Living the stressful life of a university student, creativity can be one of the last things you think about. It may seem like something only artists, designers or performers need to worry about. For “the rest of us”, creativity is often viewed as some kind of luxury, only to be focused on once you get everything more important done.
But that is not the case. Creativity is essential in everyday life. Therefore, it is something everyone should nurture and develop.
Adobe’s study on creativity found that creators earn more than non-creators, and that they are more likely to feel happy and confident. A majority of respondents also believe that creativity is important for society (70%) and the economy (64%). Furthermore, over two-thirds believe that creative people are better workers, leaders, parents, and students.
But what even is creativity? There are different definitions, but at its core, creativity is about transforming thoughts into reality. In addition to making art and creating something, it is about seeing new pathways and possibilities, finding new relationships and coming up with new ideas, all to achieve a dream.
That is why creative approaches are useful. By utilising new ways of thinking, you can come up with new study techniques to memorize the vocabulary of your last language class or think up a research question you actually want to do a paper on. Furthermore, the skill of connecting things in new ways leads to new and probably easier ways to do things, such as research for papers or understand how the things you learn in class are applicable to real life.
Creativity is also something employees look for. It is a skill required for figuring out the steps necessary to follow in order to reach goals. In addition, focusing on design is essential for companies (that same Adobe study found that over 80% of Brits believe it is important for companies to focus on design), and without creativity, there is no design. Moreover, as machine learning and automatization take over more and more jobs, creativity is often highlighted as the one skill robots do not have.
Still, while focusing on education and your future career is important, it should not be your whole life. Taking time off to do something completely different is necessary to be able to keep yourself going. You need to unwind. Here, again, creativity comes into the picture: as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi argued, when you are in the middle of a creative process, you don’t pay attention to anything else.
But how to be more creative? Is creativity even a skill you can learn? Yes.
George Land conducted a famous study showing that children are naturally creative, but as they grow, they are taught to unlearn creativity. Society does not encourage them to develop their creative processes: the focus is rather on how to be productive and memorise information given to them.
This is very depressing. But the good news is that you can unlearn this repression of creativity and can actively decide to nurture your creative abilities.
The most common way to go about that is to do something traditionally creative, such as take up drawing or painting or play an instrument. These are all relatively easy ways to practice creativity: especially with drawing, you do not need any special equipment, and there are different ways to get better and get support. The internet is full of tutorials, and you can take lessons as well. Another positive aspect is the fact that you do not need to have a certain goal, you can just explore and see what you enjoy.
But if you really want to achieve all of your creative potential, drawing might not be enough. What unites creative people is that they are curious. They ask questions, explore the world and are open to new possibilities: that is how they are able to come up with new solutions and their ideas. So in order for you to foster your creative skills, remain curious. Ask questions, seek answers, and wonder.
Related to that, you should seek the answers from outside your conventional circles. Expand your horizon. Read publications you previously did not read, listen to new podcasts, talk to new people. Actively try to expose yourself to new influences. Get on a train and go exploring to a neighbourhood you have not previously visited, or go to an event where you know no one and talk to new people. But give yourself me-time as well; the reason why people often get good ideas in the shower is the solitude!
As with every skill, creativity also requires practice and commitment. You can train your creativity in many ways, but in order to achieve results, you need to keep it up. Challenge yourself. Decide that you want to learn a new skill, for example, knitting, or make a promise to write a poem or make a drawing every day.
And finally, as you go on nurturing your creativity, the most important thing to remember is to have fun!