How to be Creative (even if you think you’re not)

By Sarah Garland, English Literature Masters

Creativity is part of human nature. The ideas of individuals have shaped the world that we live in today. Nonetheless, creativity is often something that is easier said than done: for some of us creativity doesn’t seem to enter our lives at all, while for others, we strive for creativity, but often feel like we fall short of the creative lives that we have dreamed for ourselves.

As coordinator of this blog, it has been incredible to watch the creativity of the editors and writers blossom into this online journal of which we are all very proud. Yet in the process, we have met challenges that have forced us to be creative in unusual ways. Not only have our writers and photographs embraced their creativity, but we have also had to form creative solutions for how to structure the blog teams most effectively, how to visually design a blog and, perhaps most importantly, how to spread the word about John’s Chronicle, so that you get to see and read it. We depended on creativity throughout all of this, and yet in vastly different ways. I have personally learned a lot through this process, so I thought it would be good to share what I have learned with you – the inspiration for our creativity.

1. Everyone is creative – it just looks different on each person

As I’ve suggested, creativity comes in different shapes and sizes. It produces paintings, novels, businesses, buildings, ballet dances, mathematical equations, even those really annoying Spotify adverts. If the main thing that is stopping you from being creative is that you don’t think you have the creative trait, you need to change how you approach this. Creativity isn’t always about art, as the next five points are going to prove: it is about opening your mind to new ideas, looking at things from a different angle to find a solution and experimenting until something sticks.

2. Make time for creativity

We all have busy lives, but if you dream of doing a certain creative project, you cannot let that stop you: you need to make time to be creative. This may be as little as getting up fifteen minutes earlier and doing a little of your project each morning, or it may be dedicating Sundays to this endeavour.

A good thing to do is to make the most of the free time you already have. If you need a creative solution, place it consciously on your mind every time you’re walking somewhere (walking actually increases your creativity according to this TED talk, so if you’re stuck on a problem, maybe go for a walk anyway!). If you spend every evening watching Netflix, make yourself a promise that you will spend twenty minutes on your project before watching anything. Those twenty minutes could make all the difference!

you need barriers and limits to provoke you to be creative

3. Set limits

Despite the idea of freedom that people associate with creativity, you actually need barriers and limits to provoke you to be creative. Take Shakespeare, for example: one of the truths of his sonnets is that their strict form creates a steady rhythm and pleasant rhyming, that makes the sound of the poem as beautiful as its meaning. Shakespeare chose to write so many poems in that form because it forced him to think and imagine in a way that was different from normal speech, and through these limitations came something incredible. So, it is good to set limits on your creativity, whether this means giving yourself a deadline to encourage you to take time to find a solution, giving yourself a theme to give direction to your project, or finding a sonnet form equivalent to force you to be creative by working around a restrictive structure.

Disclaimer: If you get to the point where your creativity bursts beyond the bounds of the limitations you have set yourself, don’t be afraid: just break them. They are made to facilitate your creativity, and that stops the moment they begin to limit it. As Pablo Picasso says “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

you won’t be able to tell whether it is a right or wrong step until you’ve made it

4. Expect failure

As scary as failure is, it is an inevitable part of creativity. Being creative often means coming up with original ideas, which means taking a step in a direction that nobody else has gone before: often, this step will be a wrong one, because you’re stepping into darkness. But you won’t be able to tell whether it is a right or wrong step until you’ve made it. We have to change our mindset that failure is bad: on the contrary, failure is a moment where we have tried our best at something and should be proud, and also gives us much to learn from so that our next step can be more sure-footed. We definitely don’t regret taking the risk and starting up the John’s Chronicle: even though it was scary, we did it!

5. Collaborate

Sometimes, creativity means sitting at your desk and writing alone for an hour. But, at some point in every creative project or with every problem that needs a creative solution, you must consult someone else, otherwise you end up trapped in your own mind, unable to see the qualities of your own work. Sometimes this means asking someone for comments and constructive criticism: other times, it means working with someone to create together. Two heads are truly better than one! If creativity means thinking outside the box, then more people means more perspectives, and using these different perspectives to bounce around ideas is often the best way to be creative, particularly if you’re stuck in a rut.

what you really need to do is stop procrastinating

6. Start NOW

Seriously. You can read as many articles on being creative as you want, but what you really need to do is stop procrastinating, thinking that you aren’t creative or that there are too many obstacles, and just start being creative, NOW. What are you waiting for?

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