What are creativity skills?

What are creativity skills?

I recently conducted an experiment on Twitter. I asked:

“Tweeps, what are your creative skills? What creative skills do you have in your armoury?”

Most of the people who replied told me about creative things they do like painting or making a garden or developing recipes or playing music. I really enjoyed hearing about these things.

I asked this question because I was curious as to how people would interpret the question? Would they answer ‘I’m good at drawing’ or ‘I’m good at conceptualising’, ‘I’m good at playing the banjo’ or ‘I’m good at linking disparate ideas’? Or would they tweet ‘Depends what you mean by creative skills’ which is a fair question.

Because, of course, being creative can mean knitting or acting or composing. But it also entails other skills. One of my tweeters replied “Questioning is the ultimate creative skill IMO”; another, a professional artist, said “Making a mess, encouraging others to do likewise” and these guys were nodding in this other direction, towards the other skillset required to be creative. Regardless of what your creative field is, there are skills that need to sit behind your technical skills in writing or sculpting or dressmaking. These are things like recognising patterns, or problem-solving, or designing an artistic process.

Over the years I have heard creativity discussed in different forums, ranging from studios in the arts industry to classrooms in community centres to meeting rooms in large bureaucracies. I have read blogs written by corporate consultants, artists, and workplace trainers alike on the subject. And I have learnt that creativity is often in the eye of the beholder, and ‘creativity / creative skills’ are often what the loudest voice in the blogosphere says they are at the time. And this does make sense, as different projects and fields will require different skills and qualities to manifest creativity in different contexts.

Over the last year I have found myself connecting with educators who are specialising in nurturing creativity in young people. Out of curiosity I did a little research into how schools might be defining creativity skills. I found two curriculum frameworks I liked, that resonated with my own thinking:

Education Scotland lists essential creativity skills as being:

  • Curiosity
  • Open-mindedness
  • Imagination
  • Problem solving.

These gel strongly with what I have experienced or witnessed over the years in my own creative work.

Alternatively, The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) provided a Critical and Creative Thinking learning continuum, which mapped skills against these four elements:

  • Inquiring – identifying, exploring and organising information and ideas
  • Generating ideas, possibilities and actions
  • Reflecting on thinking and processes
  • Analysing, synthesising and evaluating reasoning and procedures.

I particularly liked the way that ACARA amalgamated critical and creative thinking. All too often creative process (especially artistic work) is described as being all about the imagination accessed through disinhibition. But, in my own experience as an arts worker and also as an arts manager observing other artists at work, creative process is about an interplay between the imagination, intuition, intellect, and emotional intelligence. If you stay solely in the realm of the imagination then how are you going to bring everything to fruition? The thing that turns daydreams into finished works of art is this interplay between different cognitions and other qualities within each creative individual. The key to developing a sustainable creative process is understanding how to nurture the right balance between these elements, and how to adapt that balance for different projects, conditions, and stages of development.

A person with thought bubbles coming out of their head
Cover art by Rebecca Stewart

As a creative mentor, meta-cognition is a large part of what I do. Reflexivity is so important to developing creative process and I love helping people to carve out a little pocket of time and psycho-social space in which they can draw breath and ruminate on where they find themselves as creative identities and how they feel about that. And so often, in their reflections, my clients demonstrate the qualities listed above – curiosity, open-mindedness, imagination, and problem solving skills. And it is so obvious to me what their strengths are but, in the hurly burly of everyday life, they don’t always spot it in themselves.

So, alongside allowing yourself to feel pride in any prowess you might have in technical skills such as singing or writing poetry or Tik Toking, it is important to become aware of your personal strengths when it comes to how you, as a person, navigate your way through your attempts at being creative. This is how you embed resilience in your creative process or, if you don’t have time for a creative process right now, your resilience in the very idea that you are innately creative.

Do you want to reflect playfully and imaginatively on what your creativity skills or qualities might be? Buy my workbook ‘Relate: A resource for connecting to your creative self’ https://etsy.me/2VNMQgJ

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