"I'm not the creative type."
Let me start with a question. Are you creative?
Maybe your answer is “Yes! I paint!” Or maybe you’re more of an I-did-photography-in-college-does-that-count kind of girl. Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m a lawyer, I don’t have time for creativity” or “I made macaroni necklaces with my toddler this weekend...so, kind of?”
When I ask people this question, I usually get one of two answers: a resounding “yes” from anyone whose work or hobbies are explicitly artistic, innovative, or entrepreneurial and an equally confident “no” from pretty much everyone else.
But here’s the thing, the question itself is flawed. To quote Brene Brown, “‘There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.” So, the question isn’t are you creative, it’s how are you creative?
Well, this question may be harder to answer than you anticipated, especially if you’re one of those people who identifies as “not the creative type,” and has for a long time. A more inclusive definition of creativity may help here. I like to define creativity as the act of bringing something new or improved into existence. To borrow from Ken Robinson, “our creativity is as unique as our fingerprint.” It can be big or small, ordinary or extraordinary. It might look like prototyping an app or tackling a parenting challenge in a new way.
When we narrowly define creativity, we ignore the full spectrum of our creative capacities, and in doing so we end up with people who believe they’re “not the creative type.” So, let’s get this straight. You are the creative type, we all are.
Maybe this label makes you uncomfortable still. Maybe you scoff at the idea of creativity. “Who has time? Who cares? That sounds fun, but I’ve got more important things to pursue.” You’re not alone. I’ve been there, and so many professionally-minded women can relate. In some circles, creativity is undermined, mocked, even stigmatized. As kids we’re scolded for having overactive imaginations. As adults, we have our eye on the prize, and we see creativity as opposite to our disciplined pursuit of career goals. Well, we’re wrong. Career success and creativity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, their intricately connected.
According to the World Economic Forum, the top three job skills in 2020 will be creativity, critical thinking, and complex problem solving. Despite the continued advancements in artificial intelligence, creativity is among few uniquely human advantages. Similarly, 84% of executives say creativity is very or extremely important to their company's growth. And, creativity is correlated with greater professional success even in fields that aren’t typically considered creative. Creativity is at the root of groundbreaking business models, cultural movements, awe-inspiring artwork, and technological innovation.
It’s not separate from career success, it’s at the core of it.
There are a lot of reasons for the stigma associated with creativity. Culturally, we position creativity as frivolous, superfluous, a nice-to-have not a need-to-have. Creativity is associated with the feminine, and there is some entrenched misogyny inour negative associations with it. Logic, analysis, and decisiveness are often considered masculine features that align nicely with dominant ideas about intelligence. Creativity, on the other hand, is typically considered feminine, the inverse of the kind of bottom-line, convergent intellect our culture favors. Acknowledging these unspoken cultural beliefs can help us change them. So, let’s explode this dichotomy. Intelligence and creativity are not separate. Creativity is a modality through which intellect is expressed. Creativity and intelligence are one in the same.
Okay, so where does that leave you. Well, now you have to own your creativity. To bring it all back to Brene Brown (because she is THE BEST!), “unused creativity isn’t benign. It matastisizes.” Don’t resign yourself to “I’m not the creative type.” You are creative. You may be a quick problem-solver in high stress corporate situations, that’s creativity! You may be an especially skilled bedtime storyteller, or maybe you’ve been thinking about starting a blog or an online movement like Hannah at Florecer Femme! Creativity is at play in all sorts of unexpected ways in your work and personal life. When you begin to notice that, you can nurture it, build, and expand the creativity that’s already there. Letting it flourish, starts with asking, “How am I creative?” That’s where the adventure begins.
Meet the author
Stephanie Finger is the founder of CREA Community + Consulting, an education startup that brings creativity to the forefront of every child's educational experiences. She has ten years of education experience as a teacher, education consultant, instructional coach, and curriculum writer. Stephanie is a certified English & General Education Teacher, a certified Gifted & Talented Teacher, and a certified Reading Specialist. She received a master's degree in Literacy and Language from the University of Texas at Austin. Recently, Stephanie's case analysis of a 4th grade student became the centerpiece of a national conference presentation for the Literacy Research Association. Her academic work has been published in Voices from the Middle, a peer-reviewed education journal under the National Council of Teachers of English umbrella.