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Creative thinking, ideas, fun, and more.

When we think about creativity, we tend to romanticize it. We imagine writers daydreaming in coffee shops or think of creative artists like Picasso having some kind of secret inspiration for their style. 

The reality is that creativity takes work. It requires structure, discipline, and practice. Thankfully, people of any age, from children to adults, can be creative.

If you’re looking to learn how to be creative—or just want to have some creative fun—this is the place for you.

What Is the Definition of Creative and Creativity?

Let’s break it down with the basics: creative means having the ability to create, while creativity is the process of using that ability. Basically, we’re talking about the ability to think outside the box and come up with new concepts and ideas—artistic or otherwise. 

You’ll find that people define creative meaning differently. One person may define creative as the ability to find clever ways to solve problems, while another may think about it purely in terms of artistic talents. Creativity is a subjective, complex, and individual concept.

Origin and History of the Word 

The concept of creativity has changed over the years. The earliest recording of the word “creative” was in the 1670s.

Ancient Greeks didn’t have a word for “create,” but they used the word poiein (meaning “to make”) to recognize inspiration, which they attributed as a gift from the gods. Latin’s term for “creating” was creatio. During the rise of Christianity, creatio came to have a more religious affiliation as “creation from nothing.”

The rise of the Renaissance developed a new understanding of creativity as artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo sought to explain their craft. The Age of Enlightenment showed that creativity was linked to art theory and imagination.

Scientific researchers began covering the nature of creativity in the 1900s. Now, we have a much more scientific sense of the word as we have studied creative techniques, cognitive science, and psychology, and we better understand creative thinking as a result. 

marker sketch in journal
Creativity is a skill that can be improved and refined. 

What Is a Creative?

A creative is someone who creates. It’s that simple. 

Though creativity is commonly associated with creative fields like art, literature, and filmmaking, it’s also a cornerstone of innovation in fields like architecture, engineering, science, and business. You can find creatives in any industry.

How Do You Become Creative? 

There are an unlimited number of ways to flex your creativity. Everyone can become creative—it just takes practice.

To put it simply, creativity isn’t a talent—it’s a skill. Like any other skill, practice strengthens it. So, when you’ve identified a creative endeavor that you’d like to tackle, the key is to commit the time, effort, and patience to get better at it. 

That could involve doing independent research, leaning on resources like books and online classes, connecting with other creatives, or simply putting in the hours of practice. Don’t worry—we’ll share some different resources for creativity later in this guide. 

What About Creative Thinking?

You’ve probably heard the term “creative thinking” before. But, what is it? Think of it as the process of thinking outside the box. 

To get a little more technical, cognitive science divides creative thinking into three groups:

  • Convergent thinking: A judgment-based thinking process that takes one idea and changes it.
  • Divergent thinking: A judgment-deferred thinking process that includes looking at ideas to find multiple solutions.
     
  • Lateral thinking: A method of reasoning out a problem without using traditional ways, and instead, solving a problem with a creative process.

The Creative Process

The creative process is how creative thinking happens. It’s how an idea forms and changes from the initial thought. Creatives from all kinds of backgrounds—songwriters, designers, artists, and engineers—naturally transition through the five stages of the creative process

The idea of the creative process originated with social psychologist Graham Wallas in 1926 with his book called The Art of Thought. He identified the following five stages:

  1. Preparation Stage: The preparation stage is when you dive into generating creative ideas. How you generate ideas during this stage depends on your personal style. It could mean doing research to better understand a subject or brainstorming to see what your mind decides. You could use a bullet journal to jot down ideas, watch documentaries, read nonfiction, or listen to music. This is the time to freely explore what you want to do.
  1. Incubation Stage: This is when you let your work rest. Instead of continuing to chip away at your idea or project, you put it down and walk away from it for a while. While you’re not actively working on your idea, it will incubate subconsciously. It may not seem like you’re making progress, but rest is a crucial stage of creativity. When you return to your project after a break, you can come at it with fresh eyes. Build time into your project deadlines for the incubation stage.
  1. Illumination Stage: You may know the illumination stage by another name. You might call it the “eureka” or “aha” moment, the time inspiration strikes, or imagine it as the second a light bulb brightens above your head. This stage might surprise you, as your mind will create new ideas based on the research and work you’ve done before. It’s easy to think that this stage may lead to a groundbreaking discovery or a powerful feeling, but it could be a simple breakthrough.
  1. Evaluation Stage: The evaluation stage is when you begin looking for flaws in your idea, comparing it to alternatives, and considering how successful the idea is. You will dig deep as you edit your work and use critical thinking to determine the validity of your idea. During this phase, you might do more digging, like a scientific study or market research. You may also get external feedback from fellow creatives, friends, or team members.
  1. Verification Stage: The last stage is the verification or evaluation stage. This is when you move your idea from inspiration to reality and develop it into a new product to be shared with an audience. This might mean publishing a book, developing a physical product or prototype, or drawing a final draft. You might stay in this phase for a longer period of time as you reach for perfection.

Creative Hobbies

Regardless of what you’re interested in, there’s a ton of creative hobbies you can start practicing to hone your creative skills. Here are a few creative ideas to get you started:

  • Art: Painting, sculpture, embroidery, drawing, quilting, hand-lettering
  • Language: Writing, calligraphy, poetry, literature, bullet journaling, learning a new language
  • Engineering: Woodworking, woodcarving, scale model building
  • Music: Songwriting, learning a new instrument, rapping, DJing, dancing
  • Food: Gardening, bread making, cooking

That’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it should help get your wheels turning about some of the creative passions you could pursue. 

Resources for Creativity

Ready to flex your creative muscles and work through your own creative process? We’ve pulled together some tools and materials to help you develop a strong creative routine.

Classes and Workshops

You don’t have to start from scratch as you look for creative ideas! These exercises and classes will help you develop the creative skills you’re eager to refine.

1. One-Line Drawing: Cultivate Calm & Creativity With On-Trend Illustrations

sketch in notebook
Skillshare designer and illustrator Altea Alessandroni uses one-line drawings to boost creativity.

Designer and Skillshare instructor Altea Alessandroni will show you how to create a one-line drawing without ever lifting your pen from the page. While this may seem like a class directed at artists, anyone can enjoy this simple and beginner-friendly class. It’s a great opportunity to learn a new skill—or a way to stay occupied as you let your ideas rest in the incubation phase of the creative process.

2. Everyday Minimalism: Find Calm & Creativity in Living Simply

bedroom
Believe it or not, having a tidy workspace can lead to more creativity.

Though it may seem like a basic concept, decluttering your space can lead to an uncluttered mind which, in turn, boosts creativity. Skillshare instructor Erin Boyle will show you how to live simply to reduce stress, boost productivity, and develop purposeful habits to live a happier and more creative life.

3. Creative Breakthrough: 8 Exercises to Power Your Creativity, Confidence, and Career

gallery wall
Implementing simple exercises will help you make creativity a regular part of your routine.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: creativity takes discipline and routine. Using different exercises will help you change your mindset and make time for your creative work. Skillshare instructor and artist Danielle Krysa’s advice includes embracing your weirdness, setting some ground rules, sharing work, and giving yourself grace.

“We need to train ourselves to work it into our schedules, to make it part of our life. It’s like exercise. You need to do a little bit every day and the more you do, the more it just becomes the way that you live. So get it in that calendar and show up every single day,” says Krysa.

4. Boost Your Creativity: The Random Word Doodle Workout

creative doodle of a brain "grow your brain"
Teach yourself to think differently with creative doodles.

Product designer and Skillshare instructor Rich Armstrong will help you spark creative ideas by doodling. You don’t need any artistic skills to use art—everyone benefits from using visual expression to explore feelings, ideas, and creative memories. It’s a fun way to come up with new thoughts, change your thinking habits, and flex a different creative muscle.

5. Becoming Creative: An Artistic Guide to Creativity

creative journaling suggestion
crSkillshare instructor Brent Eviston’s writing prompts are designed to spark creative ideas.

Creativity seems complex, but Skillshare instructor Brent Eviston makes it simple with basic creative prompts to make you more creative. This includes seeking creative expression through collage, guided journal prompts, and creative drawing ideas.

“Every one of us has the capacity to be creative, but as we get older, we learn to bury our creativity. The good news is that whenever we choose, we can recover our creativity even in our adulthood,” says Eviston.

6. Make Creativity Your Career: Six Exercises to Create a Successful Side Project

creative cup of markers
Even with a full-time career, you can be creative. 

Unlock your creativity to build the kind of career you’ve always dreamed of. Illustrator and Skillshare instructor Andy J. Pizza will walk you through using creative side projects to build a meaningful career and keep challenging your skills. He will walk you through how to set small goals to establish your creative future. 

Books

If you want to dive into more complex ideas about creative thinking and the psychology behind it, we suggest giving these titles a try: 

  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  • Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity by Keith Sawyer
  • Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by David Kelley and Tom Kelley

Adobe Creative Cloud

Here’s another fun way to be creative: take advantage of the Adobe Creative Cloud! Use Photoshop, Lightroom, InDesign, and Illustrator to create graphic designs, edit amazing photographs, and more.

Creative Market

Creative Market allows creators to buy and sell work. It’s also an easy place to start doing creative work. You can buy templates and do small edits to learn design, or use tools like presets, fonts, and photographs to enhance your work.

Ultimately, there’s no limit to creativity or your projects—that’s one of the many things that makes it so fulfilling. So, use this as your guide to jump into the creative process, and remember to enjoy the journey. 

Get Creative!

Learn how to develop creative skills and habits