People tend to look at creativity as a natural talent. Some people are creative, some aren’t. And there’s not a whole lot you can do to gain it if you don’t have it.
Creativity is a skill. Anyone can pick it up, anyone can expand it. But you have to be willing to change long established patterns of thought, and that’s fucking hard. So most people don’t do it.
But it’s completely within reach. And creativity, like most skills, gets better and easier the more you use it.
In other words, you get creative by doing creative shit. I know that sounds like the worst kind of circular logic, but hear me out.
When you first start doing creative stuff, it will be hard, especially if you’ve been away from it for a while. I took years off from doing anything creative (thanks, back-to-back theses). When I finally went back, it was like trying to remember how to do a backflip when you haven’t since you were seven. Things that used to be so simple are more complicated because you’ve lost the habit.
But you can always get it back. Think of it like working out: if you take years off from exercising, then those first couple of months getting back to the rink or the field or the gym are going to be fucking rough. But the only way you can get better is if you keep doing it.
And, like a muscle getting stronger, you creativity will expand. It’ll get used to doing the stuff you’re asking and look for new challenges.
If I can keep the gym metaphor going for a while, take it easy at the beginning. Make little goals and hit them. Ease back in. It’ll help you avoid injury and burnout. If you go all out, you won’t tear your ACL like an armchair quarterback rushing back onto the field for the first time since he was 18. But you might hit a roadblock and get so frustrated that you quit again. Like getting back in the game after a lay-off, do some stretches, warm up a little, and then see what you’ve got in the tank.
One more thing: be willing to look stupid. If you’re not, you won’t get far. And, in the words of Our Lady of Fabulous, RuPaul, “Your fear of looking stupid is making you look stupid.”
Get out there, all you out of shape creatives. Run a few laps of the imagination track and remember, as you’re huffing and sweating: it gets easier.