—by Cheryl Leung, Golden Apple Fellow—


To conceptualize, to consider, to make order of things is to be creative. To think, say, and do is very personal and this “creating” becomes an expression of ourselves. Expression is telling.  It reveals our self as who we are in our society. Our identity, our essence is exactly why this part of our self must be nurtured with care … Why we must all better understand creativity and to proceed with caution.

We might be a little shortsighted about the sophistication of our brain. Scientists and doctors, like most professionals in their field, have an intricate understanding of how the brain works. For us, we use this part of our body without any regard for just how sophisticated it is.  Before telescopes, satellites, science, and mathematics, the heavens held beauty but were full of mystery. Similarly, the expanse of our mind and the anatomy of our brain can be full of mystery. The neurotransmitters in our brain transport ideas and thoughts. These thought images, when revealed by science, are as beautiful as they are valuable. Our mind is as powerful as a computer, as vast as our universe, and as significant as nanotechnology.

In our world today.

As we grow, so does our perspective, our personal map to understand our world, our opinions; with each day we evolve.  However, living in this “information age” we can become too reliant on ideas and facts and the many options from which to choose. Amidst this overload of information, creativity can be stifled. We live in a sea of choices. Choice is safe, but to create is to enhance ourselves and our world.  Perhaps, consider change. Let yourself evolve. Creativity is at our core.

Art is everywhere.

To be creative is literally in our DNA. Even our DNA is an artful structure. Amazingly, the testing of DNA reveals design sequences printed onto a page, unique to each person. Likewise, code for electronic expression and internet application explodes with patterns – full of zeros and ones. Mathematical configuration becomes art, a visual where the right brain compliments the left. Fractals offer the most vivid example but so do concepts like symmetry and balance. Mathematical “order” illustrates beautiful visuals.

Design is literally everywhere, in nature, in the real and the imagined.

Watch the children and learn. 

For children, creation is a part of each day.  And let us not forget the creative nature of play …. the importance of recess in elementary schools and; beyond grade school, the importance of lifelong physical exercise. For children, self-awareness and learned behaviors are enhanced by both praise and criticism.

If you are a parent or teacher; foster imagination and artful experiences rather than offering ready advice or direction. Even though well-intentioned, we can do more harm than good when we correct. A young child shows a drawing and mom looks with horror as her little one announces, “This is you mommy!”.  Little ones create (in their minds) as they make the marks on paper. No worries, they are simply expressing their world as they see it. For little ones, “art” is in the expression, the doing, not the product. Wait and watch for the time when the child “asks” for critique. Proceed with caution, ensuring they are the art makers, not us. We all value compliments so give them freely and compliment courage.

So what can you do?

Allow yourself to begin again, to become more, to have fun with new materials, to exercise your mind by trying new things. Consciously look closely at the design around you, marvel at the simple and absorb the beauty. Nurture your creative expression, help your young-self learn and grow into healthy artistic expression. You can try being creative while exploring nature, during a hike, or a neighborhood walk by simply opening your mind and being present to surrounding beauty.  Notice the design amid the landscape. What might you capture if you drew what you see?  Notice the lines, the angles, the shapes, the curves, colors, and shadows.

Look through a different lens.

In adulthood, we tend to compare our beginning artwork with the highly sophisticated design with which we are bombarded.  While teaching high school, I worked with students who were very vulnerable to criticism, ready to flip off their creative button. Who likes rejection anyway?  I introduced this idea of design sophistication citing the Superbowl. Analytically, the advertisements and commercials are filled with the most advanced and sophisticated design known to our visual experience. It is precisely why we are ashamed of our beginning creative expression as adults. I pointed out that we are very sophisticated in terms of design. My teenagers sat a little higher in their chairs when they realized they were truly sophisticated. It gave them power to combat their inner struggles. We know what we like, what level of design we surround ourselves with, our “taste” in design, clothing and fashion, even motion pictures, it’s all artwork …. it goes on and on.  We are surrounded by design so when we begin to create, we have a culture clash on our hands. Design is everywhere: video games, television, even our news stations display graphics and design; not to mention billboards, greeting cards, wrapping paper, and food labels. It is important to understand this clash so that one can nurture and accept a beginner level of artistic expression in an adult world.

Develop your creativity.   

Foster your well-being by looking inward for creative ideas. This journey begins with abstract thinking and learning about elements of design such as movement, color, variety of line, and shape.  Utilize music, poetry, or nature as a muse, a jumping off place to get you feeling harmonious. In this pursuit remember that “balance” is key, look it up to understand its meaning.  Consider drawing with blind contour, draw your hand without raising your pencil from the paper and look only at your hand…not your drawing. When complete, notice the detail, not the accuracy …. look at the craft of your lines, shape,s and curves. Tech savvy folks can find numerous sources of online videos (youtube) capturing ways to create. Look up pop-art and op-art, search for art elements, drawing tutorials, and painting tutorials.  Inspiration is at our fingertips in this information age and available via the internet …. go ahead and use that inspiration to inspire yourself.  Have fun.  Foster and strengthen your confidence, your pride and accomplishment. Use creativity to become more, whether it is through music, song, acting, dance, or visual art. Use that phone of yours to capture the world around you in photos….be creative.

You do not have to be an “artist” to be creative. 

But you do have to be observant. Many occupations utilize creativity. Plumbers use creativity to solve water issues. Carpenters use skills to better fasten materials. Scientists use creativity to understand the nature of patterns. Teachers and parents use creativity to differentiate learning experiences.

Creatively create your creativity.

Remember, a beginning guitarist cannot compete at the same level as a seasoned musician. A professional quarterback knows how to spiral a football … have you witnessed a child throw a football?  So, in turn, your creativity must be nurtured, maturing with hours of practice and gentle forgiveness. Be a good coach for yourself, be a better cheerleader, be patient. With the practice of creativity, as a human being you become more. Test the water, take a dive into the realm of your own imagination and creative expression. Who knows, others may even “choose” your art, if you put it out there!