Get Creative

How To Be Creative — Even When You Think You’re Not


A good friend of mine recently told me how much she loved my DIY projects. Which of course was totally awesome to hear, until she said, “I could never be that creative!”

You guys, my eyes were opened. I have been failing my blog’s purpose. Because while all the DIYs I make are definitely fun and self-gratifying, the real reason I blog is because I want to inspire you to create.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: There’s nothing special about me. I’m not some sort of creative genius (definitely not!), who inherited the right genes or is intrinsically inspired. Before I started this blog in 2013, I was in a post-college, six-year creative rut. And before that, I was just a girl who liked art and sometimes tried to make some of her own.

Which means, if I can do it, you can do it.

So for my dear friend (you know who you are), and others out there who feel like you aren’t creative, I’ve come up with ten tips on how to be creative — even when you think you’re not.

How to be creative - even when you think you're not! These ten tips with insights from other creatives will help you shake off the myth that creativity is exclusive.

Practice, practice, practice.

Creativity is a muscle that you can train just like a sexy, rippling six-pack.

When I first started my blog, I worried I wouldn’t have enough project ideas to keep it going. Now I have two notebooks full! This isn’t an accident; it’s because I practiced. The more you exercise your creative brain, the stronger it will get.

Or, in the words of Maya Angelou:

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Whether you want to write a symphony or redecorate a room, you need to surround yourself with inspiration to generate ideas. Go to art shows, read books and magazines, study the history of your chosen craft, browse Pinterest (see my post How Pinterest Changed My Life to learn how Pinterest really did inspire me).

Ideas are like bunnies: put a few together, and you’ll end up with a whole litter in no time. So go find some playmates for your idea-bunnies. Or something.

Write down every idea you have, even the ridiculously bad ones.

If you only take away one thing from this post, it should be this: Type, record, sketch, scribble, engrave, or otherwise commit your ideas to a permanent place. Keep a notebook and pencil by your bed.

No matter how stupid you think an idea is, write it down anyways—you never know which absurd, middle-of-the-night moment of sleep-drunken inspiration will morph into an idea you love. My DIY mud cloth notebooks evolved that way (coincidentally also a good place to write things down).

Make these DIY Mud Cloth Notebooks in Under 30 Minutes

Hang out with other creatives.

I’ll say it again: creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Find some people who are or want to be creative, and SHARE that creative energy. Breed those idea-bunnies!

Craft dates are a super fun way to do this (and I’ve got a little series to help you make it happen in the works). But you can also form or join an online group if your friends who like exploring their creative side don’t live near you.

Try something new.

When I’m feeling completely overwhelmed and under-inspired, I try to think of something creative that I’ve been wanting to learn to do but haven’t had any time for. I have a huge list, but for me, calligraphy is at the top… A few months ago, when I was in a creative rut, I decided to take a night off from blogging to start my calligraphy workshop. And it was fun, relaxing, and rejuvenating. So find whatever is at the top of your list, and take a night or two off to just have fun creating. –Melissa, Lulu the Baker

How to be creative - even when you think you're not! Trying something new is a surefire way to get your creativity flowing.

Stop trying to be original.

Because as the internet has taught us, everything’s been done before. But don’t let that depress you; instead, embrace it and steal like an artist (like I did right there). It’s ok to adapt, reinvent, or just plain copy the creative work of others as a launchpad to your own. (With proper credit, always!!)

Learning how to be creative doesn’t mean waiting for totally original ideas to strike you at random. If you keep waiting, you’ll never get your creativity in gear. So start by working with what you see, and your own ideas will follow—promise.

Stop trying to be perfect.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to master your craft, but that takes time. A lot of time. 

Don’t let the goal of perfection keep you from getting started. The best way to improve your skills is by making mistakes. 

Don’t limit yourself.

If you want to explore your creativity, dabble in different mediums until you find one that fits! Photography, writing, knitting, pottery, drawing. Even the act of trying something new will fuel your creativity and may inspire you to take up something you’d never think of doing! Creativity is a bit like a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it seems to flow. –Cyd, The Sweetest Occasion

Take breaks. Often.

Whenever I’m stumped, I go for a walk. I wrote at least half of this post while Instagramming flowers in my neighborhood.

Thinking and working creatively is HARD. WORK. Even just absorbing all that inspiration we talked about can get overwhelming. But luckily, taking even a short break can help your brain replenish. My girl Amy is with me on this one:

When my inspiration feels low and it doesn’t seem like anything I’m creating is “right”, I often times will just step away.  Taking a walk outside and enjoying a change of scenery is just the thing I need to feel rejuvenated. Sometimes there is pressure to create all in one sitting, but I find giving yourself grace and allowing for time, will allow for that light bulb moment to hit you with a completely new course of action – and just like that you’re back creating! –Amy, Delineate Your Dwelling

Just. Get. STARTED.

The only thing separating a creative and a “non-creative” is that one of them is doing it.

You’re afraid of failing. You’re afraid of being judged. You’re afraid of wasting money or time.

We learn those fears from our conformist society. Don’t listen to them. Everyone is creative. All you need to do to unlock your own creativity is to START!

Was that last part totally cheesy? Ok, it was, but I really believe it. Just. Get. Started.

So, are you ready to admit that you’re creative too? I hope you feel inspired to try a craft, experiment with your cooking, write a story, or ANYTHING to flex those creative muscles. Please let me know if you have any questions or feel stuck!

Need more tips? Check out my Instagram page, where I share monthly (well, almost monthly) creative tidbits!

Author: Marlene @ Idle Hands Awake

Maker, baker, cat momma, total nerd, perpetually covered in glitter/sawdust/paint. Blogging DIY and design for modern creatives.

15 comments on “How To Be Creative — Even When You Think You’re Not”

  1. Thank you for this! I feel the same way. I’m not especially creative and a lot of my projects originate from an idea I got by seeing something someone else did, then putting my own spin on it or finding an easier or cheaper way to do it. And every once in awhile I have my very own creative idea that only comes because I’ve already been doing so many other projects that the idea just comes. Like you said, it really is a practice thing. Love that Maya Angelou quote! I really need to get an “idea notebook” too.

    1. Sara, that is such a great way to make things! A lot of my projects evolve that way too. I agree with what you say completely: that your own ideas “just come.” The more you use it, the more you have! 😀 Thank you so much for reading. And definitely, definitely get an idea notebook, it will really help! xoxo

  2. Such a great post Marlene! I totally write down inspiration as soon as I get it, but I keep notes on my phone as I always have that with me. And oh man, if only I had the discipline to train that sexy 6 pack! It’s under there somewhere

  3. Love this post so much. Every word you’ve written is true. I believed for years that I wasn’t creative – at least thats what I told myself. And things only changed when I started creating just for the fun of it. Now I completely believe everybody can be creative if they let themselves be – as you say it’s a muscle. The more you use it the stronger it becomes. Sharing this post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *