Can Creativity Be Learned?
Is creativity something we can learn or are we born with it?
Throughout college I struggled to find an answer to this question. Looking around the classroom, it appeared as if my classmates were born with much more creativity than myself. That must be it. Why else is their work so much better than mine? I figured there was a genetic limit to individual creative potential and I didn’t measure up. Come to find out, I gave up before I really even got started.
One day, I presented this question to my senior design class while gathered around in discussion with our professor and I remember it opening up a much more interesting, deeper dialog than whatever we had been previously talking about. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one that was plagued by this question.
Ideas from both sides were presented and both seemed valid. Some believed we are born creative and others were convinced creativity could be learned. However, I didn’t feel like either option applied to me. As we burned through the rest of class hashing out the question of creativity, I realized this question was much bigger than myself.
After leaving the classroom, I still didn’t have an answer, but I did learn that I wasn’t alone. Others were struggling with the same question. For the moment, I put it on the shelf to focus on graduation but it would resurface soon enough as I got started in my design career.
With some of my first jobs after graduating, I felt I was back in class again comparing my work to that of the more senior designers. Somehow they were much more capable than I to come up with good, creative ideas. Soon the same questions I had before came back off the shelf. Would I ever reach their level of mastery? How long does it take to get there? Can I really teach myself how to be creative or is it inherent?
Now, after more than a decade away from the classroom, I have found the answers to my questions. What I’ve learned is that the more work I do, the better I get. The more influences I have, the more inspiration I find to use in my work. More challenges I end up facing force me to push myself. And the more I push myself, the more I have to look inside myself for answers. All of this culminates into me becoming a more creative person.
So can creativity be learned? Or are we born with it? I believe the answer to both questions is yes. As children, we color with crayons, play with toys and make up imaginary worlds with far-fetched thoughts. Creativity has been with us all along. As adults, we have to return to these childhood actions to practice, play and allow ourselves to be as free as our inner-child will let us. It doesn’t matter if you draw like Rembrandt or can only make finger paintings and stick figures. Nor does it even matter what your profession is. Creativity is our way of seeing differently. Not theirs, ours.
As a graphic designer my job is to use my sense of aesthetic, color, space, style, humor, wit, taste, passions and interests outside of design to create my work. If I’m open to influence and introspection, I’ll always find creativity when I need it.
You can do this too. Just go out and play.