Are You Born Creative or Can It Be Learned?

Steve Johnson, Unsplash

Steve Johnson, Unsplash

As a creative professional, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients say, “Oh, I’m not that creative.”

But is that really true? 

It depends on how you define creativity.

According to a recent report from LinkedIn, creativity is considered a soft skill and one of the top ones employers are looking for.

According to others, creativity is an innate way of looking at things, a mindset.

I believe it’s both. And I believe everyone is capable of fostering their own version of creativity.

Creativity is so much more than knowing how to place objects into aesthetically pleasing arrangements or combine colors on a canvas or write a riveting bestseller.

Creativity cuts a wide swath through all personal and professional pursuits from hair stylists to bakers to engineers to therapists to accountants to parenting. You get the picture.

Creativity is…

…how you approach a new situation. 

…how you solve a new problem you’ve never encountered. 

…how you look at life and respond. 

…open-ended thinking. 

…outside-the-box thinking. 

…looking into other realms for possible answers. 

…believing all things are possible. 

…feeling an innate drive to explore and expand beyond what is right in front of you. 

Being creative might be charting new territory or it might be connecting two very common things in a completely new way.

You can learn to flex your creative muscle. Just like any other skill, it takes awareness and practice. It really requires being consciously present so you don’t default into automation, choosing to take the easiest path, but the most worn and weary one. You can challenge your brain with open-ended problems. Problems that may never have one exact right solution. Big world problems like how to lower the cost of electric vehicles and small world problems like how to get your teenaged son to spend less time holed up in his room.

Expose yourself to new perspectives. I personally think traveling is the best (and most fun) ways to do this. Once you step outside of your everyday world, you’ll start to see things from an entirely different vantage point. That’s key to unlocking your creativity. Read and watch and listen to people who are very different from you—racially, politically, geographically. You don’t have to agree or believe in everything they say or do but observing yourself observing them and make note of the ideas that come up for you.

Expose yourself to art in all its forms. Can you become more creative by simply looking, hearing, reading that which is classically considered ‘creative’? Absolutely! If you pay close enough attention, you’ll start to recognize how basic aesthetic principles like spatial proximity, scale, weight, rhythm, contrast, and white space permeate all forms of art, no matter what media or who produced it.

Everyone is capable of being creative. And remember even the most celebrated creatives among us are not “creative” 100% of the time. Know that creativity sometimes flares in fits and bursts and often in the most unassuming places—the shower, the line at the grocery, driving to pick your kids up at school. It seems weird that we might get our greatest creative insight in the most mundane of places. But this makes sense because most of all, creativity needs space. It needs room to swell. It needs a minute of mental clarity. Certainly, none of us has unlimited space to give or minds of eternal pristine clarity. But we all have our moments.

So what do you think? Is creativity a mindset, a skill, or both? Do you consider yourself creative?

Lisa Mullis