Coloured pencils and pen

How To Be Creative (When You’re Not A Creative Person)

Have you ever said to yourself, I’d love to be creative, but I’m just not that sort of person?

As a full-time creative professional, I hear this wish expressed all the time. I wish I was creative. I wish I could do what you do. Creativity can seem like the daunting domain of people with funky dress sense and hipster glasses. Of course, I don’t believe there’s a line between creative and non-creative people. It’s not like there’s a secret creative land where all the artists, writers and photographers live, and non-creative land for everyone else.

One of my big passions is to encourage people how to be creative in their daily life. Creativity can help you in any profession, as it allows you to look at problems in a new light. But where to start?

Start small

If it’s been a long time since art class at school, start with something small such as:

  • Colouring in: With the trend of colouring-in books allowing us to reconnect to our inner child, it’s easy to pick up a book and some pencils.
  • Take a class:  Because the process is guided, you’ll have someone to help you along if you get stuck. Many art galleries and writers’ centres have workshops specifically targeted at beginners.
  • Listen to some music: Don’t have the TV on at the same time, but really listen to the album as a whole. Think about how you feel during the songs.
  • Journal: Get a blank diary and start jotting down some notes about your day. If this is challenging for you, or you don’t know what to write, why not get a guided journal which asks questions for you to answer?
  • Go to a talk: Listening to people talk about their creative process can be just as inspiring as making your own work. Talk to people you consider creative. Ask them how they do it. Large galleries and museums often run free talks about their collections.
  • Make a book: Take the photos from your phone and print them out in a book, or make one yourself with different types of paper.

Creativity comes in many forms

origami paper cranes
Some Origami paper cranes I made to decorate my house.

Creativity doesn’t have to be expressed on a huge canvas in a public space. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it can be expressed in many ways, whether that’s:

  • Craft: Knit, crochet, scrapbook, sew. Craft shops have heaps of craft kits with instructions. Personally, I love paper craft and origami.
  • Cooking: Decorate a cake, come up with a new recipe
  • Gardening: Landscape your yard or apartment balcony, plant flowers in patterns
  • Art: Take photos on your phone, doodle in a notebook, colour in
  • Music: Play an instrument, listen to music, sing in the shower
  • Writing: Read a good book (requires your imagination!), write in a journal, listen to author talks
  • Performance: Go to a local theatre production, or volunteer for one! Even if you’re not on stage, there’s plenty of creative roles behind the scenes. Take a dance class. Make a cosplay outfit.
  • Gaming: Play a word or art based board game with friends, or play a video game which encourages creative thought (building and simulator games,

Exercise: Write a list of the things you enjoy doing. Are any of them creative hobbies? What did you enjoy doing when you were a kid? If not, pick a hobby from the list above and look into it!

Make time for creativity

game of thrones and earl grey teaI am creative every single day. Even when I’m not at my job, I do creative things on the weekend. I hang out with writers. I workshop other people’s writing. I’ll go on a photo expedition with a friend. I’ll sit in the library and read.

Commit some time each day to being creative. If you’re constantly on your phone, take some time out. Put a block on it for an hour and don’t check it. Trust me, the pictures of cats, food and selfies will be there when you get back. Use that time to practice your hobby. One of my favourite things to do each day is turn off the television, put on some relaxing music, make a cup of tea and read for an hour before bed.

Give yourself permission to daydream

If I asked you to draw a cat, what colour would you make it? Black? White? Ginger?

What if I said it’s okay for your cat to be green? Or purple. Or made of gold. These wouldn’t be any cats we know in real life, but they’d be some pretty cool cats. What stopped you from making that cat completely different to what you know? A huge part of being creative is not putting limitations on your thought process. Let your mind wander and don’t stop it. Daydream. Ask what if? Catch yourself when you find yourself making restrictions on what is possible.

Exercise: You’re a biologist on a new planet. Make a list of all the plants and animals you discover. Don’t stop until you have twenty items.

You don’t need to show anyone

When you’re not worried about what other people think, you’re less afraid of failing. So what if that story didn’t work out? So what if that cake sunk? While it’s easy to get caught up in recognition, it’s important to do things just for you. Even though I’ve had writing published, I still write stories just for me. No one else is going to see them, and I’m happy with that. If you’re afraid to be creative you might be worrying about what other people will say. If you don’t show them, they can’t judge you.