By Chris Hulshof
Creativity is often that skill we believe someone else has that we don’t. “Walt Disney and Steve Jobs were creative, but I’m not like that,” we might say.
To be sure, we wish that a small part of us was as creative as they were. But we’ve convinced ourselves it’s not in the cards for us to be known as “the creative one.”
Part of that comes from buying into a few misconceptions about creativity and the enemies that hinder it in our lives and ministries.
Science myth: Right-Brain, Left-Brain
If you listen to people offer an excuse for why they’re not creative, they’ll typically say something like, “Well, I’m just not that type of person. I’m more of a left-brained analytical person than a right-brained creative person.”
In the book This Idea Must Die: Scientific Theories That are Blocking Progress, psychologist, neuroscientist, and expert on the science of learning, Stephen Kosslyn points out why right-brain left-brain is pseudoscience and counters that, “the brain is a single interactive system, whose parts work in concert to accomplish a given task.”
Practically, this means that your lack of creativity has more to do with a shortage of experimentation, adventure, or persistence. In other words, you can be creative. Your brain isn’t prohibiting your creativity.
Education myth: Your elementary school art teacher
If you were like me, elementary art was a struggle. In fact, I saved an early report card where I barely received a passing grade in art.
Beside the grade, the teacher wrote, “Chris has a problem with time and space.” Third grade me didn’t have a good grasp of perspective.
Art class never connected with me, and sadly, my understanding of creativity suffered because of it. That all changed when I hit high school and discovered photography and the camera club.
I slowly learned I actually was creative. With a camera and a dark room, I realized the pleasure creativity brings.
Sadly, for some of us, we tend to believe we’re the sum total of our elementary school teacher’s evaluation of the work we turned in for art class. Because of that experience, we’ve come to believe we’re not creative.
The issue here, however, isn’t about if we’re creative but how or where we’re creative. This means that growing in creativity will require the space to try, learn, fail, and succeed.
Scriptural truth: The Imago Dei
While we acknowledge the biblical truth we’re created in the image of God, we often fall short of what that really means. Theologically we consider the imago Dei is about substance, function, relationship, or royalty among the number of possibilities.
What’s often not considered are the implications of being made in the image of God. Since we’re image-bearers (Genesis 1:26-27), what does that mean for the kind of people we are?
One of the implications of being made in the image of God is that we’re creative people. If God is a creative God, then we’re creative individuals.
The creative God designed human beings to be creative. It’s hardwired into our DNA. He has placed the passion for creating and being creative within each of us.
To say, “Well, I’m just not creative” or to consider creativity something possessed by only certain people is to infringe on the imago Dei.
The creative God has placed within each individual the capacity for creativity. Every person has the necessary God-given tools that they can utilize to be creative.
Four enemies of creativity
Thus, if we’re all creative, how can I find my creative niche? Exhaustion, perfection, comparison, and fear are the four horsemen of the creative apocalypse. Any one of them can keep our creative passions at bay.
Perhaps the greatest deterrent to creativity is exhaustion. Tired and busy people are rarely creative. When we have the life-space to breathe, observe, think, and reflect, it’ll translate into creative output.
Perfection is also a frequent enemy of creativity. If our creative endeavor doesn’t match up to what we think is worthy, we often give up. In those moments, we’re the elementary art teacher that critiques without encouragement.
Comparison is the third killer of creativity. In a social media-fueled environment, we’re constantly exposed to others who can and will do it better.
When we attempt something that doesn’t measure up to what they’ve posted or shared, we immediately default to “I’m not creative.”
Don’t measure your work by their standards. Measure your work by the God-given pleasure you felt in the expression of your creativity.
Fear, the fourth adversary of creativity, is what prevents us from signing up for that woodworking, photography, or soups of autumn class.
We’re afraid we just won’t be good enough and will be seen as inept or incompetent. So, we give in to fear and avoid something that may tap into a creative avenue placed in us by God.
You’re a creative being because God is a creative God. As His image-bearer, you’re creative. Push past the enemies of creativity and discover that creative element inside of you.
CHRIS HULSHOF (@US_EH) is an associate professor and department chair for Liberty University’s School of Divinity where he teaches Old Testament Survey, Inductive Bible Study, and a Theology of Suffering and Disability. He also earned an Ed.D from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where his research focused on the intersection of disabilities, theology, and church ministry.