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9 Ways to Overcome Fear of Creativity by Greg Twemlow


In the 21st century, the primary differentiator between humans and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning systems is the skill of creativity. Creative thinking must be encouraged and celebrated throughout our entire life, starting from a young age.

For everyone well into their working life, it's common that school and work have combined to make their left-brain dominant and their right-brain dormant.

This essentially one-sided thinking means that many people, perhaps a majority of people, really struggle to explore their creative potential.

A most famous quote by Sir Ken Robinson says, "...creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” The quote is taken from his renowned TED Talk that has been viewed well over 60million times.

Sir Ken elaborated further, "in place of curiosity, what we have is a culture of compliance. Our children and teachers are encouraged to follow routine algorithms rather than to excite that power of imagination and curiosity. Human life is inherently creative. It's why we all have different résumés. We create our lives, and we can recreate them as we age. It's the common currency of being human. It's why human culture is so interesting and diverse and dynamic."

Creative success is not so much about finding a muse. As microbiologist Louis Pasteur said: “Fortune favours the prepared mind.” This also applies to art, with Pablo Picasso advising: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Here are 9 ways you can overcome your left-brain dominance

Embarking on the creative journey: The creative process starts by asking "good" and "thoughtful" questions that act as a catalyst for launching the creative process. Asking great questions takes effort, just as answering great questions takes effort.

To start to participate in the creative process it's very important that you ask open questions to elicit a thoughtful response. This 2-way process binds the questioner and responder. A thoughtful question will earn you respect and usually total engagement.

When you set out to pose questions, spend time to do your homework; it will pay massive dividends.

Creativity can be daunting: To be creative, you’re likely going to have to break some conventions and rules—and risk negative feedback from people who may think your work is irrelevant, or that it doesn’t add value. The motivations for these responses are often selfish, as in, "that work is impressive but he's a colleague I can't let be perceived as a creative problem-solver".

Getting used to negative feedback is actually great training to develop your emotional resilience, a facet of our personality that will give you a distinct advantage throughout life.

Emotional resilience, mental toughness, strength of character; call it what you will; the ability to consider negative feedback but not allow it to hinder your enthusiasm for creativity will be a trait that gives you a solid foundation for personal growth.

Only great storytellers can be creative: This is an urban myth and in fact the opposite is true; creatives make great storytellers.

Every creative work has a backstory and part of the truly great aspects of creativity is that it helps you to become a storyteller.

The "art" you hang on the wall has a story; how you conceived it, what challenges you faced, how you overcame the challenges, what motivated you to keep going, your emotions on completing and the range of commentary you've received.

Be conscious of this aspect of the creative process because it is one of the major reasons to find your inner creative spirit.

Fear of the unfamiliar: working with new material, either physical or mental material, tests your courage to embark on the creative process.

The trick to overcoming your sense of dread is to convert fear into excitement. I realize that's far easier said than done.

You could think of yourself on the journey of the hero, just as in the classical heroic myth that describes how our hero decides to leave the safety and security of her village, to travel through unknown territory, to find the dark forest where the dragon hangs out; to take the dragon's head and return to the village a hero.

The hero's journey is most definitely exciting and that excitement can supplant your fear. It will require a conscious effort to acknowledge your bravery and to push on when fear tries to stop you in your tracks.

(if this whole heroes journey stuff tickles your interest have a look at the first 3 or 4 episodes of the Joseph Campbell interviews).

Overcoming the fear of being judged: The fear of being judged prevents people from expressing themselves, in effect preventing you even embarking on a creative project. If you can't overcome this then you will be trapped in a mental state that stultifies your emotional maturity. You'll be trapped by a mental state that will forever hold you back. Your subconscious whispers, "Don't take risks, don't make experiments and don't fail lest you be deemed as someone who isn't reliable."

The best way to cope with fears of being judged? Create something. Write an article, record a podcast, tackle a narky problem, paint with your child, collaborate with a friend to build a rocking horse.

Go forth and create. Make a start with tapping your innate creativity.

The fear of not being perfect: Just as you may find it challenging to make a start, some people don't know when to finish. There's definitely a point in the creative process where you need to just get going. Many people do find this is an issue, however the secret to finishing is starting.

I personally love to envision that wonderful Chinese proverb that says, "a thousand mile journey begins with the first step". I use it all the time and I think about literally placing one foot in front of the other and at the end of a day ask myself, "Did I make progress along my journey today?"

The end goal is to teach yourself to, "never be afraid to hang your art on the wall". I know it sounds trite, yet if you think about the meaning, it's really quite profound.

"To hang your art on the wall" is something that almost everyone in western society fears once they get past around the age of 10.

Yet "never being afraid to hang your art on the wall", is one of the most important behaviors you can learn.

You must be artistic to be creative: People may think that to be truly creative you have to be eccentric, colorful possibly even a little crazy. And the reality is that you can be some, all or none of these personality types. Apple's famous marketing campaign, "Think Different", was a hat-tip to creatives and it was embraced by tens of millions of people all over the world.

"Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." — Steve Jobs, 1997

It was in fact a most perfect homage to creativity and creatives.

When you're challenged as to why you took a creative path to a solution, quote the Apple campaign and in particular, the words, "creatives push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Acknowledging reluctant creatives: Today, there are people who simply refuse to embrace creativity for a range of reasons, some of which are listed above.

And also because they aren't emotionally equipped to take the hero's journey. They have had their innate creativity stifled for way too long. They are so risk-averse, they refuse to even change their toothpaste brand.

It's possible to gently coax these Creativity Enemies to discover the joy of embarking on the hero's journey. To do that requires a very special kind of Muse. Someone with endless patience and a willingness to devote time and energy to the challenge and ultimately a preparedness to fail.

Embrace the Power of Creativity: the true power of creativity is realized when the creative person sees that her effort and work has or is inspiring others.

There is of course always some satisfaction in standing back to appreciate what you've created, even if you aren't getting exactly universal praise for the work.

The joy of the creative process is that you embarked on that hero's journey and you finished.

The output of the journey is not the main reason you started. You started because you were willing to "leave the safety and security of your village", aka you acted heroically.

Not all your creative efforts will yield the ultimate result of realizing that your creativity has inspired others.

When that happens, you'll be hooked on the creative process and being hooked, you'll be more prolific and the cycle will be self-fulfilling.

I wish you a very happy, creative life.

P.S. if you got this far then you may like to do some collaborating on how we define, "creativity". I've seen so many definitions that are plain boring. Surely we can have a definition that is colorful and compelling?

Creativity as defined by Greg Twemlow: "ask open questions that inspire thoughtful replies to encourage new awareness and create inspired solutions".© 2019 WHY 9 WAYS?

Creativity has a defined cycle; a beginning and an end.

#9 symbolizes this cycle perfectly.

Completion; fulfillment; attainment; beginning and the end; the whole number; a celestial and angelic number.

In French the word neuf means both nine and new. In German, the words for nine and new are neun and neu, and in Spanish, nueve and nuevo. As you count and reach nine, you know you are about to make a new start. 9 is composed of the all-powerful 3x3. Buddhist tradition holds nine to be the supreme spiritual power, and a celestial number. It is 3x3 being the most auspicious of all the numbers.

* In 1968, George Land administered a creativity test to 1,600 five-year-olds (Land & Jarman, 1992). The test, which he had developed for NASA to identify innovative scientists and engineers, found that 98 percent of tested children registered at a genius level on the creative scale. But five years later, when Land re-administered the test to the now-10-year-old children, only 30 percent of them scored at the genius level of creativity. After another five years, the number dropped to just 12 percent. The same test, administered to 280,000 adults, found that only 2 percent registered at the genius level for creativity.