What is Creativity and How to Grow Your Creative Skills

As this New Year begins, Josie and I wanted to circle back to a conversation we had a few months ago with our Creative Tribe. We talked about what creativity is (and isn’t) and ways to cultivate the skills that support it. 

Watch our chat below, or keep reading for the highlights.

No time now? Click here to pin this post for later.

To start the conversation, we asked about your fears. Specifically – the ones that hold you back from embracing your creativity.

While you might not think creativity and fear are linked, life has shown us they are constant companions. We unintentionally link them together every time we let our fears keep us from connecting to our creativity. 

Move Beyond the Fear

First, let’s address our fears around creativity so we can release them and come up with a different way to think about creativity.

The most common fears we hear from creators are:

  • Worry about waste – of money, materials, and time
  • Fear of making something you just want to throw away
  • Imperfection – making a mistake or creating something that will be judged negatively by others
  • Imposter syndrome – Fear of not being good enough

What are YOUR specific fears as it relates to expressing creativity?

Take some time to identify, understand, and contemplate your own specific fears as that will allow you to move past them. 

As you think about your fears, it’s essential to understand that creativity and creative skills are not the same thing. 

That’s right – creativity itself is NOT skill-based. That means everyone is creative, including and especially you! 

How you choose to express and grow that inherent creativity is up to you, but you can’t let fear stand in your way. We’ve discovered the best way to overcome creative fear is to focus on the process instead of the project. 

The creative value is in the journey – not in how the project turns out.

Success is in the numbers

When the process (and not the project) becomes the reason why you pull out your stamps or moulds day after day, you begin to grow your skills.

Instead of being afraid to use your tools, you push yourself to practice again and again without self-judgement or expectations. This is what Josie calls, “doing the reps” and it’s the best way to grow your skills. 

In our own lives, we learned early on that “success was in the numbers.” Having grown up in a “sales” family, one of Josie’s first jobs at 16 was to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. At the time, our Dad told her, “It’s all about the doors. You’ve got to knock on a certain number of doors to get a sale.” 

This gave her the encouragement she needed to put in the work and move past her fears of all the “no’s”. It’s a lesson that applies to any learning and stretching process – like going from ‘having creativity’ to ‘having creative skills.’ You just have to keep knocking on the doors and doing the reps!

So, no matter what the skill is, be it oil painting or DIY furniture painting, don’t let yourself get caught up in how it turns out. Just repeat and do it again because the value is 100% in the process.

Embrace any mistakes you make because they provide you with the most valuable, date-rich learning experience. 

Creativity versus Productivity

Don’t let guilt deprive you of finding joy in your creativity – regardless of your creative skills. Embrace wherever you are in your creative journey in the moment and reject that idea that you need to be different or ‘more.’

While the American culture puts an emphasis on productivity and efficiency, that perspective can really hinder the creative process. Focusing solely on the outcome means failure if the outcome isn’t perfect – a perspective that is laden with guilt.

Feeling the guilt, or even anticipating it, can stop you from doing the creative reps you need to build the skills. Most athletes put in hours and hours of practice to build their skills. It may look like they were born being able to perform at a high level, but it’s raw reps that produced their skills.

Knowing when to step back

Let’s be honest – any time you create something you can hit a spot where you hesitate. Maybe you’re not feeling it or you’re just uncertain about what you want to do next. The solution is to take a ‘step back.’

Stop working on the project. Set it aside but keep it somewhere in your peripheral vision. As you leave it there – maybe throughout the week or month – you will gain a fresh perspective. Ask yourself what you love about the project and what isn’t working for you, and jot down notes.

When you go back to your project after stepping back, you’ll bring fresh ideas and perspective – ready to immerse yourself in the process again.

Protect Your Creative Time

Rather than asking, “Am I creative?” embrace the knowledge that you already have a well of creativity inside of you.

The real question is how much of that creativity are you allowing yourself to express?

It’s OK to carve out time for creativity on your calendar – just like any other task. It’s important and life-giving because we’re created to be creative. Our cups get filled up by being creative! Making the time for the beautiful messy beginnings in your creative journey is essential.

Challenge yourself to take the time you put on your calendar and just start. Take your IOD products out and give yourself permission to play with them. When you focus on the process, you don’t need a specific project so really, REALLY just play.

(If you need some playful, process-focused ideas, check out this masking, casting and stamping post.) 

How to Handle Creative Overwhelm

Maybe you have so many creative ideas and projects that you want to tackle that you don’t start any of them. One way to deal with that is to get in the habit of keeping a creative journal. Write all the project ideas or techniques you want to try.

Make sure to take the time to jot down as many details about your ideas as you can. When they’re fresh, it seems like you will always know exactly what you dreamed or intended to do. But trust us – someday looking back, those details will be gone!

When it’s creative time (that you marked on your calendar) don’t overthink it – just pick one thing out of your creative journal and dive in! And it doesn’t have to be getting your hands deep into art supplies.

You don’t have to create “Art” to express creativity

People tend to pigeon-hole creativity into “art,” but creativity expresses itself in so many different ways. It’s found in anything from cooking meals, to geeking out over an accounting system, to woodworking. Creativity, whether you know it or not, can influence every aspect of your life.

Over time, you may find creative joy in different ways. Be open to it and remember to enjoy the process!

What do you think creativity is?

Let us know in the comments and also we’d love to hear what helps you grow your creative skills.

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7 Comments

  1. Patty on January 12, 2021 at 9:39 am

    My fear is money, materials and time. Fearing it wont be worthy once I am done. I really like your idea of keeping a journal, I sometimes think of so many things I want to try and get overwhelmed with where to start. Its taking that first step that is the scariest.

  2. Char on January 12, 2021 at 9:52 am

    Thank you. I have always been afraid of wasting materials and money but more than that, I have never given my self the time to knock on enough doors.

  3. Sharon on January 12, 2021 at 11:20 am

    As I said on Instagram yesterday, creativity is a lot of trial & error! Expecting your project to turn out exactly like someone else’s is a mistake! I love IOD products but being financially challenged, it’s hard to be able to do everything! Right now, my focus is on porcelain art, China painting. It’s not instant gratification and sometimes frustrating because you’re at the mercy of the kiln(firing)! Things don’t always come out the way you expected! That’s just part of the process! You have to be willing/prepared to move on. Sometimes you can fix your mistakes but sometimes you just have to try again! There’s always tomorrow, as Scarlet once said!

  4. Katerina on January 12, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    Dear beautiful ladies,
    Inertia and resistance is what keeps us quite often from being creative…It is so powerful..that sometimes I personally feel like there’s a ghost in my house that’s chained my legs and hands…hahaha
    I have begun up-cycling a beautiful old china cabinet, and it’s been a month …Still on the balcony unfinished…cabinets and upper part
    And I was sooo excited to have bought a variety of IOD molds, stamps, colorful transfers…and other supplies for my Christmas vacation yet no “inspiration” or call it inertia …
    It’s true though that when you start, it comes …
    What’s behind resisting creative ? Maybe perfectionism, results’ only driven school education…instead of the “enjoy the ride and find out” attitude.. Anyways, thanks so much for the video on Creativity, it was very enlightening and emotional. Have a great, creative year ! Regards from Athens, Greece

  5. Georgina ledlie on January 12, 2021 at 1:52 pm

    I become very down hearted. I make the things that I love. but I find that no one else likes them at all. Hahahaaa. I need to sell the items I make but no one hardly ever buys anything. I have been told over and over, I should make something else. I don’t want to. I want to make the things that make me happy ! Perhaps that is wrong….I will not give up…. I’m stubborn ! One day it will happen and that’s just around the corner. hahahaaa. Hugs from Australia.

  6. Janet on January 13, 2021 at 10:05 am

    I find that I become inspired with an idea and get very excited about it, but if, or when I think about it later or start to actually do the project, I suddenly feel deflated. Like I decide it was a dumb idea, or what’s the point in it, or if I try to do it, I’m dissatisfied with what I have created. Then I start feeling like what’s the point? !
    I buy stuff to make things and then don’t touch them…. I enjoy creating, but if I have no place for it or way to gift it, it seems like a waste.

  7. Denela on January 15, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Dear Lovely Ladies,

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and encouragement, your article couldn’t have come at a better time. I managed to write four poems this week in one afternoon and do some craft work as well. I feel fantastic. My younger brother has been urging me to get creative for a very long time.
    So with the push from your article, l am going to carry on being creative no matter what.

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