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Become a Creative Genius

Anyone can turn their creative interest into creative genius

Woman working at desk Allie Gillebo

Anyone can become a creative genius.

It’s taken me years to believe that sentence, but trust me, anyone can become an expert. I’ve found over my years working as a creative that the difference between those who become experts in their craft and those who quit in the early stages of development isn’t innate talent—it’s study, practice, and perseverance. I’ve loved drawing since I was a little kid and always aspired to be an illustrator. Yet, my childhood drawing abilities paled in comparison to the illustrators that I admired. I spent years thinking that I could never be a great illustrator and I should instead just admire the work of others. I have since learned that drawing—just like any other craft—is a skill that can be developed in three steps.

The first step in creative development is studying the greats. Find the people within your creative passion who are really excellent at their craft. Study how they work, what tools they use, and how their work developed. Learning from experts isn’t cheating—it’s an opportunity to learn from the people with expertise and let that knowledge inform your abilities.

The second step is to ignore self-criticism. It’s easy to harshly critique our early work and despair when we can’t create things as well as those we admire. Writer and producer Ira Glass said it well when he explained that creative people get into their craft because they have good taste, but they often want to quit in the early days when their abilities can’t match their level of taste. It’s that gap between what one can produce and what one knows to be good work that drives most people to quit. But don’t quit. Ignore the self-criticism that drives you to doubt your ability.

The third step is to create a large body of work. Study and practice over a long period of time allows creative skill to improve. As Glass explains it, eventually the gap between what you know is good work and what you can create will shrink. Set up a regular rhythm to practice your craft and keep at it. Ignore the self-doubt that tells you to prematurely quit. Admittedly, this is probably the hardest step. As part of my own creative process to develop as an illustrator, I joined a month-long online drawing challenge that pushes me to draw every day. I’m not always impressed with what I create, but I can see small developments that I know will build over time.

The truth is that anyone can become a creative expert. The biggest hurdle is yourself.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and become a creative expert, start with these three steps:

  1. Study the greats
  2. Ignore the criticism that tells you that you’re hopeless or just “not meant to be a creative”
  3. Practice every day—even if it’s only for a few minutes

TL/DR: You’re awesome and your creative genius is itching to be developed, so get out there and get to work!

This American Life, WBEZ Chicago, 25 Jan. 2014

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