I may have been a teenager when it happened, but the embarrassment and shame still haven’t quite left my body.
Although it was over a decade and a half ago, I can still remember the moment as if it happened yesterday. It was the moment when I started to believe that I was “wrong” for being me and being a “creative” was off the table.
It was the day I was told in so few words that I was a terrible writer.
As my eighth-grade English teacher read off the results, I realized, I was the only kid in my class who failed the writing portion of my state’s standardized testing. This one test, that at the time only counted for one small percentage of one grade, sent me down a path of stifled creativity.
I was told that if being a creative was in my future, I better consider using the other side of my brain for a real job. Although I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to follow a creative path, this experience seems to hold me back from taking a step in that direction.
A storm of failure and guilt washed over me—and it stayed there for a while. So even when I began writing on my personal blog a decade later, I still thought most of what I wrote was terrible. I even would have my mom check the grammar and spelling of every piece for the first year and a half.
Three years later, after being published in some well-respected media outlets, having my words read by hundreds of thousands of people, and talking about the topics I write about with clients from all over the world, I’ve realized that creativity doesn’t hold a bias for age, background, race, or upbringing. Creativity is a skill that you can actually build over with enough practice, patience, and persistence.
Here are a few ways to practice flexing your creative muscles.
1. Choose good over perfect.
General George Patton, the late, great US Army General during WWII said it best: “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” We all seem to have excuses in the book about why we’re not ready or how the timing could be better. My invitation to you is to choose good over perfect. So, what’s your good plan? What’s the next thing you’d set out to do if you weren’t holding on to a fear of failure or imperfection?
2. Welcome everything.
One common creative block for many people is the concern that their messages won’t be welcomed by others. Maybe they feel like their stories are too dark or their words won’t resonate with anybody. When this block arises, remember that there are no mistakes in nature. Your dreams are meant to be realized—that’s why you have them. I like to remind myself that a soaring oak tree always begins as a tiny acorn and that you were crawling and pooping all over yourself until you found your way to your feet and to a bathroom.
3. Just do it (for yourself).
If there’s something that you’re wanting to create, create it for yourself. That’s not to say you can’t share it with others. But when we truly do things for ourselves, we manage to loosen up the reins and give up more of our heart in the process. Always complete creative projects for yourself first and if you feel inspired to share them afterward, close your eyes and let the world experience your brilliant piece of work.
Author: Joshua Barad
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: Jeremy Cai at Unsplash