Definitions of Creativity

By Kate Riley June 23, 2012

I’m recovering today from the whirlwind of last two days, feeling so amazed by all the talent on display and impressed with the hundreds of creative people present at the same conference, sharing their knowledge and skills with one another.

I’ve been thinking about creativity a lot, what it means, how to channel it, where it comes from, and how to use those inspired ideas to turn them into something satisfying and tangible.  Children are great examples of creativity in action.  Their minds are free to make up worlds and crafts and ideas and art with their wild imaginations and most express themselves creatively without reservation.

But then something happens as we grow.  We start to care what others will think and then we squelch our creativity deep down out of fear.  I think that’s where the common phrase “I’m not creative” comes from, our adult shell refusing to let our childlike inspiration run free.  I believe we’re all born creative, and as adults, we need to consciously tap into those ideas, those feelings, those moments, and take action to express them, whether it’s writing or photography or art or design or whatever subject it is that brings forth those unique ideas.

On this topic, I asked a few ladies who express their own creativity with great confidence and finesse to share their personal definitions.  I hope you enjoy their responses as much as I do.

“Creativity often happens for me when I’m out and about in Mother Nature (even if it’s only the Urban Jungle).  It’s combinations of color especially blow me away, like the trees in a forest whose perfect shadings of multiple greens and browns inspired my living room walls and trim.”  – Elaine Griffin, Interior Designer

elaine griffin family room


“The thing about creativity is that it works best with three ingredients that most of us try to avoid. The first is margin, you know like white space. I do my best creative work when I give myself permission to mess around with no expectations if I know I need to be done in 15 minutes my creativity is squelched. Creativity takes unscheduled time.

The other ingredients? Risk and limitations. If you don’t take a risk then you aren’t really being creative are you? And those pesky limitations? Those are the parameters where the creativity happens. My most creative days last year were when I worked ahead of time and decorated for my sister’s book release party. I limited myself to decorating with only book pages and then I had time to take big risks knowing if something didn’t work out, I could make something else.”  – Nester from Nesting Place

nesting place creativity



“You know you are in that creative zone when you realize that you haven’t eaten in 10 hours, your shoes are untied and you are about to literally pee your pants but you can’t seem to pull yourself away from that amazing booth at the flea market that is selling that one thing that you need.  True story.  It’s almost debilitating at times – that zone can be dangerously fun.

Creativity is all about instincts – you see something amazing/unique/one of a kind and your stomach lurches and panic sets in because there is a chance that before you have time to ask the vendor how much it is, someone else might see and and buy it.  It’s truly a hoarders fear, but its one that designers have, too.  The second you see that perfect thing the room that’s it’s going to be in flashes before your eyes – its like it all comes together and this was the key – without this piece the room is fine, but with the piece this room could be in a magazine.  It’s not just about good shopping, its all about imagination.”  – Emily Henderson, Stylist and Designer

style by emily henderson



“Creativity is where my personality lands.  It is within each of us to create and we just have to find the right medium that inspires us.  For me, it’s design.”  – Marian of Miss Mustard Seed

miss mustard seed



“Creativity is when the visual images that enter my brain mix together and the synapses spark and in my mind I have a vision.  Once it’s stuck there I have to take steps towards creating.  The key is to listen to that voice and those visions and respect that it’s not silly, it’s real and that idea is valid and valuable.  I believe most people have that capability, but some don’t know how to act on it (yet).”  – Diane at In My Own Style


in my own style creativity



For me, creativity often comes unexpectedly, when I’m surprised by a new discovery when I’m out and about or reading something or hearing something that peaks my interest and if I hadn’t been present in that moment, the idea never would have occurred.  It strikes when there are no distractions, with a peaceful or even quiet state of mind – when there are no pressures to perform and I’m open to inspiration from unexpected sources.

  centsational girl creativity


Creativity is achieved when a person pairs a passion in their heart with the knowledge in their brain, and a chosen medium, and then gives themselves permission to make something with that idea, accepting that the result could be a failure or a success.  Often creativity requires going against the established rules of thought and pushing forth beyond what we’re “supposed” to do so that we can create something new and fresh.  It’s rethinking, reinventing, rewiring, reworking or simply adding your own spin to an existing idea.  It’s giving yourself permission to be different, to see the things that others don’t see, and pursue those ideas with passion.

What is your definition of Creativity?




  1. Hi there, I was at Haven too…and as I am reading your blog I am feeling on one hand inspired and the other disappointed that I did not have a face to face with you…I wholeheartedly meant to…you have mentioned me on your blog and have been supportive of my endeavors…and I wanted to thank you…in person…but you and I both know that in person was a bit over whelming!! Faces I felt I knew but “from where”….so much to take in…anyway…you are lovely, and so beautifully articulate at describing a rather indescribably experience. Thanks again…..Lesli xoxoxo

  2. I, too, was at Haven and came away inspired, too. I love the definitions above – I agree with Emily Henderson that it’s a feeling in your gut, an instinct, and also that creativity is a vision. I can see in my head what I want to create and that vision truly reflects my personality and style. Then I just have to get to work! Thank you for such a great blog – I love it.

  3. I love this post Kate. I agree that we are all creative. I think a persons creativity is like a muscle. The more you exercise it the stronger the muscle gets and the easy it becomes to create. My advise to people who want to be creative is to start small and don’t give up and above all have fun and enjoy the experience.

  4. My son’s guitar teacher said something this week that struck a chord with me. I loved it so much that I pulled out my phone and made note of it…”Being creative…it’s when you get to make up the rules!”

  5. Such a great post. Your comment about the “adult shell refusing to let our childlike inspiration run free” really hit me hard. I’ve struggled with this for several years. And now, with so much inspiration coming from bloggers and the rest of the internet, my husband rarely lets me do anything different in the house. I should heed Nester’s advice and use those limitations to still be creative. Thanks so much.

  6. I love that red dresser, the style is so unusual. I also love that white trunk/coffee table.


  7. It was so wonderful to meet you at Haven, Kate! You’re just as beautiful & cheery as I expected! Hope you’re able to rest some this weekend!

    Heidi Rew (from Parties for Pennies)

  8. Hi Kate,

    I love your blog…from top to bottom and side to side. I totally understand the creative spark can
    be an elusive creature. One thing looks great and another makes you stand back and say, Good Gracious, that is awful and i’d better hide it before someone see’s it. I’ve made beautiful and i’ve made ugly. I use to be really hard on myself about every little thing I did. Then I finally realized that I do this
    sewing, cooking, painting and decorating for me and mine. I’ve even found myself liking the ugly on occasion…and that I can live with. I so enjoy looking at the beauty i’ve found around blogland and it
    has inspired me like crazy. Thanks to all the wonderful beautiful women out there *like yourself* that makes us non-bloggers reach for what we never thought we could achieve.

    Keep all the good stuff coming!
    Jake’s a Girl

  9. I LOVE Emily’s definition! The haven’t eaten in hours and about to pee your pants part! Awesome!

    I used to think I was one of those ‘not creative’ people because I couldn’t draw like my creative friends. It wasn’t until I was an adult and married to a super supportive guy that I began to realise just how creative I really am! I feel so ME when creating beautiful spaces or projects. I don’t know how else to describe it.

    Great quotes, Kate.


    P.S. Already planning so I can actually get to Haven next year!!!

  10. Great post–Thanks for sharing Emily Henderson’s take on creativity…her description of being in the creative zone sure hit a nerve! So good to know that I am not alone!

  11. True creativity is being inspired by any number of things, not just others’ rooms, but by music, art, emotions, nature, dreams, etc. Then, it’s taking that inspiration and creating something unique and original…not just copying others’ designs. The artists and designers who are remembered the most and who stand out of the crowd are the ones that practice originality.

  12. Loved this Kate! So fun to hear how others are inspired. And I too had the exact same thought this past week about creativity and how as children we were so free to create and express our “own” style and somewhere along the way we lost it. My goal is to help my clients tap back into their “inner child” and not be afraid of it-whether it be color, a bold pattern, or an odd/different/unexpected piece of furniture.

    And it was such a pleasure to meet you this past week at Haven and I truly enjoyed the Painting Class -there was so much that I “thought” I knew about painting, but really didnt!

  13. To me creativity in seeing something old and finding new life in it. I was taught this by the handiest man I know — my father. Growing up we lived on pennies, so everything had a 2nd, 3rd of 10th life to it. I remember always wondering why my dad seemed to just have a lot of “stuff” that he said he might use at some point. As an adult, I go to my dad and he seems to have his own personal thrift/antique store ready whenever I come calling. Just got some “vintage” suite cases (ones I used when I was little) that I now use to display my products at craft shows!! Everything comes full circle.

  14. Kate! It was so very nice to meet you at Haven this past week. I have been following you for a while on Pinterest, but haven’t chilled out at Centsational Girl. Apparently, I need to! It is great to connect with you. Congrats on the great conference. I look forward to keeping up with you in blogland.
    This was a great post. I love hearing how others are inspired and how they funnel their creative juices. I especially love what you say about rejecting those “supposed-to” thoughts. So many struggle with that, and it can cause us to decorate for others, instead of decorating with what we truly LOVE!

  15. love this thank you! I believe each of us is created in the image of God the master creator who instills creativity in each of us, thank you for the reminder to cultivate the creative!

  16. I really enjoyed reading this post – am feeling all inspired now! Thank you :-)

    I believe we are all born with an innate desire to create beautiful things – most will forget as they grow older, some of us are driven by that desire.

  17. While I don’t have true “artistry” in my hands, it’s in my mind and I have creativity abound!!! Letting the boundaries go to really create is the best feeling. The process sometimes is as much of an accomplishment as the finished product. Planning and “being in the zone” is such a high. Thanks for this inspiring post.

  18. Wonderful post! I love everyone’s definitions, and had to laugh with recognition at Emily Henderson’s ;) For anyone who feels intimidated about “being creative,” it’s worthwhile to tune in your awareness to the fact that you are actually creating all the time. With every choice about what you wear, what you cook, what you eat, how you interact, what you’re drawn to. When we tune in and notice that, I think we experience a greater depth of joy. And you start to feel more confident. This allows that expression to expand, and pretty soon, you’ll be wow-ing yourself with what you think up!
    <3 Christina
    I Gotta Create!

  19. I love when I get the “ohhhhh yes” moment and then my brain just runs from there. Sometimes my creative side takes some time getting there, but when it does it runs crazy and I have to do something about it. Loved this post. We should all be more creative and just let loose. Be yourself and let it all out. Thanks for always inspiring me!!! :)

  20. I didn’t get to go to Haven, but I love hearing about it. For me, it’s when it all comes together and I know just where I’m going and must create in order to get there. I could really relate to Emily’s definition. I go into a zone for sure. I also agree with the margins. However, I think there are many forms and definitions as creativity can pertain to many lines of work – writing, building, teaching, and so on.

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