I’m not creative.
I can’t draw.
I can’t do art.
These are things I hear all the time in my work and from the students who come to my classes. Maybe you’ve said it too.
Somewhere along the line, something has happened that has stopped your creativity in its tracks. Because we’re all born with innate creativity – it is natural for humans to create. So, what’s blocking the creativity for so many adults and teens? I’ve identified the top three things that block creativity.
Creativity Blocker #1: Judgement at school
Nearly everyone I speak to seems to have a similar story about something happening when they were young that has stopped their creativity in its tracks. A lot of the time, this experience seems to have come out of school, which really bugs me, because as a high school art teacher, I’m always so careful with how I critique my students’ work.
You have to be extremely sensitive to kids at any age, but especially in the 12 to 15-year-old age group. They’re really vulnerable to criticism because they just want everything to be perfect, and if they can’t do their art a certain way, they just won’t do it.
I did a poll this year and asked people about what’s stopping their creativity, and some of the most common answers were:
- “Oh yeah, this teacher told me I couldn’t draw”
- “I failed at art”
If you were ever told your artwork or creations weren’t good enough, even as a young child, this can really affect you as an adult, and prevent you from exploring your creativity further.
Creativity Blocker #2: Your own inner critic
When my students come to do some art classes or one-on-ones, one of the first things I say to them is:
“You’re quite capable of being creative, it’s just are you willing to allow yourself the freedom to do it without the judgment?”
Of course, there are people out there who will judge your work. Worrying about what other people think can take away your creativity. But more often, judgment comes from your own inner critic, rather than what other people might say about your art. Letting go of your own preconceived notions and leaving all judgment at the door will allow your creativity to blossom again.
Creativity Blocker #3: Perfection & a lack of practice
The final creativity blocker is this obsession with perfection. I mean, I do some realistic stuff where I have to, but it’s really not my style (you’ll notice this in any of my paintings!). But for many people, it can be quite a process to let go of the idea of getting things perfect the first time.
Instead of trying to be perfect, focus on learning and practicing. It’s the same as going to a gym or learning any other new skill. You wouldn’t turn up at the gym for the first time in years and decide to get fit this week and go hard. Your body’s just going to go… ‘what’s happening to me?’
It’s the same with art and other creative pursuits. You have to build up to it over time, and do the work. You have to practice it. And in the process, be kind to yourself with how you express yourself creatively. It’s okay if it’s wonky or you haven’t quite worked out how to blend yet. The important thing is whether or not you had fun, and then through constant practice, you’ll see improvement.
When you are first starting out, especially, you will struggle a lot, but part of this struggle is just getting in tune with yourself, listening, being open, and seeing where things will go.
You can be creative – just start trying
If you’ve been experiencing any of the three creativity blockers, it’s no wonder you’ve been struggling. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Everyone is capable of creativity, even if you think you can’t hold a pencil. Creativity’s not about drawing, it’s not about being able to replicate an image (that’s why we have cameras). Art is about expression of the self. And everyone’s expression of the self is individual. You can’t compare one person’s work to another. It’s totally different.
Start by trying different things to find out what works for you.
Some things speak to some people, and some things don’t. If you try something like painting and it isn’t your thing, then try drawing, pastels, or playing with clay. There are so many ways of expressing that creativity as long as you’re willing to open up and try something new.