Useful Creativity Tip: Three Most Popular Myths About Being Creative


When  I conceived the idea for the book anthology Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul in 2008, I had been ruminating over the question of what “freedom” is and what exactly is one’s soul. I always connect freedom with being creative and being able to do what makes me happy and fulfilled. It wasn’t surprising that people who contributed writings to the book had a lot of the same ideas. We creatives often equate freedom with our ability to creative. As I told my own personal testimony in the Introduction of the book and folks later came to me to share they were touched and inspired by what I wrote, I started to sense a trend of folks misinterpreting my message. I compiled this list to dispel some of the myths I recognized that people tended to uphold when attempting to live to the fullest as a creative.

I love Oprah. But her advice is not for everyone.

(1) CREATIVE MYTH #1: Cutting off Others Inspires Creativity & Helps Creative Output

I love Oprah’s advice to surround ourselves only with those who lift us up. It is ideal and something that encourages us to set boundaries when we are in toxic relationships and have challenges with listening to our own inner voice, instead of giving more attention to our intuition and following its guidance. However, her advice isn’t necessarily realistic when we exist within an interdependent world of people who come with different personalities, expectations and experiences. While we can actively invite positive people into our lives, often we are thrust in situations where we may need to be for one reason or another. We may have the difficult family member who never understands our interest in the abstract or we may work with a nasty co-worker at a job that we otherwise love. Perhaps, we may have a neighbor who is rude and obnoxious but lives next to us in a home that we adore. In these situations, we don’t want to switch jobs or move residence and we can’t trade family members. Yet, these toxic people may irk our last nerve.

How can being in this type of situation inspire creativity? Easy. Allow these interactions as muse builders— unintended inspiration.

Use these characters as the prototype for the villain in your next novel. Use their funky personalities as the basis of an visual art series called TOXIC or something more clever. Create a dance telling the story of your family member’s influence on you growing up and how that impacted your burgeoning creativity. Whatever your art discipline, draw from these interactions as experiences to infuse into your art. No wo/man is an island, and that goes double for an artist. Experience and relationship inspire our deepest artistic creations, not isolation.

(2) CREATIVE MYTH #2: Skill is the Same as Creative Talent

Skill is the ability to do something. Creative talent is the ability to uniquely implement your skill in a way that is not of the norm. Producing pretty items that look alike makes you a skilled artist in reproducing things. Creating music that sounds identical to any number of songs you hear on the radio indicates that you are skilled in reproducing a sound and successfully implementing a trend. Even if you don’t sound half bad performing in the same way time after time, you are not demonstrating your creativity when you follow a formula. A big-time myth is that because you’re doing what everybody else is doing and you do it well means that you are creative. You can dance like Michael Jackson. You dress up like Michael Jackson and perform to his songs in front of an audience. The audience cheers, throws you money and tells you how much you are like Michael Jackson. You are not being creative. You are being skilled in copying a creative person’s style.

(3) CREATIVE MYTH #3: You Can Only Be Creative  If You Quit Your 9-5

I saved this myth for last because I think this is the most dangerous myth to fall into the trap of believing. To believe that you will be more creative if you leave a job indicates that you are not using your creativity while in your job, so, there is a strong possibility that you won’t be too creative when you leave that job. Unless you have been actively engaged in creating your art and your involvement in opportunities to create have begun to interfere with you holding down a job, then you should not, under any circumstance justify quitting your job with “it’s the only way I can start doing my art thing.” Here’s the thing, the artists who quit their job and engage full-time into being artists are those who have commissioned work and opportunities to sustain themselves as an artist. This means, they have been doing an inordinate amount of creative work while ON THE JOB. They didn’t quit and suddenly become creative. They were creative while on the job. They were grinding and balancing and grinding some more. They were staying up at odd nights creating new songs or writing new books or choreographing new dances to perform or exhibit or publish while balancing their other life in a 9-5. Leaving the job doesn’t make you creative. When you’re creative– and actively engaged in your art– then chances are you will be on or off the job.

Do you have any myths that you would add to the list? Add your myths in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a writer and editor of several books, including the anthology Liberated Muse Volume I: How I Freed My Soul.  She offers editing, proofreading and creative coaching services to authors who self-publish. Contact her at KhadijahOnline@gmail.com for a free consultation.

Read some of these articles for creatives:

5 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Artist Spirit

Self-Publishing 101: 3 Steps to Promoting Your Book

Declaring Your Vision

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. garyarthuryoung says:

    Well said, K.

    About the 9 to 5 thing.

    I’ve been unemployed for loooong periods before — and even during stay-at-home vacations — and all that free time results in my feeling unmotivated. I don’t understand why that is, but that’s the way it is for me. Surrounded by instruments, art supplies, recording and photographic devices, knowledge of many inspirational outdoors spots, access to all the information on the webernets and I’ll fail to have a single creative spark.

    Structure (even though I will sometimes complain about the “rut” or needing a change of pace) is necessary for me because it seems to create a kind of tension. I have creative brain flashes and get the urge to document snippets of ideas. If I could I’d rush out of the workplace at the drop of a hat to go create something.

    Some kind of yin yang thing.

    Sentence fragments.

  2. Legal Help says:

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