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Creativity: Nurture not Nature

Pastels, artists chalks in very bright primary colors to nurture creativity.

Creativity is not a gift; it is a muscle that can be strengthened with use.


Creativity, according to the Oxford online dictionary means, the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the creation of artistic work. This is one definition and if you Google it, you will find there are many other versions. Apparently, very little of what we know of creativity is conclusive. Everyone seems to have a different opinion of what creativity is, what it does, and the benefits to us as individuals.

What creativity is and how we benefit personally

1. What is old is new again.

I think mostly people take old ideas and give them a fresh coat of paint, put a new spin on it and then release the result as their own creativity, and I do think this is creativity. I don’t think the seed of the thing has to be original, I think the spin, or the new coat of paint does. Just because an idea is not new it may be new to the one person you reach with that idea. 

2. Most will all agree that being creative feels good. 

Creativity feels good because people like to see something go from a seed in our mind’s eye to final result. It’s satisfying, even if the result isn’t Michelangelo or Monet level. 

3. Being creative keeps our minds sharp.

When we are being creative, we most likely get in the zone, a state that allows us to single focus on what we are doing, we are able to clear our minds, which helps our mental health. 

4. Creativity is innovation as well as art.

We all know there are many ways to express creativity it artistically, cooking, painting, make-up, style, décor, hair, and writing to name a few but innovation is also creativity. Innovations might be improving a process at work or solving the,” where should we eat tonight?” question by creating an ap for that. 

5. We are all capable of creativity.

Some of us think, “I’m simply not creative”, and I disagree, I think we all have creativity in us. Creativity can be expressed as art or design, but it can also be expressed in our day to day lives. We might get creative with the leftovers or with the way we describe seduce our partners. Creativity is a process that can lead to innovation in all fields (Kim).

Nurture not nature

People are most creative when they are motivated primarily by the interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself, or intrinsic motivation (Hennessey/Amabile). People don’t have to be born gifted to be creative, creativity can be learned, and it can be strengthened like a muscle.

According to Kim, creativity is more nurtured than nature. So, go ahead give a deep sigh of relief, if your no Picasso, you are still capable of creativity. In her article, Demystifying Creativity, Kim discusses what creativity is not. Let’s take a look.

What creativity is not

1. Creativity is only related to the arts.

This is something that most of us immediately go to at first. “I can’t draw, therefore I’m not creative.”” I can’t come up with a cool unique design so I must not be creative.” We automatically assume our artistic ability is a reflection of our creativity. It is not.

Innovation is creative work as much as artwork is. Researchers and scientist have to be creative in their thinking. They must design new ways of looking at something, creating new techniques and experiments to get different results.

2. Creativity is easily recognized and obvious.

We can all agree that a beautiful painting, sleek new iPhone, or funny commercial is creativity. But there is less obvious creativity such as the hundreds of thousands of failed experiments that Ben Franklin performed in his lifetime, that didn’t seem creative to his peers, until he discovered electricity.

3. Innovators work alone.

We usually picture the lonely artist in his or her loft painting away in solitary confinement or maybe you picture a team of people working together toward some new innovative design. Kim believes we are capable of creativity in both scenarios and that one is not necessarily better than the other. Sometimes a collaboration is in order and then solo work after to digest and expound. Sometimes artists feed off of other’s ideas, expanding them, sometimes we need to be alone to get into the zone.

4. Mental illness enhances creativity.

There is no significant relationship between mental illness and creativity. (Whew!!)

5. Creativity is a divine flash of inspiration.

Basically, if someone immerses themselves in a subject for like 10,000 hours and in most cases way more, they become expert in the topic, therefore, they are more likely to get these innovative ideas. It’s not likely a brilliant idea just popped into someone’s head today from dabbling in a subject for a moment. It comes from the slow pickling of the topic in your brain that allows for these types of innovations or aha moments. People dedicate their lives to a craft, Einstein, Jobs, Van Gogh, were all innovators but they devoted their lives to the topic of their interest.

6. For something to be creative it must be a new idea.

Nothing is truly new. Like I said above we simply take the old and make it new.

For our use

Many of us feel like we are not creative but what we really are is scared. We are afraid to try because we might fail, we might look silly.

We don’t have confidence in our capabilities because our mom or our third-grade teacher told us we weren’t artists. We had a friend who was a talented drawer or painter and we compared ourselves to them and our minds judged us inferior. 

I recommend you get out there and buy a sketchbook or a box of paints and just do it for yourself. Maybe singing is your art, maybe knitting, whatever it is, do your soul a favor and create something. I think it’s what we were born to do. We can nurture our skill because creation is in all of our nature.

Hennessey, B. A., & Amabile, T. M. (2010). creativity. Annual Review of Psychology, 61(1), 569-598. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100416
Kim, K. H. (2019). Demystifying creativity: What creativity isn't and is? Roeper Review, 41(2), 119-128. doi:10.1080/02783193.2019.1585397

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