Creativity is not some mysterious, elusive attribute that only the lucky people get. It is a skill that can be learned and developed. A muscle that can and will get stronger with work. One of the most painful statements I hear from discouraged aspiring photographers is "I love photography, but I'm just not creative enough." It is akin to saying that you have a dream but no faith in your ability to reach it. The statement of "I'm just not creative" denies all of the moments in life that rely on creativity.
What do you do when you have a drink in a bottle with a pry-top, but no bottle opener? Do you give up and stay thirsty or do you find a way to open it?
Any inebriated college student would find a way come hell or high water, and to be plain about it...creativity in art isn't that much different. Human beings are problem solvers by nature, it is in your very nature to be creative. So lets talk about the five things you can do to stop denying your creativity and nurture it's growth instead.
1. Believe That You Are Creative.
I realize that this seems like a catch 22. How can you believe you are creative without evidence to back it up? You do this by looking at and admitting to the times in your life where you already have been. It doesn't have to be anything major. Even something as simple as picking out a piece of furniture for your home is a creative process. You ask yourself what styles you like, what room it's for and whether or not it might look good. That requires imagination.
"But David, that doesn't apply to me. I've never bought furniture or decorations"
Ok that's weird, but what about buying your best friend a birthday present? What about the excuses you made up to get out of school when you were a kid? Those things require you to solve a problem in front of you as well, and we've all done something like that. If you look objectively at yourself it is impossible to honestly say that you've never had even a moment of creativity. Admit it and stop crippling yourself.
2. Notice the Little Things
When I feel stuck creatively I always find myself giving some time to macro photography, and it took me a long time to understand why I did this. We get caught up in our routines and as a result stop looking at the world around us. We become blind to the beautiful little occurrences in day to day life. This takes us entirely out of being able to live in the moment. Maybe playing in macro photography isn't the answer for you specifically but, for me it quite literally forces me to notice the details I would otherwise overlook.
Not only will this practice keep you in the moment, but you will begin to take little moments in time for yourself. The phrase "stop and smell the roses" is brilliant for a few reasons.
3. Be Curious
Ask every question that comes to mind. Curiosity is the heart of creativity. It doesn't even matter what you ask, throw caution to the wind and question it all! It's ok if you ask something obvious, and it's ok if you look like a dork because of it. Wonder about how things work. Question why you behave the way you do, and why other people do. Try to ask about it all. Yeah, you're going to get on some people's nerves but so what? If they get irritated with you...ask them why!
Creativity thrives on "what ifs." I couldn't even tell you how many of my most successful images have been born out of "what if we tried this?"
4. Spend Time in Solitude
The word "solitude" can be terrifying but, if you can overcome the fear of being alone there is a definite benefit to it. So much so that it is considered the most common trait among the exceptionally creative. In the quiet you can hear your thoughts, which may be scarier for some than the idea of the solitude itself. However, by listening to those deeper parts of yourself you become more empowered, more comfortable with your creative voice. All of the truth, beauty and purity comes from the deep places in your mind.
Life tries to stop us from taking this time for ourselves but we have to do it. Even if it means taking a walk by yourself for fifteen minutes a day, it is crucial. Creativity washes over us when we are still.
5. Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
For a lot of us (including myself) this can be the most difficult step. Our little inner critic likes to make sure nothing comes out without being ripped to shreds. It doesn't matter if your ideas are brilliant or moronic. The great part is that you are getting better at generating them. Plenty of completely stupid ideas have been wildly successful...like the Snuggie. Don't let yourself get bogged down by your own criticisms, or anyone else's for that matter. You may be on the fence about an idea and have one off comment from another person completely kill what you came up with. Have the fortitude to charge forward and love your silly and amazing ideas even if nobody else joins you in it.
You will become more creative the more you practice. All you need to do is admit it, and allow yourself to be.