Is there a "Couch to 5k" for creativity?
November 30, 2016 7:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm in my early thirties and I don't think I've ever been creative. I just don't think I have much imagination for those kinds of things. But it's something I think I'd like in my life, and I'm a little bewildered where to start. Is creativity or imagination something I can learn (or be taught), or is it more innate?
posted by A Robot Ninja to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yes, absolutely you can learn to access your creativity! The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron would be ideal. She takes you through a 12-week course in discovering and nurturing your creativity. Engaging, deeply enlightening and so, so recommended.
posted by doornoise at 8:03 AM on November 30, 2016 [18 favorites]

Drawing On the Right Side of the Brain might be useful to you. There's a workbook, too. Although these are specifically about drawing, I found they opened my eyes to seeing many things in a different, more creative way.
posted by katie at 8:25 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Seconding The Artist's Way. I think that's exactly what you're looking for.
posted by Kriesa at 8:28 AM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

You could also try taking an improv class which teaches you how to be more creative in thinking about where situations could go and what is possible. I think it could open you up to being more creative in other areas as well.
posted by rmless at 8:55 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Definitely The Artist's Way. It feels goofy, but it just puts you in the right physical and mental space to get going on creative works.
posted by xingcat at 9:00 AM on November 30, 2016

I think creativity is strengthened through practice and through "vocabulary." Meaning - if I want to creatively decorate my living room and I've looked at a lot of interestingly decorated living rooms, then I have an internal vocabulary or library of ideas to draw from and build upon. Acceptance that not all creative ideas are good, and a non-judgemental attitude towards the bad ideas, is key.
posted by bunderful at 9:02 AM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding improv. (Yes, eponysterical.) Improv isn't about being funny. It's about making something out of nothing at all. An improv class will also help you break down barriers to your own imagination, because so many improv exercises you learn in an intro course teach you how to block that inner "no, I can't do it" voice.

Also nthing The Artist's Way/Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:03 AM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lynda Barry's Syllabus and What Is It? could be good for writing and drawing.

"[Barry] believes that anyone can be a writer and has set out to prove it. For the past decade, she has run a highly popular writing workshop for nonwriters called Writing the Unthinkable, which was featured in The New York Times Magazine. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor is the first book to make her innovative lesson plans and writing exercises available to the public for home or classroom use."

"What It Is demonstrates a tried-and-true creative method that is playful, powerful, and accessible to anyone with an inquisitive wish to write or to remember. "
posted by TheGoodBlood at 9:12 AM on November 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Creativity is something you can grow. I teach a college class on photography/creativity for non-art-majors. It's pretty amazing to watch how much more creative students get better over the course of a semester.

Taking a class on some kind of art thing would be good, but you can totally do it on your own:

Use your cellphone to take at least 10 photos every day. Doesn't matter what you shoot, buildings, trees, the sky, the ground, people, whatever, if something catches your eye shoot a photo. Wait a few days and then look back at your photos, and see which ones are good. Try and figure why they are good; take more like that. Do this for a few months.

Ultimately, with the taking photographs thing or other stuff in this thread try and integrate the activity into your daily life.
posted by gregr at 9:41 AM on November 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

Following on from gregr, after you've taken 100 or a thousand or 436, pick a theme and stick with it for the next ten, like I dunno, street numbers, the colour blue, geometry. Sometimes limitations force us into creativity. In order to make something interesting out of a street number, you have to take its portrait differently. Maybe so close that you can see the rust, maybe as the only thing showing on a brick wall, maybe at a time of day when it throws a shadow, or when it's just been washed and the water is running down it in streaks.
posted by b33j at 10:54 AM on November 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think one of the keys is productive, regular practice. That means not just doing it often, but doing it in a way that tests and pushes you as well. Some sort of feedback is essential, whether that comes from public performance, group criticism or a single individual (other than yourself). It's really very hard to usefully self-criticize, especially as a beginner or when you're stuck. Other people can help a lot.

But it can be very non-traditional. One of the best things ever for me was a weekly role-playing group, which frequently turned into almost improv jam sessions lasting for hours.
posted by bonehead at 11:02 AM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit is another good book to read on this topic
posted by crocomancer at 11:47 AM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

I also like the Twyla Tharp book and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain (if you want to draw). I also liked Big Magic, which is an easy read and had some interesting ideas in it too. What all this amounts to is that creativity is (like most things) a big muscle that you can learn to flex. (I admit the Julia Cameron book rubs me the wrong way.)

I would recommend listing to a couple interviews with Lisa Congdon. She didn't think she was particularly artistic either, and only started drawing and painting in her early-mid thirties too.

You might also like Keri Smith or Sustainably Creative (or Ravelry or....???).

Personally, I think a lot of creativity can be expressed in non-artistic disciplines - thinking creatively is huge in math, sciences, all sorts of things! There was a Nova documentary on Netflix (still there?) on math and origami and it was this wonderful blend of... math and creativity and art.

What kind of thing do you want to do? If you post your next question specifically on drawing/photos/knitting/math whatever I'm sure you'll get some more specific leads.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:31 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One of the things I've concluded from talking to people over the years about creative stuff is that not everybody who does creative work/play is a creative omnivore or polymath. Most folks don't do most things, even if there is a creative thing they do and enjoy.

And I think that may not always be obvious and so folks in your position, trying to figure out what creative bones they've got in their body, can see that e.g. this or that thing, painting or music or design or writing or etc. that someone else does leaves them cold. And so you see that and feel like, well, I don't get that or don't know how to even start trying to do that, and that's what creativity looks like, so I...guess I'm just not creative.

In reality there's I think a lot of luck involved in finding the thing that does click for you, the thing that feels like, hey, hmm, this is interesting and I could do it again even if you're not good at it when you start (and that's how it works, you're almost certainly not gonna be good at it right away). It's that little thing that you find yourself feeling a little proud of even if you don't think it's very good. The little thing that you keep thinking about the next day, think about going back to or trying again.

And it's luck finding that thing, but you can make your own luck by trying stuff. The books folks are suggesting are great ideas; low-stakes beginners workshops are a good idea for getting a structured introduction to something as well, for which you might check with local community colleges or art collectives/workshops that do classes. Or try talking with friends who do or know someone who does one or another creative thing that you think might be interesting but don't know where to start with—artists, musicians, writers, etc.—and just have a conversation over coffee or beer about how they got started, why they like it, etc. Or if it works for you and them both, meet up to watch them work and ask questions.

And then if you find something that clicks a little—even just a little is okay, even just a sense of, hmm, that was sort of interesting, that gives me a sliver of an idea—then keep doing it for a while. Keep trying it. See if that click keeps clicking, if you keep thinking about it. You don't have to get better at it per se, especially not quickly, you just need to like it, or find it compelling. Creative work isn't about proving to anyone else that you're creative or good at your creative interest, it's just about satisfying that personal need, that little click.
posted by cortex at 2:29 PM on November 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Creativity is a pretty wide umbrella. Usually creative thoughts come about when you're trying to do something and run into a "problem" (broadly defined) and the obvious approaches don't work.

For example, as a kid I liked stories. Because I was interested in these things I started taking apart stories and putting them back together again, writing my own shoddily-composed versions of books I liked, and planning out elaborate epics that I didn't actually possess the skill to execute. I didn't realize at the time that I was learning to write fiction. Those skills just sort of developed out of trying to make a thing and running into all kinds of problems with character, setting, language, etc.

I think the same goes for almost any other activity. Just pick something you're interested in and start trying to do it. The creativity comes from running into problems and solving them in unusual ways.
posted by deathpanels at 2:54 PM on November 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

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