5 keys to unlocking your God-given creativity
Everyone is creative. Many of us may not feel that way, intimidated by self-proclaimed 'creative types' who dress a certain way and only use a certain kind of notebook, but every single one of us is endowed with creative ability. We are image-bearers of the God who built the universe out of dust; the potential for innovation is written into our DNA.
We aren't, however, all creative in the same way. Some of us are ideators, gifted with the ability to pull new ideas out of nothing. Others are developers, who add value to those ideas by turning them into something useful or workable. Then there are the creative visionaries who take those ideas and make them happen, and evaluators who see a way of improving things that don't work so well.
For some of us, the desire to create new things is felt deeply. We fill pages of notebooks with ideas for things we want to do or stories we want to tell. We dream of being published, or exhibited, or having our ideas released upon the world in some other way, not because of vanity or a quest for fame, but because the creative impulse within us yearns for satisfaction. For others, creativity feels elusive; like something that other people engage in. We'd love to get involved in the creative process, but we lack the confidence, or some of the teachable skills that will allow us to do so. Whichever end of the spectrum you sit at, here are just a few ideas on how to approach the process of creativity, and how to potentially unlock your innate ability to innovate.
1. Recognise where creativity comes from
The Bible frequently reminds us of the awesome creative power of God. Paul even says that the complexity and beauty of creation renders men "without excuse" for not believing in him, while Jesus arrives on earth not as a warrior King but as one of history's greatest storytellers. Not only does this God make us in his own, creative image, but he involves humanity in the creative process; witness how he hands the naming of the animals over to Adam in Genesis 2. God is the source and the enabler of our creativity, and recognising this is incredibly liberating. Suddenly our fears that we might not be able to summon up enough creative ability to solve a problem become redundant; we have access to an infinite creative resource, and sometimes we just have to ask for his help.
2. Understand your creative role
You *are* creative. That doesn't necessarily mean you're great at coming up with ideas. Innovation is a process that begins with recognising problems and opportunities, then moves through ideation, development, enhancement, piloting, release and evaluation. Creativity is needed in every step of that process, and your skills, experience and personality may make you most useful at one or two of those stages. If you're able to work out which is your link in the chain, you'll not only be able to make yourself useful, but you'll stop kicking yourself for being terrible at brainstorming.
3. Feed your inner artisan
Most self-proclaimed 'creatives' would agree that their resources are finite, and while praying for help is an important element of re-filling the well, so is a commitment to receiving inspiration. Film-makers are constantly watching other people's films; novelists are always reading. Not only does switching from output to input allow us to rest part of our brain for a while, but we often find that creativity is contagious. Feeling short on ideas? Visit an art gallery, read outside your normal genre; go to the theatre. Exposing ourselves to others' creativity can often kickstart our own.
4. Write it all down
Alright, so I started by poking fun at those Moleskine notebooks of which arty types are so fond, but of course they perform an important function. Creative ideas sometimes strike us at the most inconvenient moments – the middle of the night, a cramped bus journey, or an important meeting halfway through the working day. Having a notebook on hand allows us to capture every half-idea, so we can properly think it through later. This discipline of record-keeping pays dividends when, a few hours later, you can't remember a thing about that world changing idea you had earlier. Of course, in 2015 you can use a note-taking app instead, but there's something cathartic about physical writing which means I and millions of others continue to keep Moleskine in business.
5. Know your internal clock
The best piece of advice I've ever received (from the author Caroline Lawrence) was to conduct a trial-and-error experiment to find my most creative time of day. With a busy day job I'd struggled along for years, grabbing the odd hour, often late at night, to work on my personal writing projects. By experimenting with the time of day at which I wrote, I realised that while I was almost completely useless after dark – I wrote better, and faster, first thing in the morning. It was a discovery which took me completely by surprise; now I wake up early most mornings to start the day writing while my initial creative burst endures. What's remarkable from talking to other writers is that this time of day is never uniform; it always depends on how we're wired. The New York Times Bestselling author Dave Eggers says he writes all his best stuff between 12 and 4am; I'm barely able to compose a tweet at that time of night.
None of this provides a magical formula, but it is effective. By drawing inspiration from God and from others, by acknowledging the many forms of innovation, and by implementing a few simple changes, the process of creativity can become demystified. Don't let anyone tell you you're not creative; you're made in the image of the most creative being in the universe. Your choice of laptop, latte or notebook is irrelevant compared to that. Go create.
Martin Saunders is a Contributing Editor for Christian Today and the Deputy CEO of Youthscape. You can follow him on Twitter: @martinsaunders