Creativity Takes Practice

I was scheduled to have rotator cuff surgery in early January. When discussing this with the doctor, I asked him, “Doctor, will I be able to play the piano after I go through physical therapy?”

The doctor said, “I don’t see why not?”

“That’s strange’, I said. ‘I wasn’t able to play it before.”

Actually, I love playing the piano. I come from a family of musicians – not professional – just backyard sing-a-long musicians. People who make music just for the fun of it. Our first major purchase when I married was a $300 studio piano that lived in our living room for over ten years.

In my mid-thirties I started taking piano lessons. I spent several hundred dollars and a good many hours learning to play Scott Joplin’s “The Sting”. I still love that song. It became my signature piece and my fingers could rattle it off with no thought from my brain. That came from many hours of practice.

My mother, “Bless her heart”, tried to impress me by sitting down on my piano bench and playing it for me – by heart. It wasn’t my “arrangement”, but she did it effortlessly. It’s one of the few things I may never forgive of her.

My mother learned to play by ear along with her sister on her mother’s guitar when she was eight years old. She and her sisters sang on an Orlando radio station when they were teens. So, although she did not have formal musical training, she learned to master music through many years of practice playing guitar, piano, the organ, and even the mandolin and banjo.

Creativity in young children is as natural as water running off a duck’s back. At ten years of age only one out of three children use linear thinking. By the time people reach adulthood that number decreases to 2%. What steals our creative nature as we get older?

Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas, build new connections between ideas, and find ways to solve problems in any realm of our lives.

Creativity is not limited to artists and musicians. It isn’t limited to right-brained people or high IQs. There are many venues for creativity. Anyone who takes the time to learn, as especially to acquire diverse knowledge, can express great creativity.

Where to start?

  • Don’t be afraid to take risks; fear and self-doubt are the worst enemies of creativity
  • Stop listening to those inner voices telling you that you are not talented, not smart enough, not good enough; they don’t know what they are talking about
  • Take an inventory of your talents and strengths; what do you enjoy doing?
  • Choose what to pay attention to:
    Spend time doing things at your cutting edge of mastery and challenge; give yourself opportunities to create
  • Put objects in your workspace (photos, clippings, comics, mementos, toys) that inspire you and make you smile. Rotate them to keep the inspiration alive.
  • Associate with positive people with similar interests; find groups where you can exchange or share ideas without judgment; these activities generate new ideas
  • And most of all PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
    Practice is repetitive. Practice builds expertise.

My first trip to Minnesota was to celebrate my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding with her friends and family most of whom didn’t make it to the wedding in Texas. I was able to walk into an unfamiliar kitchen and take on the cake decorations at the spur of the moment. Because of my cake decorating experience I was able to take on the task nearly thoughtlessly.

That familiarity with my tools of the trade gave me the freedom to be creative.

As a ceramist, I attended a class on airbrushing. The first thing the instructor told us was, “It isn’t talent that makes a good artist. It’s practice”. Talent isn’t natural, it is developed. It is a combination of interest and capability.

Stephen King in his book On Writing, says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within tells her readers to write for an hour a day – not with a specific purpose or on a planned work – just to practice writing. This frees your mind for creative thought.

Learn how to use your tools.

If you like photography, make your camera an extension of yourself. Take it with you everywhere you go and take pictures.

If watercolors or visual arts are your thing, practice those brush strokes. Explore what happens when you use wet paper or dry paper, unusual brushes.

Finger-paint. Feel your media. Just let yourself go.

Make mistakes. Try again, and again. I’ve had people complain that they can’t bake a loaf of yeast bread. I ask how many times they tried. Most quit after the first try. There are so many things that can go wrong. You have to keep trying until it works.

People who don’t make mistakes, don’t grow.
Have fun, laugh. Write for the fun of it
Most importantly:
PRACTICE – PRACTICE – PRACTICE

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