What Is Creativity? (And How to Master Your Creative Habit)

Jordan Tarver
March 22, 2020

Creativity is a habit of using your imagination to bring a new idea to life—making something that was once intangible, tangible. It involves putting two or more ideas, objects, or, for a lack of a better term, things together that didn't previously go together. Although widely related to artistic projects, creativity can be found in almost anything because it involves general processes: thinking and producing. Think of an idea, produce the product, and boom: creativity.

Although I wasn’t creating things straight from birth (shocking), I've built up my creative muscle from a young age. From running around with a camera at the age of 10 to creating custom yearbooks in elementary school to writing a mini-book in high school, it adds up. My practice has gifted me with a strong creative habit. Your own practice can do something similar.

Creativity vs Innovation

While creativity primarily relates to imagination, innovation relates to implementation. The main difference when looking at creativity vs innovation is that creativity involves the birth of a new idea, whereas innovation is the implementation of a new product, idea, or service that creates value within a market.

There are many people who believe creativity and implementation don't correlate. However, I beg to differ. Without a creative idea—a product that once didn't exist—there would be nothing to implement into a specific market. In other words, innovation, or implementation, is a crucial part of creativity and the creative process. With that being said, there's no creativity without innovation and there's no innovation without creativity. They compliment each other perfectly.

Who Is Creative?

Everyone is creative. Everyone. Creativity is an innate quality that involves curiosity of your imagination. Although we're all creative by the nature of being human, it's necessary to build a habit of creativity. Why? Because the freedom to be curious and have a colorful imagination has been trained out of us from a young age. So although many people may not feel creative anymore, there are ways to rediscover your once child-like curious, creative mindset.

Creativity can be found in any part of your life—parenting, relationships, executing a task at work, etc. If you want to become creative or more creative, start to practice every day. For example, if you want to be a musician, practice music. If you want to be a creative developer, practice code. If you want to be a painter, practice painting. Do this practice every day. With constant repetitions, you’re bound to strengthen your innate creative muscle.

The Creative Process

  1. Think outside of the box: Creativity is your imagination at play. The creative process starts by thinking outside of the box—coming up with ideas that are original and unique. Let your mind run wild, the best ideas are those that didn't exist before you thought of them.
  2. Learn about your idea: Once you have an idea, it's time to gather the material and resources you'll need to execute the idea. Some questions to ask yourself in this stage of the creative process are:
    • What skills do I need to learn that I don't have now?
    • How can I fit various ideas together to create something new?
    • What do I need access to for me to execute this idea?
    • Do I know anyone that can help me?
  3. Create action steps: You'll need to set small goals to direct you toward achieving success with what you're creating. These goals should be the action steps specific to the creative process for a certain project. My tip is to start at Point B (the end goal) and work your way back to Point A (the beginning). This will let you break down your larger goal into smaller, bite-sized portions.
  4. Get it down on paper: After you've let your mind run wild, you’re ready to start your first draft. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The goal of your first draft is just to get something on paper. You can always come back to rework or refine what you’ve started with.
  5. Improve your idea based on feedback: A good idea never exists without even better feedback. While you may be reluctant to show your work, I encourage you to become comfortable with sharing. Use other people's feedback and criticism to help shape your idea.
  6. Complete the work: Creativity isn't always warm and fuzzy. It requires a ton of work and dedication. Once you have your rough draft and feedback, it's time to be a man of your words and crank your project out.

While this idea of the creative process seems nice, unfortunately, it's not always as clean as it seems. Sometimes you may go back and forth between the same two steps until you can come to a conclusion. But that's normal. The creative process should be intuitive, and you should follow where your curiosity is leading you throughout the process. Here's a more accurate, real-life representation of the creative process:

creative process

How to Practice Creativity and Become Creative

Both creativity and non-creativity are learned habits. This means although you may not believe you're creative now, you're always capable of learning a creative habit. Creativity is a muscle, and the more you work it, the stronger it will become. Use your imagination, be playful, and don't worry about the quality of work at first. Let your interests and curiosity lead you down your path of creativity.

1. Produce Shitty First Drafts

Your first draft does not need to be your best. Believing the first draft needs to be perfect will start a path to a creative block. Let your ideas flow, and just get the idea down on paper. Don't worry about quality. Know that producing a shitty first draft is the only way to create a good second draft and an outstanding third draft. Shitty is not forever, it's what will give you the clarity you need for practicing your creativity and becoming more creative.

Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird coined this idea of shitty first drafts and says it better than anyone out there. Her book gave me the "okay" to create drafts I'm not proud of at first. It gave me the permission I needed to become more creative.

"Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts." - Anne Lamott

2. Use a Structured Schedule

Creativity is thought out to be this thing that arrives in waves of inspiration. But I'm here to tell you that's false. While creativity involves inspiration, it also requires dedication. Using a structured schedule can help train your brain when it's time to be creative. This will allow you to dedicate an ample amount of time every day to work on your creative craft.

3. Finish and Execute the Entirety of a Project

Think of every creative project as its own brain exercise. The more you execute and finish it entirely, the stronger you will make your creative brain. You'll build an unrivaled habit that will serve your curiosity and allow you to step into your creative power.

4. Throw Self-judgement Out the Window

The moment you put pressure on yourself or beat yourself up for "not making something good," is the same moment when you build your biggest creative block. Get rid of the habit of judging your own work, all it will do is prevent you from unlocking your creative genius. Be proud of the fact that you're even taking the initial step to be creative.

5. Hold Yourself Accountable

Accountability is important with any habit or skill. And yes, creativity is both a habit and a learned skill. If you want to become creative or more creative, you'll need to hold yourself accountable and commit to the process. Show up every day and put your reps in. Creativity breeds off of repetition, not perfection.

Tips to Overcome Creative Blocks

  1. Work on something else: If you're working on a specific project or task and your creative thinking has gone missing, turn your attention to something new. For example, if you're working on a presentation for work or in the midst of painting, set the task down for a bit and come back to it when you feel re-energized.
  2. Spend time in nature: I find a lot of my inspiration and creative energy when I spend more time in nature and connect with the natural world. It's a free and easy way to become clear-headed and overcome a creative block.
  3. Step away from your creativity: Sometimes the best way to overcome creative blocks is to step away from your creativity. Not for long, but just enough to stop overthinking tasks or projects that are on your plate. In my own experience, I've found some of my best ideas come when I'm doing a mindless task like driving or cleaning the house.
  4. Go for a walk: Don't have time to get in nature? That's okay, walking outside is just as good and free, too. Take a 10- to 15-minute walk around your neighborhood. Loosen up a bit and get your creative juices flowing again so you overcome that annoying creative block.
  5. Sleep on it: Get some rest. Creative blocks can potentially be a product of exhaustion or a lack of sleep. If the creative gears aren't turning in your brain, call it a day and hang up the cleats. Be okay with resting, you can always try tomorrow.

Bottom Line

So before you go off thinking you weren't blessed with creativity, take a few steps back. Everyone is creative, we just need to build and learn the creative habit and trust the creative process. You deserve to uncover your incredible creative genius


Jordan Tarver is a lead editor at Forbes, a keynote speaker, and the bestselling author of You Deserve This Sh!t.
He’s transformed over 30,000 lives through his book, amassed more than 200,000 devoted followers, and garnered over 60 million views online. Jordan is on a mission to empower people and organizations to unlock exponential growth and expansive possibilities.

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