Can You Learn Creativity?

Note: Every second Sunday of the month, I have the closing 15-minute segment on Artistically Speaking, Rebecca Parson‘s show on Blog Talk Radio. The show starts at 6:30 EST. You can listen in at:

*     *     *     *     *
This week I chose a topic my coaching clients often bring up:
“Can you teach me creativity?” a client asks me.
“It’s not so much teaching creativity; it’s more a matter of reclaiming it.”

A wise, empathetic, old face seems to be on the left side of the trunk of this orange tree.

“But I’m not creative,” she insists.
“You don’t remember what it feels like to be creative, but it’s there.”
“Why don’t I feel creative?”
She’s got a great point. At age four, when 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 that fairies and monsters aren’t real, but “stranger danger” is. A new world begins for us. One in which risk-taking is frowned upon and safety is over-valued.

Sadly, what we DO learn from our parents and in school is that a career in the Arts is not an acceptable life plan. It’s not safe. We need to plan to make money, to fit into society’s idea of success.  But wait, I want to stay on topic here. Can you learn creativity? Can it be taught?

I think so. There are some ways that creative people use their brains that make them creative. Here are five of them. There are more, but let’s stick with five today.

1. Express empathy. What does empathy have to do with creativity? Almost everything. Empathy is a cross-brain activity (using right and left sides of your brain equally) because it links the logic of figuring out what is “wrong” with the person and linking those facts to the emotional element of caring for someone in a deeper sense than their problems would allow. That ability of caring without needing to solve someone’s problem is also at the root of creativity where it shows up as experimentation without being attached to the result.

2. A sense of fun. Playing, as every kid knows, is serious stuff. It’s a way to express emotions, discover boundaries, laugh without caring who is watching, and make up rules that suit the minute. All those are creative resources.

3. Mixing intuition and logic. Creativity is often wrongly thought of as right-brained activity. It’s not. It’s blending both right- and left-brained activities without thinking one is better than the other. We need both skills. Both sides of the brain. Because judgement, the decision maker, lives on the right side, along with language and the emotions.

The stick seems straight, but the shadow indicates differently. Figuring out how this works is a creative exercise.

4. Making connections between dissimilar ideas or outcomes. This is the big one. Creative people see connections, but they also see why the connections work and how to get from one to the next. Perhaps they also see why that connection is brilliant and how it can be used somewhere else. That specialized knowledge is useful in research,development and invention, and later, in marketing.

5. Sharing. Not much is learned by hoarding. Whether it’s cats, plastic containers or ideas, creativity comes from sharing, not keeping everything to ourselves. When we share ideas, when we talk about them, we see a bigger picture, application and potential. When other people tell us why (or why not) the idea will work, we develop judgment and negotiating skills, working with both our gut feeling (intuition) and logic (sequencing steps) that develop a concept into a product or service.

What other characteristics or ideas do creative people share–that can be learned? Leave your suggestions in the comment section. I think there is a lot more to be said.

Quinn McDonald is an everyday creative person. She believes that creativity makes her life meaningful, and you already know Quinn is all about meaning making.