Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

You Must Engage Your Creative Side

From Jeff: This is a guest post by James Prescott. James is a writer who cares deeply about helping people discover who they were created to be. You can check out his blog and connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Over a year ago, I was invited to a friend’s house. This friend is a creative arts teacher and was preparing one of her first big presentations. She wanted to test it on a couple of friends, and I was one of the guinea pigs.

The evening was designed to explore creativity and our artistic sides. Now, by no means am I a world-class drawer or painter — my creative gift has always involved words — but I decided to give it a go, anyway.

Creative Side

Photo credit: Martin L. (Creative Commons)

Unlocking your creative potential

The main part of the evening involved grabbing an art pencil and a sheet of paper, closing your eyes, and drawing. I allowed my mind to drift and my hand to simply feel the pencil on paper and move into shapes. As I did this, something unlocked in me. Something important. Something creative.

My mind opened up to ideas I’d never even thought of before — and not just ones involving drawing. Creativity was unleashed inside of me in a way it had never been.

This event made a profound impact on me and my work. It opened my mind to understanding something I knew but hadn’t experienced. I felt alive and free, ready to create.

We are all creative

In a world filled with stereotypes, we often find ourselves labeling people. “Sporty,” “intellectual,” “academic,” and “artistic,” are just a few that come to mind. It’s as if only certain types of people are capable of being one thing.

We do this with creative people, too. Artists, painters, singers, actors, writers, film-makers, animators — these are the ones we deem “creative.” Then, there is everyone else. But this is a lie.

We are all creative in our own right. Yes, not all of us are going to be published authors and artists, selling millions of books and records. Not all of us will go down in history for what we create. But that’s not why we create.

Look at any of the great creative minds throughout history. I’m pretty sure they didn’t create to impress others. They did it for another reason.

If we make art for the sake of attention, we shouldn’t bother creating at all.

We don’t create for others.
We don’t create to impress or be the best.
We create, because we can.

Every single human being has a creative spark. Some call it divine; others attribute it to a Muse or the human spirit. But there is a drive in all of us — a source of inspiration — to create.

Finding your spark

What if you don’t know what your gift is — what you’re supposed to create? The answer is simple: Just try something.

Get some paper and a pencil and draw. Sit down at a computer and write. Grab a camera and start shooting. Make a short film. All you have to do to get started is engage.

Give your art space to breathe, to flourish and grow. Keep experimenting until you find something you enjoy, something you love — and then keep doing it.

It doesn’t have to be world-class or a work of genius. It doesn’t even have to be “artistic” — because creativity can be found anywhere. It just has to matter to you.

What suffers when you don’t do this

What we create becomes a part of us. If you don’t engage with your creative spark, you’ll deny a part of who you are. There will be a piece of you that’s missing. Worse, you’ll hold back something incredible from the world: your art.

Maybe only two or three people will ever see what you create. Maybe only you will. But through the process you’ll discover something about yourself, something you never knew — another piece of your identity.

It’s time you engaged with your creative side. Nurture it, and let it grow. It will help you come fully alive. What are you waiting for? Get creative.

What do you do to discover your creative side? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Martin L. (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Maja

    Such a great post! Just reading it, made me inspired to start working on my creativity 🙂 Thanks for this!
    -Maja

    • Anonymous

      That’s fantastic, go for it! Thanks for the encouragement too. JP.

  • Ah, the universe brought me to this post mere minutes after posting one asking to what degree we are inherently creative, vs. gifted or not. An inspiring post.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your encouragement Patrick, glad it inspired you. 🙂 JP.

    • Quite a compliment coming from you, Patrick. You are the artist’s coach. Love your blog. I agree — James did a great job with this topic.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the encouragement Jeff. 🙂 JP.

      • Wow, Jeff, thank you so much! I of course love your blog as well; great to interact with you here in the comments.

  • Mike Zserdin

    “It will help you come fully alive.” I like that and agree! Just create. I agree with you: we’re all built to offer the world our respective creations.

    •  amen

    • Anonymous

      Absolutely Mike. Great to hear you agree too. Thanks for commenting. JP.

      • Mike Zserdin

        Thanks for sharing your work!

  • Anonymous

    Interesting people create. It’s not the knowledge inside their heads – it’s how they ‘see’ that knowledge & share it with others. Teachers create when they inspire students. Moms create when they motivate their kids. Attorneys create when they argue cases. 

    I didn’t used to think I was creative. Now that I think I am, I see it everywhere. Thanks for your insightful post, James.

    • Anonymous

      Wow Julie, looks like the post had a big impact, that’s fantastic. What you say is absolutely the point I was trying to make, really glad it inspired you.  Thanks for commenting. JP. 

    •  Good insight Julie! We create more than we think we do and it sounds like you’ve begun to re-frame looking for that creativity. It opens up a new world doesn’t it?

  • Great post James! I’ve written about the importance of simply creating on my site too. It’s not about if it’s “good” or “bad”, what’s important is that you create. You have to start!

    I enjoyed your story about drawing too as it was something you didn’t think of yourself as and it turned into a momentous experience for you. It’s amazing what can happen when we push our comfort zone.

    • Anonymous

      Absolutely Dave, its a habit I need to practice much more too, I think its something we all need to do. It takes courage, but it’s worth it for sure. Thanks for the comment. JP.

  • Great thoughts, James.  ” If you don’t engage with your creative spark, you’ll deny a part of who you are. There will be a piece of you that’s missing.”  That is SO true.  For the longest time I believed creative people were only those who could paint or draw and scrapbook.  I don’t do any of that very well.  But, I do like to write things down.   For years, a part of me was missing because I was to scared to do it.  Now that I’ve found that thing that makes me feel alive, I never want to misplace it again. 🙂 

    • Anonymous

      That’s great Eileen – keep going, you never know what might be possible, never let fear overcome you. Thanks for commenting. JP.

  • I think we often mistakenly think art and creativity are synonymous. They’re related, but not the same. Or are they? I think I opened a big can of worms…

    • Anonymous

      I think creativity is much bigger than art, writing or any ‘traditional’ creative area – you can find it in any area of life. As you say, it’s a big discussion. Thanks for commenting. JP.

  • Anna

    very true. I paint, watercolor mostly. You can see my paintings on my blog.  I went through a phase of not being able to paint, but I found that I could easily knit. It wasnt the same BUT it helped me stay creative in what I felt at the time was a very safe way. As I got my sea legs back I learned about art journaling- it was very freeing to paint and draw in a book , it helped me with the fears that I had developed with a large sheet of watercolor paper glaring at me. I am painting again and hope to have prints made of my work and really start sharing what I have created. Its been a beautiful journey.

    • Anonymous

      Your paintings are amazing Anna, really amazing. You definitely have a gift – interesting to hear your story as well, its an encouragement to us all. Thanks JP.

    •  I like the idea of art journaling. The two words together intrigue me. Your paintings and sketches are delightful to see. God bless you on your continued creative journey.

    •  I haven’t painted in about a year, but I have been having fun playing with photos on my phone with apps like Instagram. I think I am finally ready to paint again.

  • Michelle Gregory

    i’ve been debating doing something creative to get my writing flowing again. i think this was the push i needed.

    • Anonymous

      Go for it! Thanks for commenting Michelle. JP.

  • I agree. Being human makes us creative. It shows up in a vast array of variety. Some seem more creative b/c they are also artistic or expressive. But, it can show up in plenty of areas “off the grid” so that we may not consider it creative. 

    Creativity is probably also well-described as that way or activity that brings a core joy.

    • Anonymous

      Great description Lisa, I absolutely believe that creativity is part of our dna as human beings, it’s part of how we were made – whatever field that lies in. It’s whenever we bring something new into the world. Thanks for reading and for your comment. JP.

  • Love this Jeff! I have found that gathering with other creative people regularly helps keep you centered. It reminds you that there are other weirdos like you out there, and kinda gives you permission to keep doing your thang.  

    • Anonymous

      Katie, I definitely agree – I know even reading this blog and dialoging with people here has sharpened me as a writer. Glad you like the post, thanks for the comment. JP.

  • Stephanie Hilliard

    I experienced a similar awakening in my last graduate course on Leadership and Creativity. We explored music, art, literature, architecture, etc. Each section had these hands on activities that felt awkward, unnatural, new…and very freeing. It was like someone turned a key and opened a door that had been long closed. We were challenged to look at all of life in a new way. It was an amazing adventure and the lesson lingers long after the last class activity.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for sharing this Stephanie, and for your comment. JP.

  • James, I’m volunteering at the library so I read your piece, grabbed paper and pen, then went to work for a moment (with people coming into the library, it’s not a good idea to keep your eyes closed for long). Interesting little tactile and mental exercise. I’ll have to pursue it a little longer with pencil and sketch pad at home. Thanks for introducing me to the pleasure of creativity (I’ve got the angst down pretty well).–Tom

    • Anonymous

      That’s fantastic Tom, great stuff. May it inspire you to greater creativity. JP.

  • I know that I have a need to express myself creatively, through writing, taking photos, sewing quilts, cooking, etc, and I also have a need to fill my soul with it. It can be as simple as a hike through the forest or a good book or song etc, but I cannot go to long without that ‘fix’ . And pun intended because it does. 

    It takes courage to express or share and for a time my blog has shown me that … and just this last post I realized how comfortable I was getting  even there and so took a big leap of faith and created something different ( a slideshow set to a song uploaded on youtube) without the feeling that I knew what I was doing at all.  I owe this in large part to the blogging community , to social media. It is incredibly empowering and supportive .

    Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your kind comments & for reading Deb. Keep creating! JP.

  • For me, creativity flows from asking questions. It comes from me trying to make sense of what is going on around me.

    • Anonymous

      Larry, I think questions are vitally important in the creative process, totally agree. We need to ask questions if we are to imagine new possibilities and ideas. Many thanks for this comment, JP.

  • I am the most creative if I’m writing about something fresh, maybe something that just happened and I can still feel the fire in me. I also am very creative if I’m listening to music. Great post James.

    • Anonymous

      Great stuff Kimanzi – thanks for sharing. Music has that impact on me too. 🙂 JP.

  • I wrote a post( https://www.jmlalonde.com/the-creativity-of-children/ ) about ways to become creative a couple of weeks ago. I laid out a couple of ways to be creative.

    Three ways I get my creative juices flowing are:

    1. Listening to inspiring music
    2. Reading great content
    3. Writing

    Be like a child and let the ideas flow. You’ll never know where it’ll lead you!

    • Anonymous

      Those three tend to work for me as well – sometimes watching an inspiring, creative and thought provoking film too. Thanks for your comments! JP.

      • I like your addition James. A great movie can kick-start the creativity. But I find if I’m looking for a quick jolt, a movie can take too long.

    • Joe, I like your 3 suggestions plus exercise! A lot of great ideas have been born on long walks/runs. 

      • Thanks Brent! My only issue with the ideas born on a walk/run is that I tend to forget them and I struggle with slowing down to write them out or dictate a message.

    •  Love these. Perhaps the most important one is to become like a child.

  • Thanks for sharing your post James, I particularly like the idea of stereotypes and how we start to believe that writers write and painters paint. I’m by no means a talented guitarist, but sometimes strumming on the guitar, goofing off can bust through walls for me. I also like your suggestion of drawing to find your creative side. Good luck with your writing.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Josh, glad the post helped you. Thanks for the encouragement. JP.

  • Getting outside, taking a walk near a field or on the gravel road helps me be creative. Doing chores or other work on the farm can generate creative ideas, too.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I think all of us find and express our creativity in our own unique ways. Thanks for sharing your own. JP.

  • I remember seeing Kurt Vonnegut advise people to write a poem and then immediately tear it up and destroy it–just in order to learn to value the act of artistic creation.  I think there’s something to that.  We can’t always be about ‘art for art’s sake’ if we want to be published and paid, but there should be some part of us that exercises the principle on occasion.

    • Anonymous

      Totally agree, an excellent point. It’s about finding that balance and knowing what to share and not to. Thanks for the comment. JP.

  • sweetpea

    I teach English. I am a Jazz Singer 30 something years.  Jazz has taught me the ability to improvise.  To be flexible, adaptable, create in the moment.  Magic.  It informs everything I do.  I was given a 5th grade class the other day.  The usual teacher had left reams of paper, exercise after exercise, drills and such for kids to do.  The kids were literally lying on desks, bored waiting for the next installment.  The geraniums were wilting. 
    I put two lines of chairs in the middle of the room. (strange looks…) I announced this was a bus. Nominated the heavy footed driver. All aboard.  I gave instructions to the driver, brake suddenly, everyone went forward, squeals of delight, some were gossiping (like woman in a bus one said) some were on their phones, some were pointing out the imaginary window.  Others had their imaginary children with them and lifting them up to the window.   We created noise. Laughing and squealing. Other teachers came into my room to look.   We did not touch the drills.  After we alighted the bus. The children wrote a play. With stage directions, dialogue, a killer complication and resolution..

    There were no notes, no lesson plans, no anything.  It always works. Creativity matters.  The brief was to get them to write.  Fill in the blanks.  Nope.  Instead a one act play with interesting characters, and all the detail.  They took it, ran with it, wrote the whole thing and did not come up for air.  It is all in there bursting inside of them….

    I remind my high schoolers, to do the same.  In fact, I use the same exercise, sans bus. 
    I put them on a table ready for surgery.  Their doctor peers taking great delight in removing their spleens and body parts.   Howls of laughter.  Relaxation. Lets write. 

    Then they write.  I call this my rescue mission.  When high schoolers have creativity thumped out of them for the purpose of “academic” pursuits, they lose this.  Parents think it is fun but not serious.  A  principal asked me years ago  if this kind of lesson was appropriate?    

    My answer:  Is lateral and divergent thinking appropriate? Thinking out of the square?
    Innovation and improv.  It’s the very fabric of life.  Why are we nailing it back in?

    We have been trained in conformity. New ideas, creativity get howled down every day.  Resistance. Resistance. 

    I am the weird, eccentric teacher that loves Jazz, and children.  Students sneak into my classes.  (Seniors) and hide out the back.   I have to send them back!!!

    Obviously… I left the” system years ago  and created my own classes and “Dead Poet’s Society” is STILL my favourite film.  

    Sorry   this is  loooooong… 

     The moral of the story. You know it.  

     How to get creative?Watch your children, and your pet pooch.  Bennie my Cavalier King Charles  Spaniel wont teach me how to play guitar… but each day he does everything with fun, love and loyalty and is the most creative and spontaneous being I know.  No resistance, love in the moment.   He does tend to howl/sing…when I am singing along with Sarah Vaughan.   Sarah would have loved it. 

    • Ali

       This is amazing. It is too bad teachers like you have left the system because our children need you more now, today, than ever before.

    • JamesPrescott77

      I love Dead Poets Society – a top film and always watch for inspiration in my creativity, because it encourages to not be afraid to fail, not be afraid to create, and not be afraid to live. ‘Rip, rip, rip!!!’. Thanks for sharing ‘sweetpea’. JP

    • JamesPrescott77

      I love Dead Poets Society – a top film and always watch for inspiration in my creativity, because it encourages to not be afraid to fail, not be afraid to create, and not be afraid to live. ‘Rip, rip, rip!!!’. Thanks for sharing ‘sweetpea’. JP

  • I certainly agree that self-limiting beliefs can hold us back from expressing creative gifts. People have discovered a gift for painting and drawing, or writing novels, in their seventies; those who believed they couldn’t sing have been guided by a Natural Singing Teacher – or, if they’re lucky, Gareth Malone himself – and have discovered they can indeed make beautiful sounds with their own voices. Your theme of “quiet, private” talent is a debatable one. Gifts of creativity should be shared. If you have a passion to write, you have a passion to communicate with others. I have done too much private therapeutic writing in my life that I have never shown anyone. I’m not sure if it helped or not. I’m now coming out of that by writing a blog – through such media we have opportunities we never had before. 

    • JamesPrescott77

      I do think it’s great to share your creativity with others, for sure. But the point I was really making is the purpose we create is not for others, it’s because there is something inside of us that needs to be shared – and however many or few people see it, doesn’t make it any less precious or worthwhile. Thanks for your comments. JP.

  • Laura

    We don’t create for others.

    We don’t create to impress or be the best.

    We create, because we can.

    I love this. It’s so true.  Creativity often comes when I start working on anything…it’s true that you just have to start. Thank you for sharing this.

    • JamesPrescott77

      No problem Laura – I believe it deep in my soul. Step out and start, and it will begin to flow. JP.

  • Love this, and I so appreciate your insight. I’m a writer, but I’m also a very busy mom with a 2 year old and a six month old. There is never a dull moment! At the beginning of this year I decided that I needed to be proactive with my creativity. If I waited around for “time” I would most likely have a very, very long wait. I started a blog where I free-write five minutes (using a timer) every day. I figured, if I couldn’t carve out five minutes a day, then I had a major problem. And guess what? Three months in and I LOVE IT. It started as a form of discipline (can I stop at five minutes? can I resist the urge for it to always be ‘perfect’? can I learn to be more succinct?). But now it is not only a discipline – it is my creative spring board. So much of my “real” writing stems from those five-minute-a-day posts and I’m constantly inspired by it and through it. The only way to “be” creative is to make sure you are creating. Often. 🙂

    • JamesPrescott77

      Yes, creativity is a habit, it’s being aware of what’s all around us and bringing it to life. Thanks for sharing. JP.

  • What I love about creativity is that you’re often creative in ways you don’t even know. I always assumed I was only creative in music and maybe writing. One day I bought some canvas and paint and tried a simple painting. I LOVE how it turned out. So much so that I painted a couple more. Now they’re hanging in my music room and kitchen as a reminder of how important creativity is. 

    • JamesPrescott77

      Brilliant, just brilliant – exactly what I was talking about. Thanks for sharing this! JP

  • Jeff, this part sticks with me: “We don’t create for others.We don’t create to impress or be the best.We create, because we can.”
    I am now using heavily a dream journal I kept for an entire year and carefully preserved and guarded.  In that journal are daily color sketches and scribblings of my meditations upon the key verses pre-printed on each page.  I HIGHLY recommend this type of journaling.  So useful to us in unlimited ways all through the days afterwards.

    • JamesPrescott77

      Glad you agree with me on this – and thanks for sharing a bit of your journey. JP

  • I write and read in multiple styles and listen to lots of music.

  • Meg R

    The question: What suffers when you don’t do this?  This has struck a chord that made me see that what I create, either original or my version of something existing, is part of who I am.  I allow myself to ignore me and that part of me.  Thanks, Jeff.

  • Thanks for writing, James. I’m just beginning to learn more about your work. All the best wishes. Looks exciting. Thanks for the reminder that we need to keep going, keep doing, and keep creating.

    • Hey Arlen – so sorry for late reply, not checked back on this post for a while – appreciate you commenting, hope you’ve been engaging more with my writing and being blessed by it. Never stop creating. Glad the post inspired you.