When You Say You’re Not Creative… (2022)

When you say you’re not creative, you inadvertently perpetuate a myth. The myth that a person can be exempt from having creativity doesn’t even make sense. Go ask your mom what you were like when you were a little kid.

When You Say You’re Not Creative… (1)

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  • Did you ever find an alternate use for your bowl of yogurt—a hat, perhaps?
  • Did you build something out of Lego or blocks without following directions?
  • Did you figure out how to evade your parents when you wanted to get away with something?
  • Have you tried a new topping on your oatmeal?
  • Have you made up a pun?
  • Figured out how to fix your computer?
  • Designed a code?
  • Came up with an idea different from someone else’s?

These are all hints at the creativity which you do indeed have, and in order to prove this I share with you what I like to call the Creativity Trifecta:

  • Everybody is creative.
  • Creativity can be practiced and developed.
  • People manifest creativity in different degrees.

Let’s take the trifecta point by point.

Everybody Is Creative

The first empirical study that definitively showed that everybody is creative was begun by George Land in 1968. He gave 1,600 4- and 5-year-old children a creativity test that he had developed to find innovators for engineering and design positions at NASA. He tested the same children again when they were 10 and again at age 15. Land and his team then compared these scores with a large sample of adults who also took the assessment. Take a look at the percentage of test-takers in each sample that scored in the “genius level” for creative imagination.

(Video) "When You Say You're Not Creative"

  • Age 5: 98 percent
  • Age 10: 32 percent
  • Age 15: 10 percent
  • Adults*: 2 percent

*Average age 31.

This insightful study shows that while you may not be exercising your creative genius at the moment, you certainly have the raw materials. The good news is that it can be regained.

Creativity Can Be Taught and Practiced

Scott, Leritz, and Mumford (2004) found that creativity training programs, if well-designed, lead to higher creativity. Earlier, Parnes (1987) used decades of research to prove that creativity can be improved when it is deliberately cultivated.

Conversely, creativity is likely to flounder when it is not nurtured. It can seem to disappear, as in the 98 percent of 280,000 adults who took Land’s creativity assessment. Ken Robinson’s “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” is the most watched TED talk of all time and goes into detail about the creativity free-fall in education. Diminishing creativity is also experienced in the workplace and in families where the culture does not support divergent thinkers and their new ideas.

People Manifest Creativity in Different Degrees

It just might be that the main reason you think you’re not creative is because you compare yourself to others who are famous for their creativity (Steve Jobs, Pablo Picasso, and Lady Gaga) or to people in your own life who are known for their creativity.

When you’re in a comparison mindset, you inadvertently diminish your own creative ability. You envision Picasso and your highly divergent friends on a pedestal that you cannot possibly ascend. All you can see is yourself standing in the shadows on the lowest rung of your tiny ladder. Creativity looks so far off, so unattainable.

In this mindset, all the negatives creep in. The biggest culprit is fear, especially fear of judgment. It reinforces the false belief that you are not creative and when you are operating under fear you are using a very small part of your brain’s capacity.

Society has perpetuated the myth that creativity has to be comparative, and if comparative, mutually exclusive: “If Picasso is creative, then I am not.” This reasoning is incorrect.

(Video) ★ why i say i'm "not creative" | my old AP art portfolio ★

In 1995, researcher Mark Runco started working to clear this up by discussing “personal creativity.” Beghetto and Kaufman talk about the 4C’s of creativity and Ruth Richards has named “everyday creativity.” These theorists show that all humans, no matter how eminent, use creativity in daily life. An idea or product does not have to be eminent to be creative.

Solution: Practice

One path to progress is to stop comparing yourself to a ridiculous ideal and instead zoom in on you. See what you can do. At its core, all creativity is is thinking differently. How can you practice thinking differently?

Creativity for Everybody (Haydon and Harvey, 2015) is a quick-start guide to the basics.

If you rotate the book 90 degrees to the right, you can read sideways prompts that help you exercise your creative thinking. For example:

“Try thinking like someone else: an alien, a rock, a stray cat, a high school math teacher” (p. 13). The point of this question is to help you look at things another way, to gain a new perspective. Just like any skill, if you practice, you will improve.

If you’ve been in school for several years, creative thinking might feel uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re a high-achiever. You have been trained to find the right answer. Divergent answers are not always acceptable. If you find out exactly what the teacher wants and deliver on it, you will likely get an A.

Good for you to figure out and master the system, but there is unfortunately a huge flaw in the way it was set up: life doesn’t work this way. At this moment the world is changing faster than it ever has before. When electricity was introduced in 1873, it took 46 years to be adopted by 25 percent of the population. When the internet was introduced in 1991, it only took seven years. This acceleration of adoption forces us to change constantly. In order to change we have to adapt, and this requires creative thinking.

A recent study revealed that 94 percent of hiring managers say creativity is important to consider when hiring a candidate for a job; CEOs place creativity as the top leadership skill. You need your creativity if you want to thrive in life. But every time you bash it by saying you don’t have it, you lose an opportunity to exercise it.

Solution: Take a Risk

(Video) Think You're Not Creative? THINK AGAIN!

The one-right-answer mentality trains us not to take risks. In order to take risks, you have to be willing to make a mistake. Once in a while, a teacher will come along who encourages you to think your own thoughts, and here you might freeze.

To open your mouth in a classroom and voice a creative idea, you have to take a risk. You’re not used to doing that because there is usually one right answer. If you are asked to come up with a new answer, an untested answer, you might be judged by your peers or even by your teacher. Maybe your new answer is not the one she wanted either!

But in the working world you must differentiate yourself and you must be able to solve problems creatively. So wherever you are—in school, at work—try taking taking little risks. Peter Sims calls these little bets, and advises that we take small risks and fail fast.

In other words, don’t let the first risk you ever take be taking out a second mortgage on your house to try a new business idea. Start instead by doing something that gives you slight discomfort, like driving a new route to the grocery store or sharing an unconventional insight in your next meeting. As you practice taking small risks you will become more comfortable sharing the fresh perspectives that you have gained by practicing your creative thinking.

Now that you are aware of the universal nature of creativity and you have a resource to practice creative thinking, fear is the only thing standing in the way of training it back. (Fear can also come in the form of saying, “I’m not creative” to protect yourself from risk. You now know that this is false, so if you keep using this line it is heretofore a cop-out. Everybody is creative.)

It’s better to build your creative thinking now than after you get fired from your job for not being able to find solutions to the problems that arise. The best way to do this is to start taking little steps to exercise your true creative genius immediately.

This post also appeared on Sparkitivity.com. Copyright Sparkitivity, LLC. All rights reserved.


Haydon, K. P., & Harvey, J. (2015). Creativity for everybody. New York: Sparkitivity.

Haydon, K. P., & Harvey, J. (2016). Creatividad para todos. New York: Sparkitivity.

Kaufman, J. C., & Beghetto, R.A. (2009). Beyond big and little: The Four C Model of Creativity. Review of General Psychology, 13(1), 1-12.

Land, G., & Jarman, B. (1993). Breaking point and beyond. San Francisco, CA: HarperBusiness.

Parnes, S. (1987).The creative studies project. In Isaksen, S. (Ed.), Frontiers of creativity research: Beyond the basics (pp. 156-188). Buffalo, NY: Bearly Limited.

Richards, R. (2010). Everyday creativity. In Kaufman, J. C., & Sternberg, R. J. (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of creativity (pp. 189-215). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Richards, R., Kinney, D.K., Benet, M., & Merzel, A.P. (1988). Assessing everyday creativity: Characteristics of the Lifetime Creativity Scales and validation with three large samples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(3), 476-485.

Runco, M. A. (1996). Personal creativity: Definition and developmental issues. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 72, 3-30.

(Video) Why do people think they are not creative?

Sims, P. (2013). Little Bets: How breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Scott, G. M., Leritz, L. E., & Mumford, M. D. (2004).The effectiveness of creativity training:A meta-analysis. Creativity Research Journal, 16, 361-388.

(Video) The REAL CURE for your Creative Block


How do you answer give me an example of your creativity? ›

When you put everything together, the example of your creativity should be engaging and to-the-point. Here's a sample answer: "One of my key creative accomplishments occurred in my current job, when I had to increase market share for a new product without increasing our existing marketing budget.

Why do people say they are not creative? ›

People Manifest Creativity in Different Degrees

It just might be that the main reason you think you're not creative is because you compare yourself to others who are famous for their creativity (Steve Jobs, Pablo Picasso, and Lady Gaga) or to people in your own life who are known for their creativity.

What does it mean to be not creative? ›

: not creative: such as. a : not marked by the ability or power to create : not given to creating So-called noncreative people can make interesting observations when they're allowed to do so.— Perry Parendo.

What does lack of creativity mean? ›

Noun. The quality or condition of lacking creativity or imagination. unimaginativeness. dullness. unoriginality.

What is the best example of creativity? ›

Examples of creative thinking skills include: problem solving, writing, visual art, communication skills, and open-mindedness.

Are you creative in your job answer? ›

I cannot tell you how creative I am, but I can definitely tell you that I strive to improve on every important ability at work, and creativeness definitely makes the list of such abilities. My strengths are responsibility, attention to detail, and honesty.

What do you call a person who is not creative? ›

In this page you can discover 7 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for uncreative, like: unimaginative, sterile, uninventive, creative, unoriginal, uninspired and rich.

How do you know if you're not creative? ›

When your actions are conditioned by the expectations of others and come from a desire to fit in, then you are not being creative. You're being manipulated by other people. But when you are able to stand up for yourself in an authentic way, you are probably acting in a way that is unique and true to yourself.

Can you be smart and not creative? ›

The basic idea behind the threshold hypothesis is that high creativity requires high or at least above-average intelligence. At this, above-average intelligence is thought to form a necessary but not a sufficient condition for high creativity (Guilford, 1967).

What should I do if I'm not creative? ›

How to Be Creative When You're Not Naturally Creative
  1. Start with a morning freewrite.
  2. Take a creative course.
  3. Brainstorm while you exercise.
  4. Travel to other places.
  5. Channel your inner child.
  6. Join a coworking space.
  7. Incorporate breaks into every work day.
  8. Connect with creative people.
Aug 1, 2016

What stops you from being creative? ›

Then there's the greatest factor which keeps us from pursuing creativity: fear. Fear of rejection, of embarrassment, or failure. Fear can prevent us from having being creatively driven, from even trying to think differently or to take a risk or to be open to experiences.

How do I become more creative? ›

6 Surprising Ways to Become A More Creative Person
  1. Draw, paint, doodle, watercolor. ...
  2. Do something physical. ...
  3. Embrace boredom. ...
  4. Watch a TED talk or listen to a podcast. ...
  5. Generate way more ideas than you think you actually need. ...
  6. Make time for play.
Apr 20, 2020

How do you explain creativity in a job interview? ›

How to give examples of creativity in an interview
  1. Find an appropriate example. Brainstorm to think of examples of times that you came up with creative solutions in the workplace. ...
  2. Use the STAR method. ...
  3. Focus on the creative process. ...
  4. Highlight collaboration and communication.

How can you say you are creative? ›

When you are creative, you find connections between different ideas and use those connections to solve problems. Often these connections happen when you aren't actively thinking about the problem or task. Something you read or something someone says connects with the problem and you see it in a new way.

How do you explain creativity as a strength? ›

Creativity is thinking of new ways to do things. It involves producing ideas or behaviors that are original. However, originality is not enough: whatever is created, whether an idea or a product, must also be useful or adaptable.


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