What are the basic ABCs of creativity?

agate green stone rockRemember those alphabet blocks you had as a child? How they became the building blocks for castles and forts and towers that could be toppled with a satisfying crash? 

I begin with these ABC basics when I start to think about creativity.

A is for Apprenticeship

Any new learning requires a certain period of apprenticeship to become proficient in the tools of the trade. 

They say learning to throw a good pot can take 10 years. Becoming a proficient writer? Several years of hard work. Learning to walk for the first time? A year, maybe, with lots of ups and downs in the bargain. 

The point is to be gentle on yourself during the apprenticeship period. You’ll not know if you are another Michelangelo or not until you try!

B is for Brainstorm

The word is exactly what it says, a storm in your brain. A whirlwind, a tornado of activity that creates action, activity, and chaos, all at the same time. Expect and embrace it when it arrives—life is good!

C is for Craft

I am encouraged by the recent outpouring of interest in crafting activities—scrapbooking, quilting, tole painting, beading. Mostly done by women. Does that mean something?

D is for Dance

Creativity is a dance, a breathing in and a breathing out. A partnership with a muse who is sometimes shy, but always there, waiting for you.

E is for Environment

Being creative means making space for things to happen. Carve out a corner of your world where you can be messy.

F is for Fun

Let’s face it. We do all of this hard work because somewhere, deep inside, there is an element of fun waiting to be discovered.

G is for Groups

Groups, when they are on task, are rarely creative. A more creative way may be to do concept thinking alone, by yourself, and bring to the group only when you are ready for evaluation.

H is for Healing

Creativity can be intensely healing and therapeutic. If you are wrestling with a seemingly unsolvable problem, try doodling, fingerpainting, drawing upside down.

I is for Imperfection

Creativity becomes fun only when we can enjoy the imperfect copies we make of the perfect images inside our head.

J is for Judgment

After creativity comes judgment. ‘You call that a horse?’ ‘I like this painting, but I’d rather have it 2 inches smaller to fit in my kitchen.’ ‘Do you have a pot like that only with a cobalt glaze?’ 

If you can let go of the need for approval, creativity will return after this splash of cold water. Be patient and gentle with yourself.

K is for Kids

Kids’ play is creative. But not in the way you may expect. It is often a highly directed, repetitive series of tasks focused on learning something new. For example, witness a youngster trying to skate for the first time.

What makes it creative is that they are doing something for the very first time, with an awareness of the process, with a lack of respect for time, with complete joy when they succeed.

L is for Letting go

Especially in this fast paced world of Beyond-Future-Shock we find the need to control our environment. It is only when we learn the art of letting go of that need that creativity appears.

M is for Meaning

Art in all its myriad forms gives meaning to my life. It IS life to me.

N is for Noticeable Difference

Creativity allows you to slow down to notice what’s different. Is that shade of blue lighter or darker than this one? Shall I wear this dress or that one? 

Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.” Being aware in the moment will help you to notice creativity.

O is for Order imposed on chaos

Fractal patterns only make sense in the movement—move close and it’s a design. Move out and it’s a totally different design. Both are integral parts of the whole.  Pointillism and impressionistic art make absolutely no sense when you stand with your nose to the canvas. 

Imposing your will on chaos creates meaning.

P is for Patience and persistence

Learning something new takes time. You just can’t rush it.

Q is for Quiet

I am not talking library quiet, here. But the inner silence that opens space for the muse to work, undistracted by the shopping list or the spat you had with your lover.

R is for Resistance

Our rational time-oriented side is highly distrustful of the laisse-faire worldview of our creative side. Expect some resistance and inertia when you first start to allow time for creativity.

S is for Senses

Fritz Perls once said, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.” 

Becoming aware of the marvelous infinity of nuance possible in just those first five senses—taste, sight, hearing, touch, smell—can increase your bent toward creativity by leaps and bounds.

T is for Time

Creativity is all about slowing down time. Rather than rushing to the goal, a creative person learns to savor the journey.

U is for Unique

Maybe one of the reasons we enjoy nature so much is its total uniqueness. Take a day when the summer clouds are billowing and building overhead. It’s the same, but always different. That’s what creativity is like.

V is for Vigilance

Be vigilant in many ways, such as protecting your creative time, in not letting automaticity reassert itself, of keeping the inner critic duct taped to the chair until you are ready to release them.

W is for Willingness

Willingness to be flexible and open to new experiences

X is for eXcellence

Excellence is cultivating the art of self back-patting, of saying ‘hey, this is GOOD’ and believing it, even when it’s not perfect.

Y is for Yellow

Yellow means a lot to me: The yellow of the sun our life force, that great color in the Crayola box, straw at Halloween, the sharp tang of a rich Cheddar. 

Creativity, using all the senses, becomes a visceral pleasure that is difficult to resist.

Z is for Zebras

The only way to be truly creative is to think zebras, not horses, when you hear those hoofbeats behind you!


And that’s my list. It was hard to choose sometimes. I know I’ve missed some good ones. 

What are some of YOUR ABCs of Creativity?


About Author, Pegasus Quincy Mystery Series

I write a mystery series about a young rookie deputy on her first assignment in the Verde Valley of Arizona.
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