Can You Learn Creativity?

When people look at my business card, one thing stops them. On the back of the card it says, “creativity coach.” biz card

“Can you teach creativity?” Debra asked.
“It’s not so much teaching creativity; it’s more a matter of reclaiming it.”
“But I’m not creative,” she insisted.
“You don’t remember what it feels like to be creative, but it’s there.”
“Why don’t I feel creative?” Debra asked.
She’s got a great point. At age 4, when monsters are under the bed, and children have problems separating truth from imagination, a strange socialization begins. We are told to “act like a big girl” (or boy), we are told to use things for what they were made for. We are told they are no monsters, no fairies. Once the tooth fairy has delivered the cash, we make her disappear.

Creativity is frowned on. We are sent to school, where big classes make individuality a burden for the teacher. We are encouraged to be like the others, to work in teams, to have limited dreams and choose an acceptable career. And a career in the Arts is not an acceptable career to be considered successful, according to most parents and teachers. Ccalogowebmedium
When my son said he wanted to be a musician, I heard a chorus of “Tell him that’s fine for a hobby, but as a career. . .” followed by clicking tongues. Not only was he wrong, his mother was odd, too. I let him study music.

I’d heard it all before. From my parents. In the years when parents told their children what to do, both parents nixed the idea that I become a writer and refused to let me study art. This was particularly odd as I had earned a full scholarship to college and wasn’t “wasting their money.”  But I digress.

In most children, the creativity stays no matter how hard it gets steered off course. It gets buried under years of training. But it keeps peeking out.

How did it get buried for you? Maybe you are a great party planner; maybe you can calm people who are angry. You may have a skill of seeing several answers to a problem. Those are all examples of creativity. Creativity is not being eccentric, weird or difficult. Creative people use their skills in different ways to make the world a little better, one person at a time. Explore your creativity–you’ll be amazed and delighted at what you find.

–To read more about creativity coaching, visit Quinn McDonald’s website,


14 thoughts on “Can You Learn Creativity?

  1. I don’t have particularly acute senses of smell or taste, and my hearing and sight are pretty average, I suppose. What I’m sensitive to is hard to describe — details and how things fit together, maybe. Creativity, for me, is related to direction and fun. I’m competent at math, but I knew pretty young that I wasn’t going to be able to do original work in that direction. I think I might be capable of doing original work in, say, drawing or painting, but I’ve never found those enough fun to put in the effort. Some kinds of creativity don’t get as much notice as they deserve because the end product is not so easy to appreciate. Deep inside the Macintosh operating system is a bit of code that’s brilliantly creative. As a result Macintosh computers draw oval shapes much “better” (faster, more efficiently) than other systems. Very few people end up in a position to see and appreciate this. But it’s still creative.

  2. I do think that creatives see richer colors, hear more. Some are highly sensitive to sound and color; then again scientific studies have proven that introverts have a greater sensitivity to sour taste. Why not other things?
    We are simply alert, waiting for a detail we can agree with.

  3. Reading others speak of depression, etc., in the earlier posts, I find myself thinking about the correlation between creativity and ‘mental illness.’ As a ‘creative’ who has been off-and-on labeled with a string of diagnoses, I know of many people who are both creative and labeled. Just think of the many famous artists we all read and study. Do ‘we’ really see brighter colors, hear sweeter music and wordsmith with more vigor than other mortals? Any opinions out there?

    Barbara F.

  4. It’s a topic that has depth and resonance for many of us. I have a theory about creativity–it follows along my theory for writing. I believe that some writers and creatives are born with their talent. I believe others have a desire to write or create and they can learn if they work at it. In the martial arts I studied (but was not born with the talent), we were asked if we were willing to “eat bitter.” It meant engaging in hard work, a struggle with our wills. I think many people will walk away from eating bitter for creativity. It is a hidden prize, and not much valued in our culture.

  5. Quinn asks “If we had gotten what we needed, would we have become the people we are today… Is creativity rooted in painful growth?”

    Interestingly, the latest e-newsletter from Robern Genn, “The Child Within Us” ( also addresses this topic. A recent study shows that creative children are usually “outsiders,” often introverted, sometimes bullied, typically socially isolated from their peers.

    This leads to additional questions. There’s the obvious chicken-and-egg question: are creative children isolated because of their peers’ reaction to their creativity, or is the creativity a natural result of the ostracism? I suspect it’s the former rather than the latter, but it could be some of each.

    Then there’s the other question, would a child lose their creativity by being supported and nurtured exactly how they most need it? Personally, I doubt it. Witness Chesten’s story of dad tacking paper on the wall to draw upon.

    So finally we get back to the first question: can creativity be taught? I believe so. I think it may be just as possible to teach creativity as it is to suppress it.

    But I do also suspect that the pain many creative people endure helps fire their creativity to some extent. The problem of course is that excessive pain shuts us down completely. A moderately painful history combined with prospects for a brighter future is, I think, a recipe for maximum creativity.

    Barbara J Carter

  6. ‘ when we get what we need but not what we want’ – Fix It – Cold Play? Has to be – too much of a coincidence in phrasing. Isn’t that the most amazing track. I’ve just made another post – in a series of posts. This whole creativity issue keeps throwing itself in my face and I can’t ignore it, can’t let it go. I’ve written and painted more since September last year than all the rest of my life combined – academic essays don’t count. I have to consider the possibility that I have a deep yearning to write/create which has been buried and has been unlocked.Why else would I keep bothering – and I don’t think the answer is because is some trite remark about writing because I can. If it were so devoid of meaning I wouldn’t keep attempting to find a style and hone the craft.???

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  9. These stories are so amazing to me. Do we get what we need when we don’t get what we want?

    If we had gotten what we needed, would we have become the people we are today–fighting for our right to be creative? Is creativity rooted in painful growth? So many of these stories seem to lean in that direction.

    These are wonderful stories–deep and detailed. I hope we gather more.

  10. Trapped in desperate clinical depression and OCD which began in early childhood depression sometimes brings creativity with it and at other times drains me to a standstill. As the middle child of 4 non-academic brothers and parents who left school aged 14 – although my mother is a voracious reader – I don’t recall anyone who even considered the concept of creativity. I was taught how to wash up properly, make the beds, iron, clean, wash – even though I was the only child at a grammar school who had homework to do and exams in my future. I resented it then. It makes me feel outraged now although my two elder brothers were given many heavy chores in relatively early childhood.
    I have frequently had times in my life when I’ve felt the desire to write, very nearly always poetry. I’ve worked with the American poet Anne Stevenson (as a student) and attended a writing group but there have been years pass when I’ve written nothing.
    I am writing more now than at any other time in my life because I’ve been drawn in by SFC so I keep churning things out – but I frequently have no idea why I’m bothering. The one thing that makes me envious is when I read posts from people who are driven to write, paint, take photographs etc and are frantic if there’s nothing in their creative well. I like it here and enjoy looking at what the rest of you produce; for myself I genuinely feel that there is no deep yearning in me to be creative and if I get fed up of this I could easily go for years without writing a thing. I think it’s possible that I write – because I can.

  11. I’m very blessed to be able to say that my creativity has always been encouraged. When I was a child instead of being told don’t draw on the walls my father just tacked plain paper to a wall in my room at the right height for me then said “You may only draw on this wall”. I have had my fair of dissapointments though. I went to a specialized art high school. When it came time to choose a major I want to go into photograhy but my older brother was already into it and my parents “didn’t want me to be in competition with him” so I had to choose something else. I was encouraged to sing if wanted to sing or when I wanted to play an instrument I saveed my money and when I had most of what I needed my parents helped me to buy a flute. Another thing that helped my creativity when I was young was the fact that my parents let me have my privacy and while I was expected to keep my room clean I could decorate and rearrange things to my hearts content. To this day I’d rather stand in front of an easel than sit at a table while I draw or paint. I always listen to music while I work and you could say that I dance the color onto the paper. I think the only thing that has ever really held me back from my creativity has been the bouts of depression that I’ve endured over the years. I’m in my late 30’s now and I’ve finally discovered the fact that even if I do get depressed that it won’t last for ever and I will find my way back to my creative depths eventually. Some times it just takes good friends and a creative environment to prime the pump. I’m so glad that I’ve discovered what more of waht it is that I need to get bring to me to my creative self here.

  12. For me it was that my creativity was pushed in the direction of others dreams. My mother started giving me piano lesson before I was tall enough for my feet to reach the floor, my first recital, the teacher had to come up on the stage with me and lift me on to the piano bench. I never really became a great musician..oh I was good, but never great. You know why? I wanted to dance. I wasn’t allowed to take dancing lessons. I wanted to dance with all of my heart and soul. Now I’m fifty-three years old, I haven’t had access to a piano in more than thirty years so I doubt if I could even play chop sticks any more but I still dance. Oh it’s not something you’d see and think it was anything special but it’s special to me…I dance every single day and I’ve had a few folks who have dropped by when the stereo was blaring and I was moving around the room…well they’ve said they thought I was a little bit nuts. All I can say is if it’s a little bit nuts to feel like your very soul is flying free then put a smile on your face and call me Pecan Pie!

  13. When I was about 9 I started to write my own stories- and when my Girl Scout Group had a talent show I wanted to read one.

    What our troop leaders told me me made me feel about two inches tall- they said, ” Anita, adults aren’t going to want to sit around and listen to a little kid read. ”

    So instead of reading something I wrote I got to lip sych some stupid song with the rest of my group while two girls ‘acted out’ parts.

    It was sort of like an early run for music videos.

    After that bitter little pill was swallowed I never, ever participated in ‘creative activities ‘ again- I never stopped writing, but God did I start to hate ‘organized activities’.

    I’m trying to change that..but it’s hard. I just have a hard time being led.


    Anita Marie

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