Can you teach yourself to become more creative?

It’s a very easy word to use but one that has both multiple meanings and no meaning whatsoever. "I’m just more of a creative person," says the individual unable to meet a deadline or commit to a date. "I’m not very creative," says the football coach, while simultaneously coming up with moves to rival a ballet troupe.

Yet the idea of "creativity" is becoming more and more desirable in the modern world, not least in the business world, where every marketing team is a creative team and all content is seen as creative. 

But is creativity some immeasurable and unteachable trait that some of us are born with (or afflicted by) or can you turn yourself into a creative person? What if some of us just aren’t feeling it? Does wearing purple, singing in the street or staying up all night drinking and painting make you creative or is it something more complicated than that?

Natasha Boardman-Steer is a Kent-based creative practitioner running creative workshops, and community consultations. "I believe that everyone is inherently creative," she says, "it’s just about finding what your niche is - that might be cooking, fashion, design, engineering or even science. It’s such a wide spectrum and I don’t believe it is just about about fine art." She adds, "Creativity is essentially about problem solving." Moreover, Boardman-Steer adds, "Anyone can be a creative, but often it’s a wonderful path of things failing and working that make you 'successful'."

Sharon Obuobi, host of the In Studio podcast, a series of conversations with artists, curators and influencers, and cataloguer at Sotheby’s Auction, believes that creative skills "need to be developed just like analytical or numerical skills".

"Creativity can be guided and practiced through various activities, exercises, courses, or degree programmes, depending on your commitment," she says, "I think anyone can be an artist, though some might be more naturally inclined."

Read: Three lessons in originality from Prince

Obuobi believes that all the greatest artists had to go through training to develop their skills and ways of seeing: "There are technical aspects to working in art and dealing with various materials. You can work with oil or acrylic on canvas, drawings on paper, watercolour on paper, silkscreen printing, linocuts, graphic design, sculpture, ceramics, or any other media you choose. In order to handle these materials, you have to learn how to use them well in order to convey what you intend."

Sally How is a teacher at Rossett Adult Learning in Harrogate. She says, "Based on my experiences teaching children in schools and, more recently, adults I really do think that you can make yourself more creative." But, she believes that many people are afraid of trying: "Adults in particular are much less accustomed to failing at things in general, because we choose to do things we enjoy and we become specialised and narrower in what we do. This means in general terms that we choose to do things we think we good at."

How adds, "In my adult education classes people are wanting to be more creative, but quite a number have been told at school many years ago that they were not good at art. Sometimes their parents discouraged them from choosing creative subjects and they were encouraged to follow an 'academic' career path. However many years later they are still looking for that 'something' that creativity gives us."

How explains that she teaches creativity by first teaching the individual not to be afraid of failure: "After all we all fall down when we are learning to walk," she says, "I also encourage them to experiment, because it is only when you try things that you find out what really happens yourself. This puts the learner in a good position, where they don't mind if things don't go right, so they enjoy the process more and also means that the fear soon disappears. Fun is when creativity gets addictive."

"We’re increasingly being told that we need to be creative thinkers and problem solvers, but I meet hundreds of adults convinced that it’s a skill for 'someone else'," says Cara Holland, head visualiser at Graphic Change, which works with companies to encourage them to think more visually, "Creativity is a way of thinking and approaching the world. It’s not connected to artistic talent."

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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