Six steps to creative success


As a personal development specialist and practicing artist, I work with people who want to rediscover their creative side. If you’ve been busy, raising children, running a business, or working up the career ladder you may have lost sight of your talents. Good news though – it’s never too late to discover or re-connect with your more creative self.

Here is an easy to follow six-step process to bring out the hidden talents

1. Invest time and find ways to connect with your logical and emotional self.

Before you start on your creative journey, it is wise to understand yourself as fully as possible. What does creativity mean to you? What do you think creativity will add to your life? Who do you want to make your objects for, yourself, to share with others?

I do many creative things, some of which I just keep for myself; some I share with others through selling or exhibiting, and there are some that I make and then destroy, just for the experience of doing. I see cooking as a creativity activity which allows me to share an experience and bring pleasure to others. Knowing these things helps me enjoy the creative process more, because I know what I am looking for from the process of creation.

It’s important to discover your reasons for developing creativity; it may be an intellectual pursuit, a logical and practical goal or a purely emotional one. More than likely it will be a combination of reasons. If you identify the why you will be clearer on the what and the how.

2. Emotionally engage with a creative idea or object

I  use my creativity to work through ideas and concepts that I am curious about or I have a strong interest in. Going from an idea to production can take months even years, so I need to find my subject or topic interesting. Creative activities such as writing a book are long processes, so it is important that an idea or subject can sustain your attention.

If you want to make or create something, my advice would be to find a subject that really interests or compels you. A couple of good examples would be:

– My sister, who is about to become a grandmother for the first time. She has found the motivation to put time aside to be creative and has discovered she is an excellent knitter and quilter.

– A client that I have coached has honed his photography skills, knowing that retirement is around the corner; through the camera he will be able to explore the world around him more creatively.

Both of these individuals are clear why they want to be more creative and are emotionally engaged in what they are doing.

3. Find inspiration

A common misconception is that creative people have fully formed ideas that are completely self-generated. That is like thinking you can get a command of a language from holidaying in a country or from reading a book. Creativity, like language, needs many different influences and inputs to become fully formed.

If you want to write a book, find authors who inspire you and then really get under the skin of why you like their writing. It is also good to read material you don’t like, and compare it to what you do like. Try to uncover what works for you and what doesn’t. To be fair we often learn more from what we don’t like than what we do. I would encourage you to discuss with others your likes and dislikes, which will help to focus your own thoughts.

Whatever creative activity you take up, look for inspiration from others, take time to really consider what you like and don’t like.

4. Play

In 1877 the Painter Whistler sued the critic John Ruskin for libel after the critic wrote a scathing review of Whistler’s painting entitled Nocturne in Black and Gold. During the court case Whistler was asked by the Attorney General how long it took to create the painting. His response was that it took two days, one to paint it the next to finish it. The Attorney General asked “For the labour of two days, you ask 200 guineas?” Whistler replied “No, I ask it for the knowledge I have gained in the work of a lifetime.” He won the case, albeit with symbolic damages of one farthing.

It is important to play, be kind and patient with yourself in the process as there is no substitute for time and practice.

In my experience there are two kinds of people when it comes to creating. The first sees the thing they want to make fully formed in their heads whether it be photograph, painting, story etc. before they start; the other just starts and sees what happens. The challenge is that no matter how you work, what you produce rarely matches the picture in your head or the feeling you originally wanted to convey. One reason for this is simply that what is in your head is not a reality. That picture is like imagining a perfect homecoming after being away for a couple of nights. In truth, the reality rarely corresponds to the expectation.

So when I say play – I mean try and limit your expectations as much as possible and just play without thinking about results; take time to engage with the process. You will gain more by really learning to handle the creative tool or craft you are engaging with, rather than focusing on the ‘product’.

If you can talk to others about what you have made while you are playing, then tell them what you like about it and what you don’t like about it. It is always good to be with others who are being creative; it doesn’t have to be people working in the same field of creativity. One of the best things about having a studio in a complex with other artists is that you can talk and share learning and thinking with others.

Saying what you think and how you feel about your work out loud can challenge or confirm your own thoughts. It is the same if you are doing something new at work; it always helps to involve others even if it is just to confirm you are on the right track. That is why joining a club, a class or working with another person can help you develop your skills and thinking at a faster pace than creating on your own.

5. Do the doing and give yourself time

Often I get to a stage when I am compelled to create, I have had enough of talking and I need to get on with the doing. Each stage is not set in stone; it is an intuitive process, and sometimes I sense that I am procrastinating. When that is so, I force myself to do. The important factor is to be aware of what is holding you back or pushing you forward. Be intuitive and don’t make excuses for not doing.

My biggest tip here is not to judge what you have created as soon as you have made it. I see so many people take a digital photo and delete it immediately. They do not allow any emotional distance from the taking to the viewing. Through deleting like this we also lose many of what we call ‘happy accidents’.

I run creative workshops using digital cameras and I do not allow the photographers to look at the images during the sessions. I then make prints and show them their images at the next session. On my last workshop 2 out of the 8 participants loved their ‘happy accidents’ and went on to reproduce the effects that they had accidently created for their final exhibition pieces.

Whether you are writing, potting, painting or creating digital content, give yourself some time and space between doing and reviewing. Once you have that distance you will be a better judge of your work. Again I would encourage you to share your work in progress with others.

6. Be kind to yourself

I would urge you to be your own constructive critic, but make sure you don’t become over critical. The job of your critical self is to push your creativity, not to beat yourself up. This is so important. Your good critic will push you on; your bad critic will stop you enjoying what you are doing and will prevent you from becoming the creative person you have the ability to be. Be positive about what you have created, talk to yourself like you would someone you love rather than a harsh critic.

If you can strike that happy balance you will continue to grow, learn and enjoy the creative process. The output or product will just be the icing on the cake.

If this all appeals to you but you feel you may need some help to discover or re-connect to your creative self, contact me directly to discuss how I can make the process easy and fun.