Sometimes people talk about creativity as though it were a gift bestowed on a few geniuses. In truth it’s a fundamental human quality. Tapping into it helps us to lead full, well-rounded lives. There’s a deep and rich satisfaction in learning to create something beautiful and well-crafted, whether it’s a story, a painting, a quilt or a song. Don’t tell yourself that you aren’t talented enough. Make a commitment to take time for whatever form of creation appeals most to you.
You’ll need to learn the fundamentals of your craft. This doesn’t have to happen in a class. Many community centers offer space where people can gather to do craft work together and pool their skills. You may have an accomplished friend or neighbor who can show you the fingering for the first chords, pass on tips and tricks for mixing colors and handling perspective, demonstrate the basic stitches in embroidery, or suggest writing exercises to help you strengthen your observation and description. There are also a plethora of books designed for beginners. Check several books on your craft out from your library. Look for one that speaks your language and values your goals. When you find one, get your own copy. All these things can help get you started. Once you have the basics down you can keep learning on your own.
Creativity requires discipline as well as inspiration. Set aside some regular time, however small it it, that fits in realistically with your daily schedule and with your temperament. If you work best in long uninterrupted blocks of time, you might set aside a half-day every week. If shorter, more frequent work periods suit you better, you might take an hour or even a half-hour every day. Keep this time unless real emergencies come up; don’t cut it out just because you’re not sure you really feel inspired or because you have a list of errands to run.
Create and Criticize
There’s a time for letting things flow–for writing down the bones of your story, whether or not all the details work effectively, for playing right through the song and not stopping to correct errors. While you’re doing this, set aside the critical voice whispering in your head “What a mess…That’s not right….Is this even worth doing?” Let yourself go. If you always stop for correction you may lose your confidence and (if you’re coming up with something new) your overall vision for the work.
There’s also a time for refining your craft–for going back over the story and correcting logic holes, reading out loud and dealing with awkward sounds, fixing spelling and grammar and punctuation; for playing short pieces of the song over and over until the pitch, rhythm, tone and flow are just what you want them to be. If you never stop for correction you may find your final creations unsatisfying. Remember, though, that the purpose of self-criticism is to make your vision come through more clearly, not to judge whether or not you are a good and talented person.
Connect with Other Creators
Some solitary time may help you find your balance and your technique. Time with other creators is also helpful. If you’re a writer, look for free workshops and critique circles in your neighborhood or online where you can get feedback on your works and help others get a perspective on theirs. If you’re a musician, look for jam sessions in your area where you can play along with others and share songs and ideas about fingerings. If you’re an artist, look for an area art group. Don’t stay in a group whose members see themselves as locked in a competition. Look for a place where beginners are welcome, where criticism is clear, courteous and constructive.