I’m not a very creative person.

“My brain isn’t wired for creativity.”
“I’m not an art major – I don’t know how to be creative.”

I hear these words too often in my introductory ceramics class. They are commonly followed by pleas not to grade their project too harshly and grumblings about how it shouldn’t be so hard to get an A in an art class.  Really?  No one told my own professors that!

Perhaps what these students are really wanting isn’t an easy A in a ceramics class, though on the surface I know they probably would be thrilled with it.  Maybe what they really want is for their answers to my questions to come easily, for quick solutions to difficult problems, and for creativity itself to come naturally to them.  But that’s not necessarily how creativity works.

Developing Creativity

So what does it mean to be creative?

In many cases, my frustrated students are confusing creativity with craftsmanship.  Being a creative person doesn’t mean you can walk into an art classroom and immediately produce a masterpiece.  The difficulty is that most of the students are able to think of original ideas, but they haven’t spent enough time with the material to learn how to make the things they see in their mind.

On the other hand, when I ask students to carve or paint a design on one of their pottery vessels, it’s sometimes a challenge to get them to think beyond the logo of their favorite sports team or their favorite cartoon character.  So I give them my speech on clichés.  I don’t want to see unicorns, puppies, hearts, or the Texas flag on any of the projects, unless, of course, they do something new and interesting with them.  They aren’t in my class to produce unoriginal schlock that you can find anywhere.  They are there to learn, among other things, how to think critically and how to develop creative solutions to the problems I give them.

Show me something new.  Make something that I haven’t seen before.  Don’t be afraid to try something different, even if there is the chance of failure.  Sometimes the answers come quickly, but more often than not the good answers come with time and discipline.

In his TED Talk on creativity, Sir Ken Robinson says, “Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”

Creativity, then, can be nourished in the right environment, one where experimentation is encouraged, open-ended questions are asked, and the fear of failure does not stop us from trying something new.

So to any student worried that he or she isn’t creative, I would say the following:  put yourself in situations that foster creativity.  Enroll in a course that is new and challenging to you, whether it be an art course or any other discipline.  Don’t settle for the easy answers, and don’t be afraid to fail!

Are you interested in pursing an art degree at a leading Christian university? Check out Mary Hardin-Baylor, and see if we’re a fit for you.