The unsung secret of being creative

This is a guest article written by Melissa Dinwiddie. Melissa is an Artist & Inspirationalist, whose super-power is lighting your creative fire. She blogs about getting sparked, stoked and creating at Living A Creative Life, where you can also find her visual art and original music. Here’s Melissa:


Maybe you’re familiar with this voice:

“Ack! I can’t be creative to save my life! I just don’t have it. All the creativity has been sucked out of me!”

I’ve heard it in my own head too.

Years ago, when I finally started tipping my toe in the waters of art classes after my many years as an Ivory Tower academic, I truly believed that all the creativity had been quashed out of me. (Academia has a way of doing that…)

I managed to quiet the voice, though, and in fact I eventually turned my new passion for making art into a sustainable business.

But over time, after over a decade of making art only for clients, only if it was a project that would help pay the bills, the voice started squeaking at me again. Last year, in fact, even though I made my living from my art, I started doubting I’d ever get back in touch with my inner creativity.

Yet once again I eventually managed to quiet the voice and creatively thrive.

What’s the secret?

When I wanted to get back to making art for myself last year, I realized I had no idea what I wanted to create, nor how to do it. I felt paralyzed.

Eventually, tired of feeling sorry for myself, tired of longing to create, I decided to just start. To do something. Anything.

I made a goal for myself of painting just a little bit every day – say, 15 minutes. I set up “rules” to eliminate that most deadly of creativity killers, the pressure to perform:

1) My goal for my creative time (or as I like to call it, time in the Creative Sandbox) was to play and experiment, period. It did not matter if I “completed” anything, just that I mucked around with my paints and inks and supplies. 2) No judgment allowed – it did not matter whether I liked what I created at all. All that mattered was that I was engaged in the creative process and enjoying that. 3) “Ruining” something I’d started earlier by adding more to it was not only okay, it was encouraged. (Hey, it’s all an experiment, right?)

The first 2 or 3 days I had great fun making a mess, though I confess I didn’t like what I made. Freeing myself of judgement was proving impossible, and I felt a bit of a let-down.

But I persisted. I came back to my art the next day, and the next, and what happened surprised me.

All of a sudden, ideas started to flow! I began getting really excited about what I was doing, and what I wanted to try next. Within just a few days, the creative taps were twisted fully to the “on” position.

Like Nike says…

Just do it.

If I cast my memory back to that painful time after grad school when I seriously believed I’d permanently lost touch with my creative self, I realize that just doing something was the key back then as well.

Creativity is not something that just “happens” to you or magically appears in your life; it’s something you foster in yourself, through the process of doing.

Don’t believe me? I invite you to take my 15 Minutes a Day Creative Challenge and try it out for yourself. Then let me know how your own creativity has been sparked.

On August 17 Melissa is opening up her first group coaching mastermind, the Creative Ignition Circle, for creatives who are ready to charge forward with their own creative lives. I suggest you go join if you’re looking for the perfect opportunity to move forward with your creativity.

Leap of faith photo by Nicki Varkevisser.