Creativity and confidence

June 1, 2006
The paintings on display at a Denver Art Museum special exhibition were magnificent.

The paintings on display at a Denver Art Museum special exhibition were magnificent. I felt fortunate to be there. But my lasting memory from this visit is not about a particular work of art. What stays with me is a Picasso quote printed adjacent to one of his paintings. “Every child is an artist. The problem is to remain an artist while the child grows up.”

Picasso is saying that we are all born with artistic talent, but this talent gets undermined and lost as many of us move into our adult years. I believe his message has an even broader application. All of us are given the gift of creative expression. Yes, the level and form of expression vary widely. Some people are great singers; others are politely asked to leave the choir! But in her Fast Company interview, Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile states, “Almost all the research shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work.” This says to me that everyone can, in some way, think creatively and apply that gift somewhere. In today’s complex world of deep and rapid transformation, thinking creatively is not a sideline issue. It is crucial to every organization and every individual.

Creative expression is highly personal. It is a reflection of your individuality. If you have lost sight of your creativity, how do you get it back? How do you reconnect with the side of you that values inventing, experimenting, thinking differently, taking risks, and growing? The answer is in part about confidence - confidence that your creative ability is not lost forever; confidence that there are concrete things you can do to unleash your innovative potential; confidence that you can recapture the spirit that Picasso identified in us all.

Personal discovery

Occasionally in life we are blessed with an “awakening experience,” an experience that alters the way in which we look at the world and ourselves. For me, such an awakening began three years ago when Marlyn referred me to “The Artist’s Way At Work” by Mark Bryan with Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen. On the cover was the phrase, “Twelve Weeks to Creative Freedom.” I was looking for a stimulating personal discovery activity, and the words “creative freedom” spoke to me loudly. I committed to the process - I admit it took me 17 weeks to complete it - and what I learned about myself continues to benefit me.

"The Artist's Way At Work" is based on four ideas:
1) We are all creative.
2) Increased creativity is a teachable, trackable process.
3) All of us can become more creative than we already are, and this will make us happier, healthier, more productive, and more authentic in everything we do.

4)The business environment will increasingly reward those people who are able to be creative.

It is not a book to be read. It is a book to be experienced. Its exercises and tasks provide an intensely personal interactive journey that I found fascinating, challenging, and confidence-building. As my confidence grew, I found that my latent creativity began to emerge. The primary tool in the book - morning pages - is three pages of daily, longhand morning writing. This tool is based on the finding that some type of daily reflection is a common trait of highly creative people. As I write my morning pages, helpful insights do not always surface, but they do appear frequently. This technique has now become a part of my routine. When I don’t do this stream of consciousness writing for awhile, I notice that my days do not flow with as much meaning and purpose.

Will you benefit from experiencing this remarkable work? I don’t know. I only know that it has helped me. Will you face the resistor of “not enough time”? Probably, but if you see this experience as an investment in yourself, you will get the time back and more. It takes courage to step into a more creative world. What do you long for? If your creativity was to emerge and deepen, would it take you where you want to go? Is now the time to journey down the artist’s way?

Doug Young, MBA, and his spouse Marlyn, MCC, have a professional speaking and executive/team coaching business in Parker, Colo. They co-author this column and share an interest in leading-edge business concepts, achieving personal and professional potential, serving patients, and improving how people work together. Marlyn’s insights into people and relationships and coaching skills complement Doug’s motivating and mind-expanding presentations. Contact them by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 877-DMYOUNG.

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