How to be creative

Stop critiquing every decision, just create

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

It’s hard for me to sit down and make something without the looming belief that what I’m creating isn’t good enough. There’s always going to be better writing, designs, drawings, music, or food than anything I create.

Even as I write this right now, I struggle with the thought that what I’m creating isn’t anything special. I continuously critique myself on any creative piece of work that I’m creating.

But fuck that…

When I push past the mindset that what I’m making doesn’t look right or has no depth, I lose sight of the real purpose of creating in the first place. Creativity isn’t about creating the best or the most memorable — it’s about expressing your ideas and allowing your mind to wander into uncharted territory to uncover insights that you may not have discovered without the exercise.

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
- Maya Angelou

Most of the time, I don’t have a grand idea when I begin working on anything. I usually have hardly any vision at all. If I’m designing a web application for a client project, maybe I’ll have a rough outline in my head, but the creativity, the juice, doesn’t start flowing until I put pen to paper or cursor to canvas.

You see, if I waited around to be struck by a creative strike of lightning, then I’d likely never create anything at all.

In high school, my English teacher, Mr. Hewlett, would have us sit down and do 5-minute writing assignments. No agenda, no clear objective other than to write. He said to us, “I don’t care what you write, you can write the ABC’s for 5 minutes if you want.”

An exercise like this helped me unlock creativity that I may have never tapped into. I feel that sometimes we can be so insecure that we aren’t creative enough or aren’t artistic. But it’s when we let our insecurity about creating disappear and create that we can truly overcome this.

Writing, simply to write, going wherever your brain wants without second-guessing or pausing to make corrections. Drawing without a vision in mind, just putting your pencil on paper and drawing anything. Who cares what it looks like, you’re making something, that’s all that matters.

You don’t need to be the next most celebrated author, designer, artist, musician, or chef — but you might impress yourself with the things you can create when you lower your expectations and enjoy getting into a flow.

Ideas come out of nowhere when you’re creating.

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”
— Vincent Van Gogh

If you’re not drawing and you regularly don’t then your mind isn’t going to come up with great ideas for sketches while you’re sitting on the toilet (or maybe it will?).

The point is, you don’t know what you can create until you let your expectations and self-criticism disappear. Do this and you can allow your mind to run free and create.