innovative ideas.
Keep a notebook handy, Google doc or Evernote app to record your ingenious ideas! Through recording your ideas, you welcome creativity and the brainstorm process that inevitably comes.
I absolutely love this quote from my friend, Fran: “We all have creativity, but it needs to be cultivated — the more you use it, the more creative you are.” This sentiment is so true, and a reminder that it is important to allow for creative moments, and not to stifle them.
Add a dose of play
When writing this post, I decided to take the conversation to Twitter, and see what my friends thought about creativity. I absolutely loved the conversation happening, and adored Ashley Beaudin’s response: “Creativity is at its best when its mixed with a playful spirit.” Can someone please create an art print of this quote, to remind me of this daily?!? Getting creative, embracing unique ideas and brainstorming can be such a fun + playful process. Don’t set parameters or expectations. Avoid limiting your creativity. Leave room for new ideas, and embrace them!
[Tweet “”Creativity is at its best when its mixed with a playful spirit.” –@ashleybeaudin”]
This sentiment is exactly why I actually take one day off a week from client work, and devote it to side projects. I am such a brainstormer, and always dreaming of new ideas. Through devoting 20% of my work week to play and get creative outside of client work, I stay renewed, inspired, and consistently develop refreshing ideas. I highly recommend incorporating “play” into your schedule one way or another. It really adds energy to your business, and keeps you moving forward!
In the spirit of “everyone can learn to be creative,” I’ve created a course for you! If you are eager to learn how to create share-worthy design + get your blog noticed online, I’ve got you covered. I created a 3-part course, all about how to get creative with your branding, and stand out online. Did I mention it was FREE?!? I really believe everyone can learn the essentials of design, and use it to their advantage to get noticed on Pinterest.
Thank you for bringing this up! As someone who grew up creative myself — that’s how everyone’s always labeled me anyway — they never seem to believe me when I say they can do it too. Will forward them here next time I get these types of comments, cheers!
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[…] have a “creative” background to design. As I’ve mentioned before, I honestly believe creativity can be learned. It shouldn’t be confined to art, design and aesthetics. Creativity is found in almost every […]
I think certain people don’t like to think of themselves as creatives because they look at the tools that allow them to be creative, and the technical know-how is what overwhelms them. True story: my former mentor used to hop on his computer and whip up amazing designs in minutes to just a few hours. A former classmate of mines, when I was a undergraduate at Antonelli College, didn’t know how to draw with a pencil at all, but she didn’t let that technicality stop her at all, and that’s why she still produced amazing work. They all had the mindset that didn’t allow technicalities to stop them. They either worked through it or around it, and they weren’t bothered by it.
But my point is you also have very solid points. How we look at problems and then solve them is really no difference than how artists cultivate creativity. We just need to look at the process differently; and the way we can solve math problems with different approaches is probably the most unconsidered evidence. For me personally, I never could solve math problems like normal people. I don’t know why lol… but by changing my mindset to “whatever it takes” I was able to solve them. I bet that how my mentor and classmate felt too.
This was such a good post Jamie!
I often forget that everyone is creative in their own right. I used to be so hard on myself for not being creative when I wanted to be. I was (and still can be…) convinced that I would be better at design if I had just take more fine arts classes and fewer computer courses. But the truth is, I’m better at digital mediums than physical ones, and I can practice and enjoy both, but my passion and love will always be for digital design.
Was that a tangent?! Sorry. But I do love this. And I love Ashley’s quote as well. 🙂
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[…] skills aren’t reserved for only those who have a graphic design degree, but I truly believe that everyone is creative, and has the capability to learn the tools on their […]
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[…] if you feel like you’re not that creative. For one, you can outsource almost anything. And, creativity can be learned. This one isn’t a show stopper and it’s not the most important thing you need to […]
Great post and I completely agree. I’m pretty sure I sucked at every aspect of my job (Marketing Director) at some point in my life, but I had a goal I wanted to meet. I worked my butt off to work on my skills and now people even consider me quite good at what I do! I went from getting reviews in my first job telling me my writing wasn’t up to par, to having my MS in writing and doing it for a living. You can do anything you put your mind to.
Sarah Noel | http://www.sarahsmirks.com
Yes! This is spot on! I am always getting the same reaction when I tell people I’m a graphic designer. I’m just like “Stop it, I’m sure you’re creative too!” And I completely agree, it’s all about the mindset! Having an open perspective is key. Most of the time, new ideas are generated by simply looking an old idea from a different point of view! I encourage people out there to constantly expose themselves to things that inspire them and to continue to LEARN as much as you can and new ideas WILL spark! Thanks for the free course, Jamie! Great post as always.
Such a great point about looking at old ideas with a new perspective… I love that! Always learning will lead to increased creativity for sure! It is such a process 🙂
I loved this post, Jamie! I 1000% agree that everyone can be creative and that everyone is creative in their own way. It always makes me a little said when someone says, “I’m not creative.” I just want to drop everything give them a little lecture… a good, uplifting lecture, of course 😉 OH and I love that you quoted Ashley!!
YES!!! I’m always tempted to give a lecture, but instead I usually just smile and say thanks! Ha! Isn’t that quote beautiful from Ashley? She is seriously the best!