Why cultivating creativity can make you better at everything

Do you consider yourself to be a creative person? I sure do. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t - or they think they are only slightly creative, or wannabe creative.

I think about this topic a lot. I mostly think about what makes me identify as a creative and what makes other people tell me they aren’t creative, never have been and never will be. Especially since by my observation, I’ve never met anyone who isn’t creative.

I’ve met people who are analytical and practical. I’ve met people who are insecure about the their abilities. And I’ve met people who are unskilled. These are usually the main culprits of the “I’m not creative” mentality.

It’s interesting, because when I try to explain to these so-called non creatives that they are, in fact, very creative, the usual response is “Oh, no, I’m not. I wish I was. But I’m not talented.”

Allow me to explain why not only is that an incorrect way of thinking, but that cultivating your creativity will make you better at everything you do.

Okay so, let me clarify something right now. Creativity is a learned skill.

I have some seriously creative friends. Almost all of my tribe are creative makers and do-ers of all kinds. I was curious to see what other creatives thought about this subject, so I questioned a variety of my friends.

The overall response from self identified creatives was that creativity is practice. There were varying degrees of belief about how much was talent and how much was practice, but everyone agreed that inherent traits were secondary to consistent practice.

I’m going to go ahead and say it - it’s all practice. Every person is born as a creative thinker. All children are creatives. I believe that people, even self identifying creatives, tend to attribute too much of that creative mindset to what we’re traits we are born with.

Creativity is an action. It’s a series of habits. Habits in thinking, habits in doing. And guess what? Habits can be learned at any point in life.

So before I go into how you can train yourself into a more creative mindset (and this is beneficial to the already creative too, as I pointed out, creativity requires continued action) I’m going to explain some of the ways creative thinking can help you be more awesome in every way.

1. You can be more productive.

There’s a trope that creative, artsy type people are messy, disorganized, and kind of unproductive. This is pretty inaccurate. Okay, we can be messy. But as a matter of fact, creative people get a lot of stuff done. That’s because we are used to the extreme level of planning it takes to envision and execute a creative project. It takes a LOT of steps to make something - from sewing, to painting, to making a crocheted blanket. Creatives are used to a high level of planning and execution. Not only that, but you have to adopt great time-management skills, or you won’t get that project done. Even the most “unproductive” of my artsy friends produces an impressive amount of drawings and paintings on a consistent basis. This kind of mental practice becomes useful in all areas of life, if you choose to apply it.

2. You can be more innovative.

When cultivate your creative mind, you are getting better at divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the type of mental process where someone examines a problem from a large variety of angles, fitting together many bits of information and considering different solutions and outcomes. This is commonly considered the opposite of convergent thinking, which considers that that there is one “correct” answer to a problem, and that is usually a solution that has already been found to work. As you might guess, innovation happens from divergent thinking. And I don’t just mean innovation like the next tech startup, I mean in the little day to day things that matter to everyone. Relationships. Annoying work problems. Fitness goals. Cultivate a curious, creative mind, and you will begin to find interesting new solutions for every problem.

3. You will be more satisfied with yourself and everyone else.

Yes. This is 100% true. The basis of being creative is, well, creating. Creating things, but also creating yourself, your mind, and your life. When you begin to take control of your life by creating outcomes and solutions, as well as esoteric objects of beauty, you gain a huge amount of confidence in yourself and your abilities. And when you have confidence in yourself, your relationships with other people improve. And you feel a lot happier living in the world. The best part is, it’s a domino effect. Like all practiced traits, the little things you learn will build upon each other. The knowledge will grow and grow, and soon thinking creatively and creating things will be second nature.

Okay, so what can you do to cultivate creativity? Well, you don’t need to rush off and try to be a master oil painter. There are some simple, day to day things you can start incorporating into your life that will begin to train your mind in the correct way.

I favor journaling. I know, everyone says this. But it’s super helpful. And let me say, that I freaking hated journaling for years and thought it was dumb. When someone said “You should keep a journal!” I imagined “Dear diary, this is what I did today…” scenario. BORING.

But I didn’t realize that I’d already been journaling for years. I keep lots of little sketchbooks where I doodle and write down snippets of thoughts, quotes, plans and the like. This is journaling. Now that I know journaling doesn’t have to be paragraphs of excruciating details about all the stuff I did during the day, I love it. I like buying notebooks that I can both draw and write in, and I like to use different pens. This makes it a lot more fun!

An example of one of my journals - it's a mix of notes, doodles, and drawings of clothing I want to make.

An example of one of my journals - it's a mix of notes, doodles, and drawings of clothing I want to make.

I journal thoughts, ideas, plans, phrases and words I like, things I hear or read that strike me. I journal poems, quotes, and notes. I journal ideas that I have for anything - sewing projects. Fabric I like. An outfit I saw in the coffee shop with cool details. Conversations. Jotting all this stuff down is like creating a file in my brain library. Then I can pull it later if I want to use something or add something to it.

There are many ways journaling can help you start thinking creatively. Just the act of putting pen to paper is a good start. It’s a great way to train you to move from thinking to doing. It helps build the habits to take action, and to create. 

Using creative journaling prompts helps you to explore ideas in a more robust way. For instance, you could write down 5 skills you wish you had. For each one, write down something that’s holding you back from doing this skill. The write down one way you can think of that will help you gain this skill. This can even be a silly answer. But, the purpose is to start your mind on that problem solving journey. Start training your divergent thinking skills.

You can sign up here for a month long creative journaling challenge with me! I’ll email you a new creative journal prompt every day for 30 days. That should get you well on your way to training your creative brain. It’s really fun and super easy to do, you can do it while having your morning coffee, on your lunch break, or any time during the day you can get 10 minutes.

Let's get creative!

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This 30 day journaling challenge will jump-start your creative thinking!

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Of course, you can think creatively all you like, but like I said before, creativity is all about action. You need to take the next step. I encourage you to take active steps to learning something new. Is there some skill you’ve been wanting to learn, but you’re held back by your fear that you aren't creative enough? Trust me, even I fall into this mindset. I’m still convinced I can’t learn to sing or dance, despite my knowledge that it’s literally all just practice. We are all on a journey. Some day, I will be taking voice lessons.

I want you to go out and actively seek out some kind of instruction in the thing you want to do. It can be anything. Start small if you want. Do you want to learn makeup skills or nail art? How to build a potato gun? Arduino? Gardening? Cosplay? You can do it. Start small - watch a YouTube video. Read a book or a magazine article. Something that teaches you how to do the thing you want.

Now make a plan. Take a first step. Buy some seeds and a flower pot and a trowel. Try to grow something. Order some parts, or ask friends to donate things if you can. Ask a friend who already does what you want to hang out and teach you a little.

And remember, don't wait to get motivation to take action. Action comes before motivation. Get into the habit of acting first, and then the motivation will come. Why? Because motivation comes from confidence. And you don't get confidence until you do something that you're proud of. So ACT!

Now here’s the most important part - don’t judge yourself. Do not do it.

Do not compare your beginner attempts to an expert’s. It is okay to be a beginner. Everyone starts as a beginner. No one, not the most skilled or precocious person, left the womb with an expert level of skill or knowledge. Remember, the journey is part of the process. Every step of the way is meaningful and valuable.

I can guarantee that with each accomplishment you have, you will feel more confidant with your abilities. This will lead you to try other things you thought you couldn’t do - not just hobbies but actual life things. I’ve seen this happen again and again with friends I’ve coached - a little bit of confidence goes a long way.

Okay, now go out there and get creative! Make something happen! Get started by joining in my creative journaling challenge - I promise you'll feel a lot more creativity flowing after the 30 days. And don't forget to share your journaling experience with me in the comments! I'd love to hear how it works for you.