Teaching Creativity When You Don't Feel Creative {And Why Do I Need to Teach Creativity, Anyway?}

Out for a walk yesterday, we passed a house with an “up for auction” sign in the yard.  The house is quite dilapidated, with peeling paint, holes in the roof that are visible from the street, and boarded up windows.

I stopped to take pictures.  My girls were a bit curious, until I explained that the house had once housed my dad’s cousin’s flower shop.  I don’t remember it in those days; I was too young.  I do remember it still being beautiful 20+ years ago, when I went to take pictures of it “for old time’s sake.”  I always loved its character and the reminder of Anna Beth, who was one of the great influences of my young life.

From the time I was a very little girl, I remember Anna Beth being described by all who knew her as “so creative.”  As I grew older, I realized that she truly was one of the most creative people I would ever know.  She was talented in all sorts of artistic pursuits…flower arranging, stained glass, painting, ceramics, and more.  She could make anything beautiful, and make something beautiful out of virtually nothing.

I realized something else; I was not “so creative” like Anna Beth.  Although I loved to do a variety of arts and crafts, I was the “give me some directions and a pattern, and I can follow it step by step” kind of person.  I was one of those people who would say, with a bit of a sigh, “I’m just not really creative.”  I decided that there were two types of people in the world: those who were truly creative, and those who were not. I definitely fell in the second category.

In college, I met another person who would go on my “most creative people in my world” list.  Tauna reminded me much of Anna Beth.  She could take the most humble “ingredients” and turn them into something truly beautiful.  I was in awe of her abilities.

Although I enjoyed crafting, I never felt my final outcomes were anywhere near worthy of being called “creative.”   That title was reserved for the Taunas and the Anna Beths of the world.  You know...the ones who are truly creative, in fancy lettering with flourishes and doodles.

Tauna, however, disagreed.  She fussed at me, “Don’t say you’re not creative!  You ARE creative.”  She encouraged me to see myself as creative, and act accordingly.  I did, by spurts, but behind her back I still classified myself as one of the “have nots” in the world of creativity.

Then came the summer when we studied the character quality of creativity in VBS.  I was hit right between the eyes with the realization that creativity is just that: a character quality.  I shared on my blog the game-changing truth I learned that summer:
 “Creativity is not a talent that one either has or does not have, it is an aspect of the character of God (the Creator of all!) and it is a character quality that we are to work to develop just as we are to develop patience, diligence, and kindness. That was a turning point in my thinking in the area of creativity. I was challenged and convicted that rather than excusing myself with 'I’m not creative,' I needed to not only be working to develop this character quality in myself, but in my children.”
What an amazing realization that creativity is part of who we are as creatures made in the image of God! It isn’t something that we either “have” or “don’t have”; it is something that we can all develop and then use in the areas in which God calls us to serve. It is also something we need to teach our children.

In the book Educating the WholeHearted Child, one of my favorite authors (Sally Clarkson) quotes another of my favorite authors (Emilie Barnes): 
“Creativity is a God-given ability to take something ordinary and make it into something special.  It is an openness in doing old things in new ways…The creative spirit is part of our heritage as children of the One who created all things. And nurturing our creativity is part of our responsibility as stewards of God’s good gifts.” (Emilie Barnes, The Spirit of Loveliness)  
Clarkson goes on to say that creativity is a mental muscle to be developed. “True creativity draws upon what already exists and finds a new or better way of doing something. Far from being a mysterious special gift, it is a process that can be cultivated and trained in all children.”

We’ve all heard the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but I am so thankful that God can change a stubborn mom’s lifelong paradigm.  Since my “I’m so not creative” days, much has changed.

I used to feel that I could only craft with directions and a pattern to follow step by step.  Over the past decade, I’ve taught hundreds of scrapbooking and craft classes for adults and children.  My goal is always for my students to finish with a project that shows their own creative touch, not an exact replica of a standard “class sample.”  Much of who I am these days involves creativity, and I love the opportunities God gives to continue to develop and grow in this area.


The most important thing, though, is that I am blessed with the delightful privilege of helping develop creativity in my children! As homeschooling parents, we have a wonderful opportunity to help our children stretch their creative muscles and see them grow in the character of Christ.

If that intimidates you the way it once intimidated me, take heart. If God can bring about such a change in this once-decidedly uncreative mom, He can bring it about in anyone. God will provide the creativity we need to meet the challenges He has given if we will simply ask and open our eyes to what He has to show us.

This post was originally published as the 1st post in a series on teaching creativity at Homeschool Toolbox.  I'll be re-posting my second post in that series, "Teaching Creativity: Where Do I Start?" her on the blog next Thursday. I'm reposting these articles here as the beginning of a new series of "Creativity Thursdays", with all-new posts to begin week after next.  Watch for posts on resources for teaching creativity, creative projects, and more!

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Linking up with Thriving Thursdays today! 

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