Creativity is about Attitude, Not Talent

Creativity is About Attitude, Not Talent

I didn’t always consider myself a creative person. Growing up with a very artistically gifted mother and sister, my art projects always paled in comparison. But, my mother was an art teacher, and she knew how appreciate creativity in many forms, and she passed that appreciation on to me.

I have a couple memories that stand out. First, I remember being in art class (I can’t recall the grade, but perhaps first or second), and we were working with watercolors. The instructor wanted us to brush all the way across the page with watercolors over a crayon drawing. I had drawn a house, and I interpreted the instructions differently, and did not brush the paint all the way from one end of the page to the other. Instead, I brushed the watercolor from one end of my house drawing to the other. I thought it looked great, but my teacher complained that I did not follow instructions. I recall my mother being upset with the teacher’s reaction, and telling me that my painting was beautiful, and that my interpretation of the instructions was just fine, because art is about our individual expressions of how we interpret the world.

My second memory is of a visit to my grandparents’ house; I was probably around 7 or 8, in a sewing phase and wanted to set up shop in front of the house and sell pin cushions. My grandmother, ever the practical one, said that no one was going to buy a pin cushion from a kid. I remember my mother telling me to go ahead and do it anyway, because you never know who else is going to appreciate what you make. I have no memory of having sold anything, but my mother sticking up for me is something I’ll always remember.

These two memories have given me some life lessons that have stuck with me every since:

  1. Creativity is not about doing exactly as you’re told
  2. Our interpretation of what it means to create is part of what makes us unique
  3. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you the world won’t care about what you create (even if that person is someone you love and who loves you)

Some might think that a language teacher or translator or interpreter might not necessarily fall into the “official” category of “creative”, like a graphic designer, artist, singer, etc. But, since I learned at a young age that alternative interpretations are OK, I would argue that a language professional can and should be creative.

If you’re a teacher, you create new learning experiences in which your students can thrive and make connections. If you’re an interpreter, you create avenues of communication that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, and if you’re a translator, you know that the translation you create is the unique result of your expertise. If you’re an entrepreneur or a freelancer in a language-related field, then you create all the time—your online presence, marketing plans, etc. Not quite the creative fields that perhaps come to mind off the top of your head, but creativity plays a key role in everything you do.

That’s why I wanted to check out The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice. I know that while I consider myself to be pretty creative, I always appreciate help in effectively cultivating that creativity so that I don’t run out of steam. Some people may run out of ideas, but that’s not my usual struggle with creativity… I have *too many* ideas and not enough time to get to all of them, which gets pretty frustrating. This frustration is toxic. So, I wanted to learn lessons to avoid it.

One of the biggest takeaways I got from this book was to set aside a specific time to cultivating ideas… I know I just said that I didn’t need to think about more ideas, but I’ve interpreted this message for my own use. Because I come up with ideas on the fly, I sometimes don’t give that much thought into how it all ties in to my long term plans or what I’m currently doing. I usually come up with an idea, then I add it to my list of things I want to work on. Then I separate it out into tasks, and assign myself tasks until it gets done.

Sounds productive, right?

Most of the time. But often, when I come up with project ideas, I just add it to the list without really thinking about where it fits. I need to spend more time thinking strategically about ideas, not just creating them. So this is a great takeaway for me and something that will benefit me in the long run.

The section on the “three assassins of creativity” also really resonated with me: dissonance, fear, expectation escalation. Fear is the assassin that kills me the most… I let this take root and then allow myself to get caught up in the day-to-day mundane stuff, and not actually get any CREATING done. Recognition of this has led me to finally, finally make steps towards outsourcing the stuff that sucks up my time but doesn’t let me create.

If you’re looking to prioritize creativity in your life, it’s definitely worth checking out this book. I’m also adding the podcast to my playlist, because I know I’ll need additional inspiration to keep my creativity flowing.

Don’t worry about so-called talent. Developing a strategy to hone and cultivate your creative habits is about your attitude towards why creativity is important, and what it can do for you and your business.