How many times have I heard someone without an art or design degree say: “I’m not creative, I couldn’t do x, y, z?” …probably countless of times.
It seems to be a common misconception that creativity is reserved for the so called “creative professionals” such as art directors, copywriters, designers, or fine artists.
After doing creative work daily for over 15 years, I can assure you that creativity is a process just like any other with the goal to get stuff done.
During my years as designer, I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the brightest and most creative minds in the user experience industry in San Francisco.
Nervously, I would check their backgrounds on LinkedIn and saw that they had been designers at Nasa, Adobe, and Apple; the Director of Product Design at Facebook; Lecturer at Stanford. Authors, founders, awardees — you name it, they accomplished it.
While nervous, I was also excited, because working with these amazing people I would get to witness their magic. Surely, they had some special creativity — a secret if you will — that made them such good creatives. And if I was lucky, some of it would rub on me.
Each of these design superstars indeed had their own special talent. One was an inspiring leader, another amazing visionary. But when it came to creativity, there were no shortcuts to be found: it was mostly pure hard work and finding inspiration when it was lost.
There was no cutting corners, just getting your hands dirty and getting stuff done.
Time after time, I found that success was a result of a proven process, working hard, and an ability to eloquently justify the design decisions to designers and non-designers alike.
First, I was underwhelmed and slightly disappointed because I had been expecting something magical. And when I realized it wasn’t “magic,” when I saw it was something that can be achieved by working towards it, I felt flustered.
Soon, however, I started to realize that this was a good thing. No, it was a great thing. Because it meant that I can work towards becoming more creative in my process, as well. And I can help others get there, too.
Understanding that creativity is not some special innate quality only reserved for a small design elite has helped me improve my own design process. And it has given me more confidence that anyone can find creativity in their daily work.
And even on days when I don’t feel particularly great about my design work, I won’t get discouraged, because I’ve seen over and over again that creative results will emerge from the process.
Now, when I hear people make the “I’m not creative” comment I tell them “Sure you are, everyone is, you just need to work at it.” Below you can find a list of things I find helpful when I need to find that creative spark.
How to move forward when you don’t feel creative:
Don’t wait for an inspiration. Get to work, start your process. While a part of your process might be finding lost inspiration, don’t let it drag for too long.
Find and look at beautiful and professional designs. When you see something great, try and analyze why it works, why is it great. The idea is not to steal other people’s work, but to learn from it and get ideas.
Get out all ideas, even the bad ones. It’s good to get it on paper and out of your system. Sketch out all iterations. If it’s in your head, get it out on paper. Others can’t see inside your head.
Don’t be afraid of bad or silly ideas. They might be bad or silly just in your mind. Someone else might think they’re actually great ideas.
Talk with other people, share your ideas and your work. Ask for feedback and listen. It is ok to show and discuss unfinished work and ideas. Your goal is to produce good work — and others can help.
Just get to work. Don’t wait or postpone, get something out on paper right now.
34 Tips for nurturing daily creativity:
- Take a walk, step outside
- Get enough sleep
- Draw when you take notes
- Doodle while you listen
- Draw for fun
- Carry a small notebook and be ready to write down any ideas
- Keep a note book on your nightstand
- Dictate ideas to your phone
- Exercise regularly
- Clean your house
- Clean your desk
- Read or browse art books
- Read a design magazine
- Start a Pinterest board called “inspiration” and pin inspiring images
- Brainstorm ideas using post it notes
- Draw mind maps that explain your ideas
- Ask yourself “in a world without limitations, how would this problem be solved”
- Wear something unexpected or let your child pick your clothes
- Or instead wear the same thing every day for a week
- Learn new art form or craft
- Paint with finger paints
- Sculpt with play dough
- Do an active listening exercise with 2 friends where you tell them your challenge (5 min) and then they discuss with each other for 15 minutes about potential solutions and then present their best ideas (10 min) for you
- Create a visual mood board for your idea or project
- Visit a museum
- Sketch a storyboard to visualize your idea
- Play in the sandbox
- Spend time with animals
- Try to explain your creative challenge to a 5 year old
- Ask yourself “in a world where I had unlimited confidence, how would I solve this problem”
- Take a nap
- Disconnect from your phone and computer
- Create a matrix of solutions: 4×3 grid where each column represents a potential solution and each row a different way of doing it
If you haven’t already done so, come check out our free Facebook group DIY Brand Design & Strategy for Soulpreneurs where I teach soulpreneurs like you to build their own branding and create their own designs.