Unleashing Your Creativity: Five Steps to Get Started


Hey there, did you know that creativity is like a secret superpower we all have? It's not some elusive talent only a few are born with. It's not an "either you have it or you don't" trait; it's a muscle waiting to be flexed and strengthened over time. Just imagine, the more you work at it, the more it grows — pretty cool, right? Whether you want to build an empire from the ground up and take over the world, be at home with your babies while using creativity to grow and learn as a human, but also helping out your family financially, or simply produce art that you can be proud of, you can learn to be creative.

I feel like so often I hear people say things like, "oh, I wish I was creative" or, "I wish I could draw like that" or "I'm just not creative" and that's simply not true. I truly and honestly believe creativity is something that can be taught and that you can work on. But, like a muscle, if neglected can weaken or diminish over time.

We are born with creativity

Children are super creative and always thinking of new things. They're constantly working that muscle all day every day. And as we get older, we tend to stop adding that creativity to our life. And so our creativity muscles are weakened. Why does this happen?

As children progress beyond elementary school, our education system increasingly prioritizes STEM subjects and standardized testing, often at the expense of creativity and the arts. Because of that, opportunities to exercise our imagination and strengthen our creative abilities become more and more rare.

Also, the heavy emphasis on technology and screen time in both educational and leisure activities can reduce time spent on creative tasks. Social pressures and chasing after academic and career goals can make us overlook how important creativity is, turning our focus from arts and creative subjects towards skills that seem more 'practical.'

So yeah, those muscles weaken, for some to the point of complete atrophy. Let's go back to the muscle analogy for a second. Let's say you wanna do 100 push ups. If you haven't done push ups in 20 years, it's going to be really hard to do even one. But over time, the more you work at push ups, starting at one and then working up to two and then 10, 15 and 20 in a row; eventually you'll be able to do tons of push ups with ease. But it takes time and effort. And that's exactly the same with creativity.

The coolest part about practicing creativity is it doesn't necessarily matter what you're doing that's creative as long as you're being creative and using those muscles. So, how do you overcome the overwhelm and get started? Here are five ways to do just that:

1. Acknowledge the ways in which you are already creative

Creativity can be found everywhere. It's simply creating something that wasn't there before. Whether it's in the flavors you choose when cooking a meal, the clothing combinations you choose when getting dressed, decorating a room, buying a gift for a friend, finding creative ways to improve your parenting, doing your hair, or just learning something new, all of that is creating. So before you completely discount yourself in the creativity department, try to identify the ways that you're already being creative, or small ways that you can be more intentional with creativity in your day to day tasks.

Pursuing a specific creative skill and setting goals to improve is next. Whether you want to learn a specific skill like calligraphy, or design prettier programs for your church on Sunday, acknowledging the creativity you already have can help motivate you to take the next step.

2. Get inspired, but don't compare

One of the big barriers to getting started is the overwhelming amount of education and creative inspiration that can be found online. We see others who are masters of their craft and feel like we can never achieve that status. My big piece of advice is to consume and learn enough to get excited to start and then turn off your computer, stop scrolling Pinterest and just put pencil to paper. There comes a point where you have to put in time and that mileage, little by little, will turn into something amazing.

There will always be someone you perceive as better than you, regardless of your skill level. In the beginning it's just much easier to fall into that trap. The only person you should compare yourself with is you. Are you better today than you were yesterday, even if it's just a tiny bit? My goal with this article is for you to answer that question with a "yes!"

3. Start small

Let's go back to the workout example. If you haven't worked out in a really long time and you start to move, your body rewards you with feelings of accomplishment and desire to continue. It feels good to know we did something hard and beneficial to our health. And that's the same with creativity. It might be a little difficult at first, but your brain will reward you with those good feelings.

Try to find joy in accomplishing little bits at a time. Every second you spend practicing a creative skill is time spent working those muscles. So count every second as a victory. And although you find joy in these victories, just remember it does take time to master a skill, so don't rush. Setting expectations about how fast you see success can make the difference between accomplishing your goals and giving up.

The tricky part about these good feelings is the more time we let slip by without practicing again, the easier they are to forget. So let's find a way to keep it going.

4. Find a trigger

I've tried different strategies over the years to get creative when I'm not feeling it. When I'd rather binge-watch Netflix than work, I have a set of tools that help shift my mindset. My go-to method is blasting my favorite music, often tracks I loved in high school, through headphones very loudly. This loud music clears my day's thoughts and resets my brain. Just a song or two can reenergize me.

Other tactics include meditation, taking a walk, cleaning my workspace, or wearing comfortable clothes – anything that helps reset my focus and prepares me to work. These activities signal my brain that it's time to get started, overcoming the initial resistance and the temptation to be lazy. At first, it's hard to push past the resistance, especially when trying something new or challenging. But with time, this resistance lessens as you continue to motivate yourself into action.

5. Embrace the messy

In the beginning, we should set expectations around the quality of our early creative work. As you get started for the first time, stop worrying about quality. Your initial attempts at creativity will likely crash and burn. It will be messy. There is no way to avoid being bad in the beginning. So instead of beating yourself up, count it as mileage and just move on.

So let's say you're doing drills and they're super boring and you aren't creating anything that is Instagram worthy. Understand the work you're doing is mileage and time that you had pencil in hand. Rather than feeling like you wasted two hours and have nothing to show for it, acknowledge the success of holding a pencil in your hand for two hours and that you worked towards getting better.

During this journey, you may experience bursts of creativity where you're actually proud of your work and progress you're making. These moments feel wonderful and help us to keep going. But these moments can be few and far between. Waiting for moments of inspiration will result in less time spent building your creative muscles.

Don't wait to feel creative to be creative.

Make creativity a part of your life

One of the big demotivators for people new to exercise, or who have returned to exercise after a long break, is the disappointment they feel when results aren't seen immediately. Exercising your body is a long-term journey. It should be seen as a permanent, sustainable change that will provide long-term benefits through staying consistent, as opposed to a radical and unsustainable (and often unhealthy) attempt to change our body composition as fast as possible. We need to apply the same patience to creativity and not expect too much too fast. 

I believe creativity helps keep your brain fresh and full of life rather than being on autopilot constantly. I also believe creativity is the highest form of self love. You can get pedicure or take a warm bath, but those activities don't enhance our lives like creativity can. Creativity is hard. And when we overcome something hard, we experience a boost of self-esteem and self-worth. This creates inspiration to do more hard things. It's a snowball effect that adds so much goodness into our life.

Just start

And so whatever it is that you're wanting to start, I hope you get off your butt and start today. Stop waiting until Monday. Stop waiting for your supplies to come in. Stop waiting to take that one course. Start this very second and stop putting it off. Whatever you do, do not let today end without starting. Get that first five minutes under your belt because that first five minutes is the hardest.

If you want somewhere to start, I have classes that teach different skills:

Want to listen to my podcast episode about creativity? Check it out on Spotify or The Podcast App