Creativity is not a special talent, reserved for creators or artistic geniuses. Everybody can be creative. In fact, if you don’t have outlets for creative expression in your life, you’re not living up to your full potential, whether it’s in your professional or personal life.
Creative expression is ultimately about showing up as your true self, rather than who you think you’re supposed to be. It means you embrace yourself more fully, and live a more authentic version of yourself, to share more generously the unique gift that only you have to offer.
What are some examples of creative expression?
There are many ways to express yourself creatively. It doesn’t have to be creative arts. I can be anything. Humans are essentially creative beings, and if you don’t have a way to live out your creative parts, you’re neglecting a core part of who you are.
Painting & drawing
Whether it’s drawing the Mona Lisa or coloring a page in a coloring book—as long as you put your own colors in there, it’s a form of creative expression. Try different kinds of colors: watercolors, markers, crayons, colored pencils, acrylic colors, and so on.
Sketch in a notebook, write on walls, draw on your iPad using an app like Procreate or Sketch. It doesn’t matter how good it will look—just practice visual play. Enjoy the process. That’s the only thing that matters.
Music moves us in a way few other art forms do. It’s almost like a universal language. We hear music, and whether we like it or not, our system responds to it. We feel the beat, we might get carried away by the melody, enchanted by the lyrics.
Whether you want to try singing, composing, making your own music on a laptop, playing a traditional instrument—people of all ages can enjoy music.
I love learning about the creative process of artists, and a great example of an artist who really went to an emotional place he’d rather avoid, and then fully expressed that is Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons when he created the song Cutthroat.
Dance & movement
We’re born to move. But the modern lives we live contain less movement than ever before in human history. We spend so much time sitting in front of screens. Bring more physical activity into your life. Whether it’s dance, or tai chi, or qi gong, or tennis, or swimming, running—try out different things.
I never danced as a kid. I don’t know why. I always felt awkward and ashamed, was always overly self-conscious of the way I danced. When I finally experienced the joy of dancing, it brought me into an almost ecstatic state—that’s the power of creative expression. It can enrich your life in tremendous ways.
Write poems. Write stories. Write scenes. Don’t think you can’t do it. You don’t need to come up with an entire story, beginning, middle, and end. You can just write a piece of dialogue. File it away somewhere. See where it takes you. Some bits will unfold and lead you to unexpected places. Some bits will never germinate. That’s fine. Just do it for the sake of getting that engine running.
You can simply scribble down a few lines on a piece of paper. Try things out.
Photography & design
You carry a powerful camera in your pocket. Try taking pictures from new angles. Play with the filters, the exposure time, try different apps to edit the images. Take shitty pictures. Experiment with it. It’s fine.
This is a photo I took of a sheet of perforated metal on a day when something special happened to me, right at that place.
Is it a great picture? Heck no. But is it less creative than some pieces of modern art you’ve probably seen in public places? Nope. Just play with ideas, experiment, try new things. As long as it means something to you, and you enjoy the process of working on it, that’s fine.
Play around with any kinds of visual arts. Use Canva or Instagram or Photoshop, or AI text to image tools to create something. I’m not a designer, and I have no sensibilities when it comes to visual arts. But that’s exactly why I started playing around with different design apps.
The more you play with things, the more you figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s fine if your attempts look completely dilettantish. There’s no law in the world that prohibits you from doing things you’re not great at—otherwise, nobody would ever be great at anything. Because in order to get good at something, you first need to be bad at it.
Whether it’s decorating a journal, putting together a collage from drawings and cut out photos from magazines, pieces of colorful string, glued together straws, scraps of fabric, anything goes. In fact, the more grown up you are, the more you might want to experiment with those childish versions of creative experimentation. Kids have the ability to look at everything through the lens of creativity, and turn it into a something else.
Whether you’re making sculptures from clay, marble, metal, recycled materials, papier-mâché or play dough—it all counts. From Michelangelo’s David to a 4-year-old’s Lego monster, all of this is a result of a creative process.
Journaling is a wonderful form of creative expression. Write down what happened today, or write down your most memorable moment of the day. Write down one emotion you felt today and describe it in detail. Try bullet journaling, gratitude journaling, visual journaling, reflecting journaling, or simply stream of consciousness journaling.
Any art you perform in front of an audience is a performing art. Typically people think of theatre or drama, or singing or playing music in front of an audience, but it can also be something as simple as showing a magic trick, public speaking, or even just telling a joke to your friends.
Believe it or not, but even social media can be a creative outlet. It’s not just artistic disciplines that can serve as playgrounds for your creativity.
These are just some of the creative activities you can engage in. Ultimately, what matters is that you find some activity that enables you to express yourself creatively.
What is creative expression?
What are the benefits of creative expression?
There are many benefits to expressing yourself more creatively, but ultimately it boils down to one thing: more personal freedom to be your true self.
Are you often concerned about how you are being perceived by others? Free yourself of these restricting concerns.
Part of our process of socialization is that we learned to fit in. Creative expression is about not making yourself smaller to fit in—it’s about embracing yourself the way you are, and confidently living out your true version of yourself.
Dealing with challenging thoughts and feelings
We all have thoughts and feelings that are hard to articulate. Maybe because they’re not that clear and obvious, they seem somewhat blurry. We might not have the exact words to describe them. Or maybe it’s a feeling that’s so difficult to deal with, so overwhelming, that talking about it seems daunting. Through creative expression, you can find ways to share these thoughts and feelings with the world, or even just gain more clarity about them for yourself, which ultimately will contribute to your sense of psychological wellness.
The more freely you’re able to express yourself creatively, the more successful you become—even if you’re not working in a creative field. When you’re participating in a meeting, you’ll be able to contribute more impactful ideas, and you’ll be more confident and feel more comfortable taking part in the conversation.
Expressing yourself creatively also can foster positive mental health, by connecting you with your own source of healing, the inner voice that speaks not in words.
Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel, MD, MPH reviewed the scientific literature on the connection between art and health, and found that creative expression can improve psychological and physiological well-being.
Feeling more empowered
It can help you develop your creative thinking skills, which can benefit you in many areas of life. Even if in your work-life there’s no need to come up with creative ideas, you will find that creativity can be immensely beneficial in your personal life too. You’ll be able to view things from different perspectives more easily, and come up with alternative ways of thinking and behaving.
A new source of joy and playfulness
Artistic expression can also help you rediscover a sense of playfulness that many of us had as young children, but lost as we grew up.
Be more present and mindful
Through the creative engagement, you’ll be able to improve mindfulness and live in the present moment, rather than be stuck in the past or worry about the future—at least for those few fleeting moments where you’re in a creative flow state, where you’re so absorbed by the creative activity that everything else around you disappears for a while from your mind.
Helps you get in touch with yourself
And most of all: you’ll get to know yourself better. By being creative and playful, you let down some of the walls that your everyday persona has built up.
Creative expression for kids
This article is written for adults, but there’s a lot of research about the benefits of creative expression for kids.
Susan Griffith from the Case Western Reserve University found that playing creatively in early grades can help kids develop their problem-solving skills.
“Good early play skills predicted the ability to be creative and generate alternative solutions to everyday problems and a higher quality of solutions.” — Sandra Russ, professor and chair of CWRU’s Department of Psychology.
How can you make time for creative expression?
Even if you have a very busy life, you can carve out a bit of extra time for some form of creative expression. This doesn’t mean that you have to quit your job, move to Paris, and become a full-time artist. It’s not either or. You make time for what matters.
Think you’re not creative?
First, let’s make a distinction here: creative expression is not related to artistic ability. Forget about how good (or bad) whatever you create is.
Obviously I don’t know you, but I’d be surprised if there’s no part in you that’s creative. Many people say one of these things:
- I can’t draw.
- I can’t paint.
- I don’t have a sense of imagination.
- I can’t make up stories.
- I can’t write a poem.
- I can’t make a sculpture.
- I can’t sing.
- I can’t dance.
- I can’t play an instrument.
- I can’t write a song.
- I can’t act.
That’s all related to artistic ability. You can express yourself creatively even if you really suck at all of these things. You don’t have to think of yourself as an artist, and whatever outlet for your creative self-expression you use, it doesn’t have to even look like art. Creativity also involves taking risks, trying out things, experimenting—and that means you’ll do things that don’t work out. That too is part of it—if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not being creative. Allow yourself to commit mistakes. Seek out mistakes. Try to make the best mistakes you can. You dance, and stumble, and make the stumbling part of your dance.
The only thing that matters in this regard is: Does this
I do believe that creativity is our true nature though, which I read wonderfully expressed in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. We all have an innate desire to build a bridge between our inner selves and the world, and free creative expression is the purest form of doing so.
The truth is that we can all benefit from expressing ourselves creatively, no matter what our age, gender, professional, or socioeconomic background is.
Don’t just live. Flourish!
We’re all born unique. Through the course of our lives, we get pulled into two opposing directions: merging into society, and being our true selves.
It’s easier if you fit into the mold that society offers you. At least in the beginning. But it comes at the high cost of eventually losing yourself.
On the other hand, standing out, and living life on your own terms, is more challenging. The cost is higher, but you’ll live a life that’s truly yours. I hope this article made you aware of the importance of creative expression, and gave you some practical ideas on how to implement more of it into your own life.
Any questions or comments? Drop them in the comments below, I’d love to hear about your ideas and struggles incorporating creativity into your own life.