There are two little kids in my house who love to watch American Ninja Warrior, and I certainly don’t complain when they ask to watch it, because I love it too! For those of you have have also seen that show, don’t the people running the course make it look so easy?! After watching it for a while, I start to think, “I could totally do that!”
But then I go outside and try to make it across the kids’ monkey bars, and quickly realize I could not totally do that. At least not without a LOT of practice and training.
Creativity is no different. You can’t expect to be perfect right out of the gate, without any practice under your belt.
Contrary to popular belief, athleticism and creativity are not “you’re either born with it or you’re not” type of things. Sure, some people may have an easier time improving those skills than others do, but everyone has to put work in if they want to grow.
Strengthen Your Creative Muscles
There is a reason why athletes train the way they do. It takes time to condition their muscles and build up the strength to handle all that is demanded of them. They start small, and gradually increase the difficulty of their training until they are ready to take on the full challenge of their sport.
I couldn’t run a Ninja Warrior course, mostly because I’m a wimp and have basically no upper body strength. But if I took the time to train and build up my muscle strength, I probably could do it.
Let’s say you haven’t ran in years and are someone who prefers to sit and watch TV over exercising. You most likely wouldn’t just show up at a full marathon and decide you’re going to run it. If you were running a marathon, you would have been training for months in advance – starting with running a mile or two in the beginning, and adding more distance each day until your body has conditioned itself to handle all those miles of a full marathon.
In the same way that your body’s muscles need training and conditioning in order to perform physically demanding tasks, creativity is a muscle and needs to be trained as well. Take your time, put in the work, and you will see creative growth. Start small, and slowly add more difficult tasks as you go along.
If you’ve never painted before, don’t start out by trying to replicate every detail of every one of Van Gogh’s most famous works. Try a paint by number first, then slowly work your way up to something more challenging. (Ok, maybe not a literal paint by number- but you get my point. Start with something easy… I mean, if you really do want to do a paint by number, who am I to stop you?!)
Practice Makes Progress
The Patriots won their game last night (Yeah!), but I guarantee every single player would tell you there are things they can do better. And Bill Belichick certainly isn’t giving them the week off, they will be going back to practice to work on all those areas they need to improve on.
They have to practice to get their techniques right, and all those drills they do over and over will help build their skills through repetition. Then when the next game comes, they can take what they did right during last night’s game, combine it with what they worked on during practices, and hopefully win their next matchup! And they will do the exact same thing the following week, and the week after that, and the week after that. The constant work ethic and practice is what will make a winning team.
Once again, exercising creativity is the same thing. It takes practice to get certain artistic techniques right, and certain creative skills are built by repetition. A great way to work on this is by completing prompts and exercises (stay tuned- I will be posting some of these soon!) that encourage you to grow. The more you practice, the better you’ll get!
Even when you create something awesome, and you are happy with how it turned out, it’s still not going to be perfect. There is always room for improvement.
That doesn’t mean you should trash what you completed and start over. You need to celebrate the victories of creating something you are happy with! It just means that the next time you work on a project, you can take what did work from the previous project, combine it with what you have improved through practice, and create something awesome again!
So as you continue in your journey to uncover your creative side, remember the athlete, and train like one.