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If I were to ask you if you considered yourself a creative person, would you be able to answer, with a confident and resounding “yes”?

Many adults don’t consider themselves to be creative. They say things like “I am just not creative enough to do x, y or z”. Studies of have shown that is this a pervasive viewpoint among people. But in fact, it is far from being true. We are all creative. The definition of the word “creativity” makes it CLEAR that creativity is not simply something we do to be “artistic” but rather it’s a way of thinking.

Creativity is, according to the definition: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like; and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.

But just because we are ALL creative in many ways, that doesn’t mean it comes easily. In fact as we grow from childhood to adulthood, our ability to stay in touch with our creative side gets harder and harder and “REAL” life closes in on us. But instead of being satisfied with that state of being, I think we NEED to try harder to keep our creativity alive.

I started doing a bit of research on creativity because I was having a crisis of creativity over the past few years. It is a battle I have faced before and will likely face again. As I get older, I am finding it MUCH much harder to BE creative, to find the time and energy to let my creative self out to play.

As a young person, I perceived myself to be creative. I loved to write, draw, and sing. In grade 2 my friend I am wrote and STARRED in an epic, Tony award winning play that we diligently rehearsed at recess and when it was ready for the public, talked our teacher into allowing us to perform it. I don’t remember a thing about the play which is too bad because I would love to attend the Tony awards someday, but I do remember how proud of ourselves we were and how happy that our teacher gave us the chance to perform it during class time.

Over the next 10 or more years I was creative in school, as many kids still are, but starting to have doubts. After all, my paintings and drawings were not as good as Noelle’s or Peter’s. My singing voice was nice and I enjoyed singing, but it just wasn’t on par with Catharine’s voice, who always got the solos in our choir. I could write a good story, but mine were not ALWAYS read for the class (as were Brad or Michelle’s).

How does the saying go…Comparison is the thief of joy (Roosevelt).

And it was for me. Between self-judgment, and the need to grow up, get serious, work hard on my marks, get a job, and so on, my creative self got a little….bored waiting around for a chance to play. Which meant it was hard to find that side of myself when I needed to.

A scientist named George Land did a landmark study starting back in 1968. He designed a creativity test for NASA to sort out the most innovative candidates to work for them. Dr. Land gave the same test to a group of 5 year olds. He followed up with the same children at age 10 and 15.

Can you guess what the results of his tests showed? 98% of the 5 year olds showed creative thinking in the test. By age 10 that number dropped to only 30% of the children. At 15, it was even worse with 12% classed as creative thinkers. Of the over one million adults that had taken the test over the years, what percentage do you think showed creative thinking on this test…it was only 2%!

Now that could lead you to think that this is simply what happens as we age. We get less creative, less innovative, and less able to think differently. But what really is happening, according to research done by Dr. Harry Moody in his studies of the elderly, is that tend get ourselves onto the proverbial hamster wheel of life.

“Often the decline in creativity comes about because people’s underlying capabilities are not being challenged – they’re locked into jobs or situations that are boring.”

According to Dr. Land, in his book Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today  “What we have concluded is that non-creative behavior is learned.”

When I began researching this concept of adult creativity, I was looking to find out WHY I couldn’t be as creative as I wanted. I was looking for ways to let my creativity flag fly.

Because Creativity is worth pursuing. We can apply creative thinking in our work, our relationships, our communities, and to solving the bigger problems our world faces. Creativity is the KEY to making good change.

How can you and I do this?

It might be different for everyone, but here are some things I am exploring right now. Maybe they will be interesting to you. Probably you have MORE ideas that work for you.

Before starting, we need to first give ourselves permission to be creative AND to fail. To fail HARD! Badly, messily, stupidly. Laugh at your failure. And keep going. If you spend your time judging your “results” and comparing yourself to “better” work from others, you will simply be closing up the door to your creativity, and telling it “nope. I’ll just sit here and stay the same.”

Here are 3 simple ideas to start having some harmless creative fun in your everyday. Warning: anything physical you produce during this process will have a 98% approval rating from your inner 5 year old self, and THAT kid will want to hang whatever you make or do on the fridge. Let them.

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1.      Colouring -this one is a HUGE trend right now, and you can find amazing books to colour in right now in every books store. If you haven’t seen these, just stop at Chapters on the way home. There is a table FULL of them in the main aisle. Some early studies have shown this adult coloring trend has a positive mental effect, similar to that of meditation. That is a great place to start, getting relaxed and Zen. If you want, go crazy and colour you book weirdly, badly, funky. OR go for pretty, decorative and worthy of framing. Whatever you are feeling. Go for it. Who cares! There is a version of these books that have beautifully designed art using swear words at the central feature (personally, this is right up MY alley). If coloring is not up your alley, give playdoh, finger paints, snow forts, something with glitter at go. Anything that is just fun with no expectation of creating a Picasso at the end.

2. Morning pages – there is a great book about creativity called ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. As a way to unlock your creative mind, she suggests a free writing exercise called the morning pages. The idea is first thing when you wake up, you write for a set amount of time or a set number of pages in a book. Free writing, not creative writing, means you just SPEW out your thoughts, even the weird ones (because I am not much of a morning person, my morning pages tend contain a lot of f-bombs). This intention here is NOT to write literature or the next screen play for Spielberg, but it is to clear your mind to make room and give permission to ideas to flow. With no judgement. Not even for the f-bombs.

2.      Brainstorming – I just LOVE brainstorming. It is probably one of my favourite creative activities. I bought one of those big old paper pads they used to use in meetings (before whiteboards and projectors were a thing) and a box of colourful, dual tipped markers. I put on some music (usually loud, always something interesting or different), maybe I have a drink on hand (sometimes coffee, more likely wine) and I brainstorm. I just write whatever weird stuff comes out of my mind. Usually I have a particular topic I want to work on, maybe a speech idea or a work dilemma or a new silly idea to play around with.. Sometimes, nothing concrete or actionable comes from it. Often though, there are some great golden nuggets.

I hope these ideas gave to some things to try to unleash your own creativity, and gave you the permission you need to fail and make utter nonsense from time to time.

I hope from those ideas you can adapt them to a few ways you can work to unleash your creativity, to give yourself permission to fail and make utter nonsense form time to time.

Just like Alice says, “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Just jump in, play around, turn things up on their head and back again. Your creativity inner self will thank you for it.

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Julie Tauro is a Kitchener Waterloo photographer . She has been taking some time recently to experiment with photographing lots of new types of subjects, and is having a blast doing so. She considers herself to be a beauty seer, button pusher, paper lover, and is always looking for some fun amidst the chaos.

Find her on Instagram and Twitter.