Do you ever wonder if you’re fully realizing your creative potential? You imagine yourself producing innovative and attention-grabbing work, but you don’t know why it hasn’t happened yet. So what’s stopping you?
One roadblock could simply be a fear of the word “creativity” and all its associations, says organizational psychologist Ellen Bard. Some people believe that “being creative” applies only to certain areas in life, like painting, music or literature. Reframing the word, however, can remove some of the fear from a concept that should be seen as a part of every day life.
“The meal we cook up from random leftovers, the way we decorate our room, the way in which we present our ideas to our boss, the argument we make to win over a new client–all these require a creative act,” Bard explains. “To see our entire lives as a creative act can be very freeing.”
Another common obstacle is to have a fixed view of how creative you are — or aren’t. But it’s very limiting to believe that your natural talents or gifts can’t be improved versus believing that you can keep growing and building those talents, Bard says. Adopting a “growth mindset about your talents and potential changes everything. Working to get a clear idea about what your gifts are makes a huge difference in how you use those gifts. Getting feedback is really helpful for this, because we often have hidden strengths.”
This kind of belief is just one example of the negative self-talk that prevents many people from accessing their creative talents. Jill Badonsky, a multimedia artist, author and founder of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching Certification Training, explains that people paralyze themselves by focusing on limits.
“They are comparing themselves to others, having fears of not being good enough, overwhelming feelings of where to begin and unrealistic expectations of being instantly competent,” Badonsky says.
And no wonder – the creative process is a fragile one, and exposing our sensitive side requires courage: the courage to put ourselves out there, and also the courage to show up every day and commit to ourselves and our art. Badonsky suggests lowering expectations and breaking down tasks into small steps at the beginning of the process to help alleviate the fear and pressure of working on a creative project. Also critical – keeping the process fun.
“These are small steps that are smaller than what most people assume. A small step can be asking a question about a project, taking a walk, writing for just 5 minutes then taking a break and then writing for 5 more minutes. Creative confidence relies on showing up over and over, and if the task is too big, too hard and not fun, showing up at all is less likely and many people do not even begin,” Badonsky explains.
But what if you do show up every day — and you still get stuck? That’s totally normal, says Badonsky. The creative process is supposed to bring up fears (to which Badonsky suggests you reply “So what? I’ll do it anyways.”) or lead us toward a point of creative chaos. To overcome this ambiguous and difficult moment, it’s important to “build a tolerance for floundering, experiment, expose yourself to something else for awhile. It also helps to understand that the creative process is not linear and that linear goals can block it,” Badonsky says.
Bard adds that new experiences are critical for creativity and suggests that if people feel that they are living routine lives, they should “go out of their way to get out of their comfort zone. Once a week go play, do something new or something you wouldn’t usually do, but don’t consider it ‘Creative with a capital C’. One art class, visiting a different restaurant, sitting at a different table in the place you go for lunch – anything to change things up a little and see the world from a different perspective.”
Once you can make a habit out of showing up and thinking more positively about your creative life, it all becomes easier, Badonsky says, and creativity will begin to unfold in wonderful and unpredictable ways.