How to Reclaim Your Creative Spirit

Photograph by Lucy Chen

Do you think the world is divided into creatives and non-creatives?

And that you were born without “creative genes”?

As a child, you probably doodled random shapes and called them your favorite animals, drew a family portrait of your mom, dad and yourself, danced, loved looking at your moves in the mirror, were always curious and questioned everything, and even had imaginary friends.

So when did all that change? When did you start believing you were not creative?

How My Creative Spirit Was Crushed in Childhood

What child doesn’t like to draw?

When I was three years old, my mom enrolled me in an after-school kindergarten art class.

I don’t remember anything except that my mom was pushing me to draw a circle. I tried very hard, but my arm simply refused to curl and make that line turn around.

After much cheering and pushing, my mom lost patience and said to me, “Oh, you are so stupid!”

She was so disappointed in me, and I thought I made her look bad. I felt bad not just for myself, but also for my mom.

Fast forward a few years — I was in primary school, and was about nine or 10 years old.

I came home one day somehow feeling inspired to paint. I knew I had a box of 12 tubes of water-color paint in a drawer. I knew exactly where it was. I had saved it in there.

I took it out carefully. It was still new; even the foil seal was intact. But all 12 tubes of paint had dried and were as hard as rock.

It reminded me that I had no creative talent, and I never even thought of painting again for more than twenty years.

How to Silence the Voice That Says, “I’m Not Creative”

I’ve met some amazing people since I’ve become an artist. Some of them use art journaling as a way of healing and invoking the creative spirit.

If you’re unfamiliar with art journaling, it is simply a diary in which you combine art and words to express yourself and record your life. You can write, sketch, use collage and basically do anything you want in your art journal.

Art journaling has proven to be quite effective with most people in silencing the inner critic, myself included, and I want you to try it.

First, remember and acknowledge the event where the creative spirit was taken away from you.

Write a letter to the person who took it away. Tell them about this moment that you remember. Describe to them how it made you feel and how it affected your creative spirit.

At the end of the letter, tell them that you forgive them. Tell them that you also forgive yourself for letting this event negatively define you for so long.

Also, tell them that you love them. Love is powerful, and the creative spirit is attracted to love like bees to honey.

When you finish the letter, send it to the person if he/she is still around, and if you feel comfortable doing so. If not, just keep it somewhere safe. You can also paint over it as a symbol of letting go. Do whatever feels right to you.

Whenever the “I’m not creative” voice surfaces again, think about this exercise, and think about this letter. Let it cleanse you of this negative voice and invoke your creative spirit.

Once free of this voice, you can develop your creativity again without the destructive influence of your inner critic.

How to Strengthen Your Creative Muscle

David and Tom Kelly say in their book that creative confidence is a muscle; “It can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience.”

Once you have cleansed your heart for the creative spirit’s comeback, that’s the time to take small steps to strengthen and nurture your creative muscle.

Step 1. Make Everyday Objects Interesting

What is the one thing that you use every day? Is it your morning coffee, or your soup for lunch? Is it the pen you keep in your pocket, or the lipstick in your handbag? Or perhaps you enjoy taking selfies?

Pick one object and photograph it every day.

Shoot it from above, below and from the side. Shoot it on top of your folder and your laptop. Shoot it next to your keyboard and computer screen. Shoot it full, half-full and empty. Shoot it in your office. Shoot it in your bedroom.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. As you start to photograph your everyday object and develop a creativity routine, you will be amazed at how many new ideas materialize.

Step 2. Be A Five-Minute Abstract Artist

Get a sheet of paper (the bigger the better, but A4 will do), and grab a pencil, pen or charcoal, or even your kid’s crayon. Then turn on your favorite music, be it classical, rock, pop or country. And just start making random marks. Move with the music.

Do it for five minutes or one song, then admire your abstract art. It’s only five minutes. Sure, you can do that every day.

Step 3. Make a Mess with Your Kids

Spend some time making art with your kids during weekends.

Give them some paper and charcoal, crayon or water-color, and ask them to do as they please. Turn on their favorite music.

Join the kids, too. And remember not to judge them or tell them what to do.
Even though you may have a mess to clean up later, it is totally worth the time and effort. You will be raising more creative and adventurous children, and working on your own creative muscle at the same time.

Step 4. Stimulate Your Brain With Crazy Poetry

Next time when you or your kids invite friends over, why not play with words and make crazy poetry?

Cut out 20 or more stripes of paper, and distribute them to your guests. Ask them to write one word on each piece of paper.

Gather the word cards, and arrange them into phrases and lines. Whoever has the craziest poetry wins!

Step 5. Build a Little Black Book of Ideas You Hide from Your Boss

Do you ever get ideas at work, but for whatever reason, decide not to tell your boss?

Next time an idea comes up, write it in a little black book. Feel free to jot down any ideas or fantasies you have about your work place.

This little black book is only for you, and it is not to see the light of day.

After six months or more, read it. You will be amazed by your imagination.
You may also realize that some ideas could have led to better solutions for issues at work. This may help you develop the confidence to later share your creative ideas at work.

The “Not Everyone Is Creative” Myth

You may have heard contradicting opinions.

Some people tell you that not everyone is creative. On the opposite end, some say that everyone is creative.

What is true? What should you believe?

Whatever the case, do not confuse creative with artistic — the two are distinctly different.

Learning the craftsmanship to be a fine artist, a ballet dancer, a musician or a novelist requires a lot of practice. Just as being a good doctor or engineer requires extensive training and experience.

But as Liz Gilbert says in her book “Big Magic”, you were born creative. It’s not even a questions!

Now go reclaim your creative spirit, and strengthen that creative muscle!
Soon, you will discover just how creative you truly are.