Reclaiming creativity means moving beyond the fear of being judged by others.
How do you define creativity? The answer to this question might depend on the age when you are asked this question. Early in life, creativity is a trait every child possesses, a skill we all utilize, and an idea that appears in every aspect of our work. As children, creativity is the fuel that powers our imagination, drives our play, and makes it okay for us to take risks. In youth, creativity has no limit.
Somewhere our perception of this changes. Creativity moves from something we all have to a trait we believe only few possess. Generally, our definition of creativity shifts from a universal skill to a trait reserved for the artistic. A skill that was one time boundless becomes relegated to only certain forms of expression.
Slowly but inevitably, societal norms limit creativity within individuals and before long, this skill is something very few people utilize in their daily work. Creativity becomes the most powerful tool available that, too often, people feel they lack.
The transition from creativity to confinement likely stems from the first time someone experiences the judgment of another. At a certain point in life, external judgment becomes the new rule. When we are young, we can do anything, be anything, make anything and no one tells us no; at least not harshly. Once we reach a certain age though, metrics are applied and adults are on hand defining for us what is beautiful, what is creative, what is worthy of praise.
When judgment becomes the norm, the inevitable end result is that creativity is smothered. The death of creativity has emerged because of the desire to place everyone’s talents into a box defined by others’ metrics. As we mature though we are given opportunities to be free of that box. It is time that we take back our creativity. We must stop hiding away the concept of creativity or limiting this trait to the arts. Instead, we should cultivate this concept in every facet of life.
Reclaiming creativity means moving beyond the fear of being judged by others. In a society where we have been taught that everything will be judged and where technology has allowed everyone the power of becoming a faceless critic, it is time we throw caution aside. The following recommendations encourage those initial steps towards engaging creativity across life and daily work.
1. Place yourself in a situation where your work will be judged
Since judgment is a natural enemy of creativity, seek out scenarios where your work will be judged. Creativity involves risk and we must be willing to open ourselves up to that risk. Whether it is taking on a new project at work, trying a new recipe with friends, or changing a small piece of how we dress, we should learn to become comfortable with judgment.
This step should also be incremental; instead of taking on major challenges, try smaller changes that will still cause a reaction. Once you are comfortable with the initial judgment, move onto bigger hurdles. For example, when writing my blogs, I find it best to run them by others before sharing them publically, that way I know what needs to be changed ahead of time.
2. Find people who will give you honest feedback
There is always a countless supply of people ready to tell us the truth about our work, the key is finding the people who will do so in a productive manner. When you are creating something new, look for the people who will give you honest but productive feedback. It is important we are aware of what we can do to improve but it is also important we are aware of where we have succeeded too. When seeking out feedback, ask for others to specifically highlight at least one attribute that needs improvement and one aspect where you succeeded.
It is beneficial to be intentional in seeking out someone who has similar expertise in the type of feedback you are seeking. When I want critiques on my speaking, I seek out support from my peers in the field because they are experts in the same area. Seek out feedback from those who you know can help you grow through their own expertise.
3. Allow yourself to fail a few times
I once had a friend who wanted to be better at painting, so she kept trying to recreate the same work. Each time there was improvement in the art, and she was willing to accept the need for growth. Remember, no one creates a masterpiece on the first try. Creating anything of worth takes time, practice, and quite a few failures along the way. Accept that failing is a natural part of the process and give yourself an allowance of mistakes. Where the judgment of others can highlight these mistakes, the honest feedback can provide areas for practice. Creativity is a fluid process with very few set end goals.
4. Make something
One of the best ways to practice creativity is to make something. Do not get stuck in the trap of constant planning, thinking, or preparing to create. It is easy to put creativity off by finding the excuse that we have to wait until we have more time or are more skilled. A part of the creative process is the flaws present in our first drafts. Do not wait until you are prepared to try something new, do something and then figure out how to do it better.
5. Don’t wait for permission
At my last job I wanted to create a new training guide as a resource, but knew this was something that was not budgeted for in my schedule. Instead of waiting for permission to start the project, I decided I would accelerate my other essential work and use my extra time to slowly design this resource.
When we are making something that will impact others, it can be easy to get lost in the idea that we do not have the right to create. Instead of waiting to for everyone to be on board with taking risk, do first and ask permission later.
This concept is especially hard when considering our professional work; after all we do not want our supervisors to perceive that we have been wasting time on something they did not want. Step past the fear of judgment by creating new things on your own time at only a cost to you before publicizing it. If it truly matters to you, it is worth it.
Being creative has and always will mean taking risks. As children we accepted this because we had not yet experienced the possible consequences of these risks. At a certain point though we became afraid of what other people thought of our creations and we let those fears define us. As adults it is time we reclaim this ability for risk. Take back creation without judgment; embrace creativity.
Image credit: epSos.de/flickr