What Stops Us From Being Creative?

Everyone was born with the potential to be creative. Everyone. This includes YOU, whether you believe it now or not!

Think of creativity as a splendiforous garden flourishing inside your beautiful mind. The seeds are already there and yet so many of us look inside ourselves and see only barren empty sandlots.

Why is this? It’s simply because there are mental “locks” on the gates to our inner gardens. Roger von Oech talks about this in his marvelously creative book called A Whack On The Side of the Head (the “whacks” are intended to shake these locks loose). The book also comes with a deck of cards complete with hundreds of ideas that are guaranteed to jolt you headlong into the joyful world of unshackled creativity.

Where Do Our Mental Locks Come From?

Well, just think. When you were a child, there probably was no stopping your creativity. If you wanted to draw a spaceman with five heads, or a black flower on a turquoise stem, you simply did it without thinking about it because you loved how it looked and it made you happy. If you wanted to sing at the top of your lungs while touring an art museum, you did it because it felt good and you loved the sound of your voice echoing from the high ceilings.

But what happened when you did these innately “creative” things? Perhaps a teacher said, “But there are no black flowers, dear. Throw that away and make a real flower.” Or maybe a well-meaning parent said, “Shhh…keep your voice down. What will everyone think?”

There are any number of ways that these locks get placed over our wondrous creative gardens. Think back to your own childhood, your teenage years. What voices stopped you from full expression?

8 Myths about Creativity

Here are several things we’ve been taught to believe about personal creativity that aren’t necessarily true.  They are each unique, but they all have something in common: they put locks and chains on our creative self-expression.  We’ll look at each one from a general point of view, as well as how it pertains to the process of SoulCollage®

1. There’s only one right answer to every problem.

This has been drilled into our heads, especially in traditional school settings where everyone is so darned test-oriented.

But the truth of the matter is that some of the most important questions in life are open-ended.

For example: “I just lost my job, what should I do?”

Someone might say, “Well, you should look for another job,” and it might seem like that’s the correct and only answer.

But is it really? How about this for a right answer: “Go back to college and get a degree in something else.”

Or what about this: “Go into business for yourself.” Or this: “Take three months off and do nothing.” Not that we can always afford to do the latter, but you see my point.

All of the above are right answers. You just need to find the one that is the most right for you, in your situation, at this time.

Just so, there are no right answers in the creative process that is SoulCollage®. Seena has given us a detailed set of guidelines in her book but to delve deeply into the creative process, you must remember that that is exactly what they are. Guidelines. Nothing more, nothing less.

A friend might look at one of your SoulCollage® cards and say, “That’s nice, but what is it?” You might be tempted to tell them your answer, but don’t, not just yet. Pause a moment and ask them what they think it is. You might be surprised at the conversation that results!

Also, keep in mind that there are no right answers even for yourself when it comes to your own cards. Today, this card I’m holding might mean one thing to me but if I pull this card in a reading a year from now, it might mean something else instead.

The key is to be open, willing to be flexible, and remember- there’s always more than one right answer.

2. That’s not logical.

“New ideas germinate faster in the loose soil of soft thinking, which finds similarities and connection among different things or situations.”
— Roger von Oech

The next time you hear your inner critic piping up with, “Hey, that’s a picture of a volcano. You can’t use THAT on your card about meditation….” You can just tell her that the SoulCollage® process is not logical in any sense of the word, and to mind her own business.

3. Follow the rules.

If you think of SoulCollage® as having Rules instead of Guidelines, you’re going to be miserable. You’ll be continually trying to force your images into other people’s patterns.

The key is to consciously drop the word should from your vocabulary when you are in card-making mode. The ideas in Seena Frost’s book and on this website are meant to be like a very good tour guide on the most fantastic journey you’ve ever taken: present enough to be there for you when you need a hand, patient enough to let you go exploring on your own, and wise enough to know when to be there for you at just the right moment.

4. Be practical.

This voice is a kissin’ cousin of “that’s not logical.” Roger von Oech says,

to grow, ideas initially need the wide realm of the possible, rather than the narrow one of the practical.

Think about it. If you have a major need to be practical all the time, then making SoulCollage® cards is going to be somewhat difficult.

There’s nothing “practical” about spending four hours sitting on your living room floor ripping pictures out of magazines. There’s nothing “practical” about creating a collage that honors the part of us who overeats, or smokes, or yells at the kids too much. And yet. And yet.

Don’t worry about what is practical or not. Save that for your day job. When you enter the creative world of SoulCollage®, you can be as impractical and insensible as you like! It’s all part of the fun; it’s all part of the process.

5. Don’t be foolish.

To be foolish is a form of playfulness. Play usually leads to greater relaxation and openness to humor, laughter, and fun.

When faced with a hard question or a problematic situation, or when you’re completely baffled by a particular direction a SoulCollage® card is taking, put it aside for a while. Goof off. Have some fun. And be sure that the fun you are having is fun as defined by you, not someone else.

Risk being foolish and see what happens. Write down any ideas that come to you when you’re not “thinking about” the problem.

6. Don’t make mistakes.

When you’re involved in creating something, the best way to think about mistakes is as stepping stones in the creative process. Carl Yastrzemski hit the ball 3000 times and set a world record, but think of the 4000 times he didn’t hit it.  Stephen King’s first novel was rejected by 30 publishers before finally being accepted. Success and failure are equally important parts of the creative process. Thomas Watson said, “The way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”

And one of the great things about SoulCollage® is that you can’t possibly even make a mistake, because there’s no “right” way to do it in the first place!

7. That’s not my area.

We limit ourselves when we allow our focus to be too narrow. The creative process comes to a grinding halt when we do this. If you’re writing a book about lighthouses and you immerse yourself in nonfiction books as you do your research, your writing is going to be flat and one-dimensional. Try reading a few novels with a lighthouse setting and see if that doesn’t ignite your creativity a bit!

Likewise, in SoulCollage®, don’t presume that National Geographic and Oprah magazines have the coolest images and use them exclusively. Try opening an issue of Business Week or Popular Mechanics and see what calls out to you.

8. You’re not creative.

“Humbug!” I tell this voice whenever it threatens to cripple me with self-doubt. “Double Bah Humbug!”

Everyone is creative, absolutely everyone. Including YOU.

You may not think of yourself as creative. You may think the word creative only applies to people like Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Georgia O’Keefe, or Thomas Edison. Wrong again! Now I’m not saying that these people aren’t creative- indeed they are. Theirs is an extraordinary explosive creativity that touches millions of lives every day.

But there is also such a thing as “everyday creativity.” The kind that gets us through our daily lives. How do I deal with my angry boss? How do I get both of the kids to their various afternoon activities this week without losing my mind? What should I serve for dinner when my parents visit this weekend? Does this jacket look good with these pants? Will that sofa look good over there in that corner or should I put it here next to the bookcase?

The more you practice creativity, the more self-esteem you cultivate. You have to really like yourself and believe in yourself in order to take risks and talk back to these “voices” that tell you No, you can’t, you’re not creative, who do you think you are?

Unlocking the Locks

Ethel, My Inner Critic

The key to unlocking your creative blocks is to be tuned in to your inner voices enough that you can identify one of these voices when you hear it. You need to hear the inner voice and name it, listen to it, and then say, “Oh, that’s just a throwback to my old Aunt Ethel who always insisted that I color inside the lines.” Or “Yup, that’s my inner critic telling me yet again to stop daydreaming and get back to work.”

As soon as you can recognize that what you’re hearing is what’s blocking your creativity, as soon as you can single out and name the voice that is holding you back, you’ll be blasting full throttle into the creative process and all the magical places that it can take you. And just for fun, why don’t you try our free online e-course, Creative Block-Busters for many more great ideas on how to break through your creative blocks.

One thing is for sure, though.  The process of SoulCollage® will help you to deepen your own creative journey, and slowly, bit by bit, release you from any creative blocks that have been holding you back.

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