You Are Creative: Here’s How To Ignite Your Spark

artist first amateur

By Emily Vanderbeek of Isn't That Charming

Pablo Picasso is turning in his grave. Ernest Hemingway is shouting from the heavens. Andy Warhol is glaring at me with warning in his eyes. Why? I’m about to give away some of their secrets.

Here’s the thing about those who are creative: They weren’t born that way. While it’s easier to believe that Beethoven started composing music in the womb, the fact is that his father taught him how to play instruments at a young age and he practiced until it was second nature.

Creativity is in everyone. It’s everywhere. It’s in fashion, DIY projects, games and cooking. It’s in neck-straining skyscrapers, books, paintings and photography. It’s in the art of conversation and silence. It’s in entrepreneurs, mathematicians, statisticians and lawyers.

Every single person has something to share, a fist full of imagination just waiting to be released, if they so chose. The difference between those that let it out and those that don’t boils down to recognizing an idea and taking steps toward making it happen. Creativity comes in many forms, but the smallest building block is a great idea that inspires you in one way, shape, or form.

So, how do you let it out? Channeling inspiration is different for everyone, but I believe that no matter what the subject, there are a few key things you can do to help open your mind to let ideas freely flow. While I am no expert and am learning every day, here are some pointers that I believe have worked for me.

1.  Be Curious.

Life has a lot to explore. Get out there and discover.

I’ve always been one to find interest in different things; consistency and repetition bore me. As such, I’ve often found myself diving into off-the-wall topics. The Mayan Calendar? Yes, in fact I did purchase “An Idiots Guide to 2012.” Astrology? An encyclopedia of birthdays sits next to my nightstand. Vegetarian eating? I go on and off. Graphic Design? I suck, but I’ve tried. Music? Taylor Swift one day, Led Zeppelin the next.

I say this for one simple point: Being curious expands your mind. The more you know, the more your brain has to work with. Find interest in the interesting. Absorb the world around you. Ask questions. And don’t accept answers.

2. As much as possible, say “yes.”

You can’t have an open mind without practicing being open.

Make it a point to have new experiences and adventure in your life. Research events nearby and attend them. Volunteer. Take a stroll in a museum. Sit in a coffee shop. Do yoga. Run. Go on that trip you’ve been talking about for years. Absorb the world around you.

If experiences are the key, people are the key holders. They are, after all, life’s greatest teachers outside of your personal experiences. Be open to new friendships, conversations & viewpoints. Entertain a thought that you disagree with. Invite someone you hardly know for coffee. Accept invites to happy hours from coworkers. Call your grandma.

Say “yes” as much as possible, especially if it falls out of your comfort zone. This isn’t an easy thing for most people, even the most social of them all. But it gets easier with practice. Just keep in mind that it’s only when you allow yourself to step outside that you really begin to think outside the box.

3. Embrace alone time.

The best ideas come from an uncluttered mind. This means having “me time” to sort through the clutter. While saying “yes” to experiences and people is key, so is allowing yourself to regroup with your thoughts.

Zen out. When you feel like you’re in a good place, start to brainstorm. Write down your ideas, even if you think they’re silly. Often, writing down one idea will spur a new one, which will trigger another, and soon you’ve got a handful of really great things to work with.

It’s when I’m listening to music with a blank screen in front of me that most ideas will pop into my head. Sometimes they suck. Sometimes they’re worth exploring more. Sometimes, they’re pretty good.

If you give your mind the time and ability to embrace your thoughts, I promise creativity will naturally flow.

4. Talk about ideas.

One of my all time favorite quotes is from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” This is so true. There are people who are idea people and there are people who are not. Recognize this and seek out the idea people. They are the ones who will help you grow.

Find some “idea” people that you are comfortable bouncing thoughts around with. Talk to them, brainstorm, get a second opinion. Ask for flaws in your thinking. Trust them to be honest and non-judgmental. (After all, if they truly are an idea person, they won’t know how to judge.)

Don’t have a specific idea to talk about? That’s okay — tell stories and ask questions. See where the conversation takes you. Randomness can be inspiring, and idea people will naturally lead the conversation to an interesting place.

5. Be The Lion.

An idea can be the most fabulous of them all and can die because of a lack of confidence. As I said before, implementation is a key factor of creativity. Many people get stuck when it comes to developing an idea for fear of failure or what others will think.

I too have suffered from insecurities. It was only once I stopped listening to what other people thought that I gained the bravery to take my ideas and run with them. I learned a valuable lesson along that journey: There is no reason not to be confident. If you fail, so what? Get back up and try again. Practice until you get it right. Be persistent.

People unfortunately can be mean, jealous, and catty. Let them. Rise above it. March to the beat of your own drum and soon they will follow. Lead the way.

The tv show Game of Thrones had a quote that has stuck in my mind. I think of it often, especially when I’m feeling a little insecure. The quote is: “The Lion doesn't concern himself with the opinions of sheep.”

Be confident. Be the lion.

What sparks your creativity? I’d love to learn from you.


Emily VanderBeek is a digital advertising professional living & playing in Chicago. She is the blogger behind Isn't That Charming, a lifestyle blog focused on the fashions, DIY projects & inspirations that charm her socks off.

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20 Responses

  1. Lexi

    “The Lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinions of sheep.” actually. It’s a Tywin Lannister quote. Doesn’t sound like something a Stark would say.

    Hate to be a stickler like that, just a huge ASOIAF/Game of Thrones fan.

  2. Emily VanderBeek

    Thanks for the heads up, Lexi! Appreciate your help. We’ve made the update to the quote.

    • Lexi

      No problem! Game of Thrones has so many characters and symbols it’s easy to get them jumbled, haha.

  3. nicole

    I needed this today! I tend to embrace alone time a little too much and really do have a hard time saying yes to most things. “It’s only when you allow yourself to step outside that you really begin to think outside the box.” …how are you supposed to be creative if you say no all the time?

    Here’s me saying yes to being a yes girl.

  4. Amy

    Great post! The Curious factor I think is one of the most beneficial to creativity. Any time I feel stuck or uninspired, I look up random things – Like yesterday, I looked up “Emo”, initially as a music genre that I saw listed on Spotify and felt utterly OLD not knowing what it was, but realized the term refers to a style and teen movement as well. I always feel better exploring new things, letting my brain cells make some new connections, as unexpected (and good) things usually follow. Thanks for the inspiration of my day. 🙂

  5. Barbara

    Oh gosh, the saying yes part is the part that will be the hardest for me. I love alone time too much for my own good.
    Thanks for these tips to igniting my spark Emily. I really could use these going into 2013.
    Lagos, Nigeria

  6. Bree

    Great tips. I definitely think embracing alone time can allow for a lot of creative time. Espcially when you explore alone. When I am out and about exploring the city by myself I find that I am much more aware of my surroundings and pick up a lot more inspiration.

  7. Nasreen

    I absolutely love this post. I’m so sick of people thinking is something so innate that it’s only within certain people. We’re all creative as you’ve said, some of us just pursue it, others don’t let it reach their potential.

    There’s a brilliant TED TALK on this actually 🙂


  8. Lipstick and a White Tee

    “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”. LOVE that!

  9. Jenn

    Great reminders for stepping outside of your comfort zone, looking inward, and getting the most from life!
    xo Jenn

  10. Lauren

    I need to save this article for days when I’m feeling burned out and uninspired. For me, journeying outside of my comfort zone is often when I learn the most!

  11. Kristen

    LOVE this. Well said and couldn’t agree more. I used to commute some days two hours to school and alone in my car is when I was able to formulate ideas in my mind. People never understood how I could handle the drive, but I really learned to enjoy the ALONE time and what it did for me.

  12. Elizabeth // The Now

    Love the lion quote, Emily. You’ve given some great advice here!!! xoxo

  13. Laura Mossop

    Hi Emily, Great article!! I agree with every point you made ( although it took me a while to learn them…still learning the ‘me time’ point ! )

    The Game of Thrones quote really does help put things into the right perspective, another one i like to think of is ‘ You can do anything but not everything’ on days when i feel like I haven’t achieved everything i wanted to…Mostly due to the fact i tried to do everything all at once!

    I think sometimes when you have so many wonderful ideas and paths to take, you end up not knowing which to follow first. The ‘Me time’ really helps to sort through the thoughts and follow the ones that really resonate with you and lead to where you want to go. 🙂

  14. christine | The Plumed Nest

    this is absolutely fantastic! i had been an “idea” person for so long but was always much to insecure to think any of them were good (or i would find someone else had the same idea and made it happen!). then i found myself in a place of needing to make an idea work and didn’t worry about it being accepted or not. i just knew it was more important to try, so i forged ahead; that idea is now my work and keeps me busy. now that’s my biggest advice to people “just trrrry it”, you never know! wonderful advice and article!

  15. Kristy

    I love EVERYTHING about this article! Even tho I consider myself as someone who is well tapped into her creative side (quite possibly insanely so, at times- just ask my hubs) I find myself listening to the sheep. Thank you for such a GREAT article and giving me a new mantra to have swirl around this chaotic mind of mine…. and for sharing YOUR talent with us! (girl, you gots a way with words!!) 😉

  16. Raquel

    Loved it! And actually, I really relate to what you said Emily! I guess I’m doing something right! It’s good to know. 🙂

  17. Karina De Jesus

    wow, Emily, this is such a great article!!!! I’ve definitely thought about these things and tried to execute them, but a fresh reminder like this is always deeply appreciated! Reminds me of something I read and wrote about a while ago – Michelangelo thought he was useless after his work had taken him to long, but we all know that was not true. It’s good to remember if even he felt that way, it’s ok for us to feel that way as well, but just keep going.
    Anyway, thank you so much!!! I could really relate to this article.

  18. Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie

    I love to be inspired by things around me – From the view on my walk home to the art in an exhibit I visit to the book that I’m reading before bed. Letting the people & things around you spark your creativity can be a great habbit to learn!