Growing up I was never told that I was extra special, or better than anyone else. And always thought myself very typical, I still do. But as one of four kids in a very practical low-income household in the middle of the woods I was often told, and shown by example, that most things can be fixed when broken and a lot of things can be made by hand. Sometimes it required a lot of work, a lot of thinking, or making mistakes until you figured out how to do it. Other times it required looking at an object with new eyes, a new angle, and an open mind. But all the time it required putting aside the idea that it could not be done by an ordinary person, or that it was beyond my skill level or skill set. Skills can be learned, skill levels increase with practice and hard work. My brothers and I grew up not constrained to thinking within the box of what we should be able to do as kids or thinking out of the box for that matter; somehow in a very practical and unassuming way the box did not exist. This meant that creativity had free reign, and hard work and ingenuity determined your outcome. It did not make us amazing and limitlessly talented people, we are still very ordinary. But it did foster in us an optimistic and open-minded concept of what we are capable of, it made us creative by nature.
Later on when I started teaching arts and craft classes, I realized that this is not as common of an outlook as I had supposed. I was daily seeing very talented people held back, afraid of failure, completely unaware and doubtful as to their ability. Metaphorically, their creativity was not only staying within the perimeter of a box, but the lid was on tight and taped shut. In these classes it became a bigger challenge to help them find their natural creativity, then to teach them the project that we were working on. But with just a few opportunities and the right encouragement, almost everyone went from self-doubt to “I can do this,” and they could! They were creative by nature; we all can be!
Where does this creative block come from? Sometimes society puts a limiting perspective on us, sometimes it is that a friend or family member is uber talented and we are overshadowed by what they can do, sometimes someone has told us that we are not smart, not gifted, not creative, etc. and that takes root in our spirits and holds us down. But we all can foster an optimistic and open-minded view of our abilities, and through small steps start to discover that creativity can be a natural and freeing process that not only empowers our artistic side, but all aspects of our lives. We all can be empowered by embracing our creativity and encouraging the creativity of others.
*Below is an interesting and entertaining watch on what can impact creativity (beyond school), by Sir Ken Robinson