Writing advice, Writing and Editing

7 Things School Didn’t Teach About Creativity

Since anything we do or want to do with our writing and our lives as writers all begins with one common thing, creativity, I thought we could take a look at the subject. So with some help from Michael Michalko, I present Seven Things School Didn’t Teach You About Creativity.

Everyone is born creative.

The only difference between people who are creative and those who are not is simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative are not. It really is that simple.

Creativity is work.

It is not easy to be creative. If it was, everyone would be doing it. You must possess passion and the determination to practice and learn the process of creating. Then you must have the patience and strength to continue in the face of adversity.

You must practice creativity to be creative.

Like almost any ability in this life, if you don’t use your creativity you will lose it. Moreover, when you create new ideas, you are exercising the creative parts of your brain, which leads to more and better ideas. If you want to become a musician, for example, and you play your instrument every day without fail, you will become a musician. You may not be a great one, but you will be a musician.

There are no bad ideas.

This is a difficult concept for many people. How can you say there are no bad ideas? What about genocide? How about murdering your wife for the life insurance? Yes, those ideas are immoral, illegal, and even repugnant, but they are not in and of themselves good or bad. They may be invalid, or counter-productive, but they aren’t bad. They’re just ideas. Nothing kills creativity faster than self-censorship of ideas. Think of all ideas as possibilities and generate as many as you can. Only then do you sit down and decide which ideas will work best.

Expect the experts to be negative.

The more expert and established a person becomes, not matter what field it is, the more fixed they become on validating their ideas. It’s human nature. You’ve spent your career championing a particular set of beliefs and opinions. When someone new comes along and challenges those ideas, you’re probably going to move heaven and earth to prove them wrong. As a creative person, you should be expecting these attacks and prepared to deal graciously with them. (It means you’re succeeding).

Trust your instincts.

This is related to the previous statement. You cannot allow yourself to become discouraged in the face of rejection or criticism. Of course, this is very easy to say and quite difficult to do. Surround yourself with friends and family who believe in you and your abilities. That will help. But most of all, you need to believe in yourself. Of all the people in this world, you have to be your own most dedicated fan.

There is no such thing as failure.

There’s a story out there that someone asked Ernest Hemingway if he did writing exercises. He replied that no, he didn’t do exercises. He wrote stories that didn’t work.

Hemingway had it right. Whenever you try to do something that doesn’t succeed, you have not failed. You have learned something that does not work. If you can, figure out why it didn’t work and come up with a different way of approaching the problem. If we learn from everything we do—even if it is just establishing what doesn’t work—we never really fail. We just take another step toward our overall success.


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