Can creativity be taught?

Is creativity inborn?

Is creativity an inborn trait, only meant for a chosen few?

Not quite – creativity cannot be taught in a classroom context but can be learned, say researchers. What this means is that we cannot acquire creativity by sitting through days of lecture, but we are very well equipped to pick up an interest and learn the stuff that we love, by doing it.

Can creativity be taught?
Can creativity be taught?

The secret to mastering creativity is: learning by doing”. Tweet this

According to psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, scientific director of The Imagination Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, Creativity is not just a right-brained activity as it is popularly believed. Many parts of the brain are involved in the creative process.

4 stages of creativity

As Graham Walls, from his own and others’ research on creative process puts it in his book – The Art of Thought, there are four stages of creation:

Stage 1: Preparation

Ideas need to come from somewhere. But how do we get them? The answer is to pick up an interest or a few of them, perhaps. Learning a lot about our field(s) of interest(s) pays. Then generating ideas, a lot them – the more we generate, the better we are equipped to finalizing a good one.

Stage 2: Incubation

It works wonders when we keep calm for some time and let the ideas roll at the back of our mind. Taking a walk, nap, or even a vacation helps. Letting our mind wander, often leads to more creative ideas. In fact, procrastination is not good for productivity but good for creativity, says Organisational psychologist, Adam Grant.

Stage 3: Illumination

This is the ‘aha’ moment when our thoughts get reinforced and we arrive at that creative idea of our dreams. As Kaufman puts it: “You’re like ‘Oh my God! That’s the idea!”

Stage 4: Verification

Kaufman notes that the idea is not the end of creativity but just a beginning. Critical thinking should follow. We need to have the idea packaged for our audience’s consumption. History has lost a lot of lightbulb moments from many men and women, due to their inability to package it well.

Tips for your creative pursuit

Although creativity can be learned, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Here are some broad tips to fire up our creative spark:

  1. Read, listen, learn – keep you antennas tuned to receive ideas from the cosmos, so you can mix and match them to arrive at your own.

  2. Listen to that little inner voice of yours – Intuition as a skill, develops and refines over years. Learn to listen to your own inner voice that has always been trying to guide you.

  3. Craft your own course – Be your own friend. Believe in yourself. See when and where your brain is at its best to generate ideas. Note the ideas down. Shortlist and test out the ones you strongly believe in, with your target audience.

  4. Persevere – Ideas aren’t worth a dime until we pursue some or at least one of them. Execute on one or some of them. It’s ok to fail at some. Learn from mistakes and move on.

Finally, in the words of Albert Einstein:
I have no special Talents. I am only passionately curious”.  Tweet this

So live a curious life to awaken the creativity in you! What’s your favourite thought or quote on Creativity?



  1. While I think the urge to be creative may be experienced by some more often then others, I see it as something we all naturally have in one capacity or another. I like the fact that you listed out helpful stages, great reminders.

  2. I never really considered myself to be a creative person until recently. I guess I always associated the word with being crafty but certainly that isn’t the case. My creative brain often keeps me awake at night.

  3. amandahrosson

    What an interesting post!! Many people would describe me as creative but I don’t think I am very much since it doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to work very hard to be creative while others just have a natural gift or talent for it. Living in Los Angeles, I’m surrounded by so many immensely creatively talented people and it becomes even more apparent. At the same time, because it doesn’t come naturally to me (like academics), I get a lot more satisfaction when I do create something I’m proud of or do something creatively well over say getting an A on an exam.

  4. Amber

    This is so spot on! I always try to explain how I need down time to “get myself back” and this is exactly what I mean. I don’t feel the creative juices flow without incubation first.

  5. The Everyday Mom Life

    I think creativity comes in many forms. Even if you are more analytical, you have to be creative in some ways. It’s just different than the typical ways we think about creativity.

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