3 Stages to Finding Your Creative Identity

Austin KleonYou are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life — Austin Kleon

“I’m not creative.”

I’ve heard that a few times, I still hear it, I still loathe it.

The idea that some people are creative and others aren’t is a load of shit. We’re all born as creative individuals—you might have that idea beaten down during life, but it’s still there simmering away inside, waiting for the moment you rediscover it.

Being creative is a part of being human, it’s how we’ve become so developed, we have cars and rockets and skyscrapers. We’re intuitive beings, we can work out how to solve a problem we’ve never encountered before. We all have creativity because we’re all human, they go hand in hand.

The real question is, how do we cultivate it? How can we grow our creativity to the point where we will finally call ourselves ‘creative’?

It Starts With Intake

We need to start by finding things that inspire us.

Go out and search the world for what you like — If you want to create music, listen to the music from bands you admire; If you want to paint, make a collection of all the artists and works that blow you away.

Inspiration is one of, if not the biggest motivator in artistic expression. You will hear more success stories come from people that have a bolt of inspiration than from those who simply sit down and force it.

It’s also important to stick to what you love, don’t go throwing lot’s of art into your head if it’s not the art you like or would be happy creating yourself. The art you enjoy is enjoyed because it runs deep within you, and by exposing yourself to the inspiring content of others, you’ll be more effective at picking out the different styles and aspects that you can later use in your own style.

The artist is a collector. Not a hoarder … artists collect selectively. They only collect things that they really love. — Austin Kleon

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

You Need To Imitate

Once you’re happy and inspired by everything you’ve seen, it’s time to start creating. But, the best place to start is by creating something in someone else’s image.

It’s rare to be able to create your own style right off the bat, even after you’ve looked at other works. It helps to try to imitate an artist you love, so you can find out in the process just what’s going on — you begin to think like they do, to see things through their eyes.

You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. —Austin Kleon

Do this for a couple of your favorites, copy their style, take notes on what you enjoy or dislike about them, what you would like to change and what you can make better.

After a little of this, you’ll start to see yourself moulding the different aspects of these artists into one another, and into your own style. Without thinking about it, you will have taken what you love out of your most inspiring artists so that you’re left with the style that represents you.

Paint Rivers by Mark Chadwick

Let It Incubate

Some people will say differently, but I firmly believe that good art will not come when you’re forcing it.

The thing with art is it’s often abstract, creativity is connecting things in ways that are not obvious or expected, and when you’re focusing and trying to force something, you’re often in a very narrow minded, tunnel vision mode.

Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.  Austin Kleon

The best trick to creative expression is to sit back and relax, let what you know/learnt simmer in the background.

When we relax and let our minds wander, we’re inviting our brains to go where they want, it will start to connect things for us, making strange loops between the different channels and points — This is creativity at it’s finest, this is where the ‘a-ha’ moment strikes, and this is when you’ll suddenly find an idea that will perfectly express your own unique artistic vision.

The next step is to go out and make it!

You’ll find that the more you do this—the whole process, although after a while you might find that step two can be skimmed over—the better you’ll get, you’ll know exactly what works for you and what doesn’t. The more things you become inspired by, the more your style will grow and change, suddenly you’ll realize just how creative you are! (And were all along)

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