Every year for the last ten years, I’ve helped six young people begin the process of writing a 7-10 minute speech they’ll deliver to an audience of 3000 people. In their organization, it’s called a “Retiring Address.” The goal is to deliver a message so impactful, a standing ovation is given and people are talking about it for months after the fact. Expectations from both the speaker and audience are high. After having worked on nearly 60 of these speeches, I’ve noticed a pattern regarding the creativity of people. Usually around the halfway point of the multi-day training, one of the attendees will say “I can’t think of anything to say, I’m just not creative.”
I would try encourage them, but for some I would silently agree… they weren’t creative. What I didn’t realize is that people are neither creative or uncreative by nature. If you don’t believe me, go volunteer in your local kindergarten classroom. Ask them to draw you a cow. You’ll receive 30 renditions of a cow you could have never imagined yourself.
So how do we find our creativity? How do we become creative?
When my speech writers hit a mental block and feel ready to resign their speech to the mundane, I ask them to do a few, key things.
Give yourself permission to create
When I tell them to give themselves permission to create, I don’t say “create something good.” I simply say create. This will inevitably include creating junk. It is a very rare occasion that a first, second, or even third draft will produce anything worthwhile.
Turn in your trash
Whatever you’ve produced, whether you like it or not, give it to someone else to look at. You could have four pages of hot garbage, but there may be one sentence in those four pages worth keeping and now we’ve got one sentence of gold.
Keep showing up
Creativity isn’t a switch than can be turned on with the right lighting and your favorite flavor of La Croix. The reality is, creativity is curated through consistency. Keep showing up and the creativity will come.
If you want to be a creative person, but you feel like you just don’t have it, just remember, you don’t have it yet. Give yourself permission, turn in your trash, and keep showing up.
Change your daily routine to create space for creativity. Nothing kills creativity like the mundane. Skip breakfast, take a cold shower, put your socks on first.
When was the last time you shared something you created, even though you knew it wasn’t a final draft?
”Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while working.” - Henri Matisse