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Kate Quinlan : It's Not What You Create, It's That You Create

It's Not What You Create, It's That You Create

By Kate Quinlan

We've all heard it. Many of us have muttered it in frustration, or silently surrendered to the anguished thought. "I'm just not very creative."

When I hear someone say this (or hear the words drag dejectedly through my own mind, like the losing team leaving the field), I politely but firmly repudiate this damaging admission.

True, some of us have been criticized and discouraged. We may have been told we should find something more practical to do with our spare time or our lives. Some of us lacked opportunity or a role model and have just assumed that we are in fact missing that particular speck of DNA that blesses some people with great creative genius, and passes by the rest. Regardless of why, if you think you are without creative ability, I think you're wrong.

I am intent on convincing you of two concepts. One is that you have creative ability regardless of your doubts. The second is that you should apply your creativity to enjoy its process, not solely its product.

Let me start with what I offer as proof that you, whoever, wherever you are, undeniably possess creative ability. You are innately creative by the very fact that you are human! Plants mutate. Animals adapt. But the human species manipulates the resources on this planet to meet its needs and desires. Look around! We have evolved from small foraging tribes seeking shelter in caves to tenants of high rise condos with a view to enjoy while we order our groceries online. One can simply list the creative trials and achievements that have contributed to meeting our basic human physical needs and provided for psychological well-being and spiritual fulfillment. This is the legacy of our inexhaustible creative ability from all humanity, not just a select few. So to the lament, "I'm just not very creative," my response is, "That's just not very likely."

Now, it might take you some time to nudge your thinking from, "I'm just not very…" to "Oh, yes I am!" It is unlikely you will become an artist of great renown overnight. It's even unlikely that you will pick up the tools to create anything at the first blush of positive self talk about your innate ability to create. But when you do, you face the challenge of how to manifest your creativity.

This is actually a challenge similar to parenting. Those who raise children well don't try to force them into a model of what they think their children should be. Wise parents give way to each child's individuality and thereby guide, direct, and set examples. Optimally, parents enjoy the process of watching their children grow to become well adjusted adults worthy of admiration and respect.

The same holds true for nurturing your creativity. If you can view it as your child, you will begin to enjoy and fully experience the process. Like children, your creative efforts will go through stages, some thrilling, some disappointing, some causing you to want to pull your hair out, some rich with satisfaction and reward. It's a journey of hills and valleys; a timeline of events and feelings that grows to become a part of yourself that you are comfortable with and proud of.

Inevitably you will encounter notions that add to the challenge of nurturing your creativity. At the same time, you need to seek practices that enhance your creative development. Let me point out five notions you must resist and five practices to embrace in order to give your creative prodigy its best opportunity to flourish.

Five Notions to Resist

Everyday you are subjected to attitudes and notions that influence your life, your thinking, your creating. Some of these attitudes are necessary cultural norms. Some are encouraging and liberating. But unavoidable are the damaging notions and opinions that can undermine your confidence. Whether a quick comment overheard, or firmly ingrained dogma, it is too easy to take on attitudes that do your spirit harm. It is paramount that you resist these notions and fortify yourself against the opinions that are not true to your thinking. They will not enhance your creating. In fact they will stifle your creative exploration. Think of it as damage control and resist taking these notions on as your own.

Assumption: As you nurture your creative self, you will often feel the nag of self-doubt. When you are in this vulnerable state, it can be easy to assume that the creative work of others is better than your own. You see the creative accomplishments of artists and crafters in the media, in galleries, on the Internet, at exhibits, workshops, and classes. This constant exposure to a variety of art and artists can lead you to assume that others have been blessed with bountiful creative abilities and you are fooling yourself to think you have any.

The assumption that the creativity of others is better than yours is false and must be resisted. In fact, the creative accomplishments of others have no reflection on your work. Discovering and exploring your creativity is not a competition. Your creative work stands alone as your creative work.

When setting out on your creative path, determining whose is better is a false destination. Your goal is to learn about your own abilities and limitations, discover and play with materials, and to thoroughly enjoy the process. When you completely engage in these moments of creating, your work is as worthy as any other. Don't make assumptions about your creative work based on the works of others.

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