Top 4 Creativity Assassins
We were created in the image of an incredible Creator - just look around. He gave every individual a distinct fingerprint of creativity. “We are God’s workmanship, his masterpiece work of art, (his Sistene Chapel or La Sagrada Familia), created anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us” (Eph 2:10). And yet somewhere, somehow we have limited the creative work potential existing inside all of us and written it off as something for the professional artists. What if instead, we saw every person, ourselves included, as making up a greater part of a creative whole! And with whatever role we have, we consider the possibilities of tapping into this creativity? What if we considered how a person in finance, in leadership, in construction might think outside the box and utilize his/her imagination for purposeful and life-giving work for the greater good?
Creativity is so much more than art or artists. I frequently hear people say, I’m not the artist type! The potential to be inspired with awe and wonder is ingrained in every single human person’s unique design - that’s where creativity lives. I believe we are all born creative people. But not only that, our brains and particularly our prefrontal cortex, unlike those of other animals, gives us the capacity to tap into a wellspring of unlimited imagination and use our unique creativity for the good of others. It’s unlimited! Imagine that!!!
It is every individual’s responsibility to discover what exclusive design we were particularly created for. Just like every tool in your kitchen or garage has a unique purpose and designed for a specific task. We were each created to fulfill a distinct job on this earth. What I create is different than what you create because my life experience and my skillset are uniquely me! And yet we do several things that are unhelpful to cultivate this creativity within us and in others.
Top 4 Creativity Killers
We live in a noisy world, even when no one is speaking. The clutter of our lives, whether material or conceptual, keep us from the joy, spontaneity and creativity found in artistic expression space. When we remove the excess in our lives we find free space enlivening and inspiring new ways of being. The clutter on the other hand, consumes both the literal space and mind space where artistic expression once lived.
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, a professor and early childhood advocate writes in, Taking Back Childhood. She says “kids benefit emotionally and cognitively from having long uninterrupted blocks of time to explore art materials such as paints, crayons, colored pencils, chalk, markers, clay, etc.” She writes how open-ended materials and time can can bring a child’s personal narrative to life! It's been proven that participating in art creation soothes the soul, provides inspiration, promoting mental and emotional well-being. In addition, adults, similar to children, need free, uninterrupted blocks of time to explore their artistic voices. It’s through pushing the boundaries of materials in long uninterrupted time, that our personal narratives can come to life! We limit our creative potential by leading overly-full lives. Boredom is creativity’s greatest fertilizer. It is the process that matters most in art, not the end product.
If boredom fertilizes the growth of creation, comparison is the weed killer. Comparison rears it’s ugly head in the form of self-limiting beliefs or other-limiting beliefs, limiting possibility and inspiration. “I’m not as good as____” or “You’re not the musician that she is.” These thoughts, regardless of how or if they’re verbalized, may keep you from experimenting with what the expression of how God-given creativity looks within you.
These limiting beliefs, similarly may keep you from encouraging development in others. For years, I compared myself to my husband. I would say, I’m not as creative as Jeff. And the truth is, I’m NOT Jeff! He’s different than I am. He has a completely different skillset than I do. But from the end product I see, through the eyes of jealousy a creative block inside me that can not sponsor his expressions. The way he upcycles and designs a table out of garbage is something I could never do. And although he IS naturally really good at a lot of things, he doesn’t create the same as me. For many years, I allowed the thought that “I’m not as creative as…” from allowing me to experiment with and discover my often ugly, messy, tasteless, sometimes beautiful, but irregardless, unique to me – meal, travel plan, or blog article. Comparison kills creativity.
When our unique skill set, natural abilities, learned traits, and personality all line up and we use them in the unique way they were formed for, we know it. And so do others. This place of pleasurable work I believe brings delight to God, ourselves and others. Whether baking, dancing, welding, or doing complex computer technology. We can feel a life-giving, purpose-filled element of God’s design at work in and through us. It is also up to us to foster that, not stifle it in others. That is how it’s meant to be! And yet we must welcome that creative potential within us and discover where our unique fingerprint meets the world’s deepest need. We must harness the creative potential the season of transition offers us.
3. Being the “Art” police
Likewise, we limit ourselves and other’s creativity in the language we use, or the judgment of others work. Take my recent interaction with my daughter, as an example. She’s 6 and unafraid to mix all media all the time! My acquired organizational skills go a bit mad when she gets in her zone! A few days ago I found her painting rocks. But she didn’t restrain herself there. She began using the paint to color sand, then mixed the multiple colors of sand (turned back to brown) with the painted shells, and finally added a bag full of chalk! A couple hours later, hands and clothes covered in paint and sand – wahlah! She had created her masterpiece! Where she saw a beautiful creative expression, I couldn’t help but see a mess to clean up. But did she see a beautiful creation? I didn’t ask her…I think in hindsight she was just really enjoying the process.
Simultaneously amazed and perplexed at the unlimited boundaries of her mind, I managed to contain my inner art police! I don’t intend to limit her or other people’s self expression. My censor lies in part in my own inhibited creative-self. My logical, well-developed left-brain trying to tell my artistic brain there is no logic in that.
Despite my desires to empower people through the arts, I must pay careful attention that my own blocks do not cause unnecessary limitations. Our limitations of both language and self-imposed boundaries of what art should look like keep us from exploring new ways to mixing media and pushing into new levels of untapped creativity – in both ourselves and others.
4. Take the same comfortable approach.
We limit our own creativity when we fail to step into the new. . Creativity emerges when we get off the path of least resistance and try something new! (Think: Mac-n-cheese quesadillas, thin-mint brownies, batter-fried oreos! Creative food creations!) Our brains naturally default to what we've done in the past. The past is known, familiar and comfortable.
Getting off the familiar path and taking a new direction gives us a whole new set of possibilities. It is often scary, yes. Typically a new path is scary primarily because we are afraid to fail. We’re also afraid of the unknown and the possibility of the future being worse than the present. Ruth Haley Barton summarizes it powerfully in Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership saying, “When the fear of staying the same is greater than the fear of the unknown, we are ripe for change!” We must be motivated to consider that the future holds hope of discovering new possibilities.
While thinking about things the way they've been thought about and doing things the way they’ve been done is comfortable, these ways can be broken. What brings people, and global workers in particular, to transition is a way of life that is not working. The realization that one or more aspects of life needs to change brings painful awareness – for the children who need a better education, for a sustainable financial structure, for aging parents, for the ability to not always be in a burn-out state! Doing things the way they’ve always been done; when these are no longer working, we have the opportunity to see this as a season of possibilities! For many of us, we must get to the point of desperation for change. To be desperate for something different you have to be willing to step out AND BE WRONG! We know that the most beautiful testimonies are lives risen above pain where beauty has been made from ashes. This is the redemptive and transformative work that we get to be about - being made in the mirror image of our Creator.
Give yourself space to explore possibilities. Allow yourself to acknowledge what you are good at. Spend time intentionally noticing what others are good at. Be aware where Jealousy creeps in. And get the necessary support to take whatever necessary first step is in front of you. The work of creativity is up to all of us. We get the privilege of joining in the pleasure of creating new with our great Creator.
Question: How can we be facilitators of artistic expression in both ourselves and others?
Practical Application. What if instead we…try to fit into my day and particularly within my work one of the following words: wonder, imagine, invent, design, create, express, I’m curious, what if? Kids are comfortable with this language!
Start a conversation with a child beginning with one of these words - imagine if…you could go anywhere right now, where would you go? What if…you could eat whatever you wanted for dinner – no limits! The potential responses are UNLIMITED and delightfully fun! What if you actually did it?!
as a coach, I might say to someone in major life transition - Imagine you had five other lives to lead, what might they look like? What would you do in each of them? This approach gives permission to dream and takes people out of their logical responses that can often fail in times of transition. Begin to imagine that which has yet to be created.