In Ms. Van Horn's kindergarten class, we were all creative.
I was part of a circle of 4 and 5 year olds who differed in many ways — not all of us could read or identify colors or numbers. But when it was time to color, draw or build something cool, we all rushed to the play area at full speed. We were all creative.
These days, I'm sure if I could arrange a reunion of my kindergarten classmates, we might all feel differently about our natural creativity. I know because I hear the same uncertainty when I talk with any group of photographers, who I'm sure were all once kindergartners.
My standard question, "what are you struggling with these days?" generates a lot of "I'm just not that creative" responses.
Tom Kelley says that's just not true. Tom is an innovation consultant and author of the book, Creative Confidence, and I have fallen for his thesis.
We are long past kindergarten, but if we buy in to the premise that anyone can be creative, and I do, how do we go about relearning the steps?
I have six strategies that anyone can use to learn creativity.
Listen to the podcast
CI-CO. Creative in. Creative out.
Computer scientists introduced us to the phrase GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out. The term meant that you only get out what you put in. Input quality data to a system, and you get good results. Input garbage, and hold your nose.
The same things works for creativity. You have to input good creative information to be able to use it to create later.
What does that mean? Most creative people are avid learners. You read blogs, listen to podcasts, attend workshops. Continuous learning pays dividends on your ability to be creative.
For many creative photographers, creative input is as simple as looking at more photos. Taking time to look at lots of photos, good and bad, helps create the foundation that will fuel your creativity later.
Allow connections made from existing ideas.
Once you have taken in a strong foundation of creative information from different sources, allow yourself to make connections from those ideas.
Sometimes creativity results from remixing several different influences into your own unique cocktail.
Create without editing
Walt Disney had a process for creativity called Dreamer - Realist - Spoiler.
The Dreamer stage was for fantasizing — creating the most fantastic and absurd ideas as possible. No filter. Just wonderful, raw ideas. This stage was about “why not?”
The Realist stage was the point where he whittled down the ideas to what was practical. That was the "how" stage.
The Spoiler stage further refined by poking holes in the ideas that were left.
Here's the point. The realists were not allowed into the dreamer stage. Brainstorming and creating ideas were tasks that were fully completed before anyone was allowed to begin criticizing.
The mistake many of us make is we start editing before we finish creating. That stifles the creative process.
Creativity sometimes surfaces where you wouldn't expect it
Creativity is unpredictable by nature. You put in the effort and trust that it will result eventually. Many times, your creativity will show itself as a happy accident. Knowing that, don't quit when it doesn't show up on schedule. Keep working, and when you least expect it, expect it.
Creativity is in your routine, not just emulating another person
You really don't want to be like Mike, no matter what the commercials tell you.
You also don't want to be like Trey Ratcliffe, Scott Kelby, Peter Hurley or any of the other photography internet celebrities.
The danger in simply emulating other photographers is that it might suppress our own quirks and individualism, which is where creativity comes from. It’s your own unique interpretation.
Study the greats. Learn from the masters. Then once you have that basic knowlege, use it to experiment, fail, experiment again. Keep working at it, and one day you find your own voice.
The only one way to become more creative is to do the work for yourself.
Continuously creating leads to creativity
To become more creative, you must create.
It's that obvious and that simple. Create fearlessly.
Start your own blog and publish your work. Launch a Project 365 and commit to shooting daily. Begin a personal photo project and see it through to completion.
As Nike says, "just do it."
"Creativity is as much about the ability to come up with ideas as it is about the courage to act on those ideas," Tom Kelley says. "Everyone is innately creative; creators are just people who act."
Kelley suggested the line of thought, "I'm not gonna be perfect, but I'm gonna try stuff."
Have you thought of yourself as creative? Which of the six strategies can help you tap into more of your natural creativity? Do you have other strategies of your own? Let me know in the comments.