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Cara Faye : So You Think You Aren't Creative?

So You Think You Aren't Creative?

By Cara Faye

So often I hear people say "I'm not in the least bit creative" when they actually mean "I can't draw like Leonardo da Vinci." Creativity is innate in every person, it's part of what makes us human. It's the ability to think beyond our current situation, whether that's the daily grind at work, a room that needs some jazzing up, or a blank canvas.

In fact, by the time an artist approaches a blank canvas, they've usually worked through a vast number of challenges already, and are simply expanding on that body of work. The process is very similar to documenting research findings — it's just that there aren't any predetermined formats and answers, and the real benefit is not what we discover about our subject, but what we discover about ourselves.

And when we spend time accessing our creativity, we begin to exercise a muscle that has great might — the power to change things around us.

Richard Florida, proponent of the Creative Class, argues that "human creativity is the ultimate source of economic growth." It's a big claim, and it's based around our ability to invent, to be optimistic and flexible in our approach to obstacles, and to find innovative solutions to them.

Creativity is not generally considered to affect economic growth outside of the arts and crafts industries, but creative individuals are making this difference — it's almost as a by-product of their own creative interests, not a conscious creative drive within business.

So how can each of us access this famous creativity, and what are the benefits for us as individuals?

For real insight into this, nothing beats witnessing the effects directly. A couple of years ago, I ran craft workshops for corporate groups — partly as team-building but mostly as relaxation. Most attendants, fresh from meetings with minds full of the day's pressures and challenges, sat down to prepare in a fairly mundane way "some new task"; a few irritated by the perceived waste of time, others worried about their abilities, self-criticizing before even starting.

But once the class got under way, everyone was soon busy choosing colours, playing with patterns and imagining pictures — spending a bit of time thinking about what really represents them. This is something we seldom spend energy on — asking questions about ourselves like: What colours fit me? What shapes and images? How do I want to represent myself? Who is Me?

And soon after this, as they got to work on mastering the technique, they'd realise that they really were making this object, and it really was about them. At this point the cares of the rest of the world would fade completely into the background, with concentration focused solely on their creation, with a sense of wonder and awe as they discovered their own abilities, and the similarities and differences within the group.

At the end of the workshop each person would leave with far more than a completed project — with a sense of having connected with themselves, renewed self-confidence, and a new way of looking at the world.

The interesting thing about the many different media we can use to express ourselves is that every one encourages you to view the world in a slightly different way. Writer, editor and the knitting fanatic Robynn Weldon says: "It helps you see things around you in a new way: not as a consumer, but as a potential participant. You think, how did they do that? Could I do it better? What if I used those materials? Ooh, what if I tried that with this? You start seeing things as raw material and it inspires excitement to do something with it. You're more inclined to mess with what you have, to individualise it or to fix it, rather than just chucking it and buying a new one."

This participation — the thoughts that drive the question "how could I do this differently" — is strengthened in our private reveries, and over time finds its way into our public and work-related environment. We feel ownership of the creative process, and challenges become opportunities to take on the difficult and produce something different and new.

We may not draw like a Great Master, but we do develop and apply the skills and talents that make each of us unique. Opening up to the creative and being curious about how others represent the world ultimately helps us see how we too can shape the world around us rather than being recipients of a set world. •

© 2008 Cara Faye, All rights reserved.

Cara FayeCara Faye is driven by her passion to unlock the creative abilities inherent in every person. More »

2/14/08