What Is Creativity?

…..and how you can reclaim yours

Why are children so freely creative? Why do some of us lose it as an adult? Why do we hear someone say how “creative” a friend is, only to think to ourselves, “I wish I were creative”?

Well, the answer is, we don’t lose it. We just stop using it. Maybe it was conditioned out of us. Maybe someone we looked up to told us we “weren’t creative.” Now, I know what you’re saying – “No, I have NEVER been able to draw!”

HOLD UP! That’s not what I said!

Don’t mistake “creativity” with “artistic” talent. They are not the same. All artists are creative, but not all creative people are artists. It’s like saying “all thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs.”1

So, what is creativity then?

I found a wide variety of definitions for the word “creativity.” A quick Google search gave me “having the quality or power of creating.”2 (very helpful ☹)  “Use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of artist work.”3 (better, but let’s try again.) “Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality.”4 (now we’re getting somewhere! 😊)

The most helpful description I found was in an article written by Dag Frode Solberg called “Key takeaways from Edward De Bono’s ‘Serious creativity’”. In it, he writes “We all have perceptions, concepts, and boundaries, creativity is about challenging these.” He goes on to say how creativity is about breaking old patterns and finding new approaches. “With creativity, we move beyond what is and into what could be.”5

Creativity is about challenging our perceptions, concepts, and boundaries.5

In short, creativity is the ability to think differently about things, ideas, and experiences. It is about seeing them in a different light, coming up with alternative meanings. Creativity encompasses imagination, expression, innovation, resourcefulness, individuality. We don’t lose our ability to imagine, to express, to experiment. We stop using those talents because life happens, we need to fit in, survive. We need to become a responsible adult, think logically, and suddenly find ourselves on an acceptable and predictable, if not fulfilling, path.

Alright, I’ll play along. Now what?

Creativity isn’t just about talent. It’s about thinking. It’s about imagination and expression. All children know this! As children, we colored outside the lines with abandon, had tea with imaginary friends, and our stuffed animals were real! It never occurred to us to think about what others thought or how ridiculous that might look….until we got older. Maybe we were taught that creative meant talented, and we were neither. Maybe we were taught that it was time to buckle down and get serious. Maybe we were told it was time to grow up and do what was expected of us.

I’m not suggesting our stuffed animals are real. (By the way, I still have some of mine!) But I am suggesting that it’s important to revitalize the part of us that allows us to even HAVE imagination, explore without judgement, and act on our imagination with purpose. Perhaps it’s time to challenge our observations, ideas, and experiences with our personal brand of creativity.

“With creativity, we move beyond what is and into what could be.”5

Three things you can do today to reignite your creative spark:

Here are three activities that might help to clarify that creativity isn’t necessarily artistic. Pick one or do all three. Have fun using your imagination.

  1. Allow yourself to start daydreaming again and jot down what comes to mind. Become a child again and use your imagination. Remember when a parent or teacher told you to get your head out of the clouds and back to work? “Stop daydreaming” they would say! Well, they were wrong. Do it! Set a time each day to purposely let your mind wander and stick to it.
  2. Identify one old pattern that you realize is holding you back in some area of life. It can be as simple as procrastination in house cleaning. Use “creativity” to identify a few new approaches to solving that. Make a game out of it. For example, see how much you can get straightened on your desk in 10 minutes, set the timer, and….GO! Congratulations! You just used creativity to accomplish a mundane task!
  3. Think about one thing you loved doing as a child. Why did you love it? What did it mean to you? How did it make you feel? Do you still hold a fondness for it? If so, think about what you can do now to illicit that same feeling. Can you repurpose the idea and explore the grown-up version of that?

Start using your imagination again. Try out one of these exercises and see just how creative you really are.

Leave a comment below and tell me what creativity means to you. Tell me what exercise you tried and what you learned from it.


1A line straight out of “The Big Bang Theory” show