Finding Your Buttercream: How to Unlock the Creativity You Didn’t Know You Had
As a business professional, I don’t always see myself as a “creative” person. Oh, I may be surrounded by creatives and can speak their language and interpret the challenges to be solved, but put me in a room and tell me to “be creative,” and I will usually get anxious and struggle to get the creative juices to flow freely. In creative problem-solving terms, I excel in the clarifying space—exploring, gathering and formulating, but feel less comfortable in the more traditionally creative pursuits.
But one day, as I found myself decorating a fairy-themed birthday cake for my granddaughter, it struck me—THIS is creative. THIS is something I enjoy. So how can THIS help me find my creative power in other parts of my life?
Once I was able to pinpoint a way I felt compelled to express my own creativity, I was able to dissect what exactly made it creative… and in doing so, was able to unlock creativity in other aspects of my life—both personally and professionally.
So, please allow me to share four lessons I learned from cake decorating that I hope will help you open the door to accessing your full creative potential.
1. Find Something You Love
Creativity plays a role in fulfillment, so ask yourself—what are the creative elements to your passion? When it comes to cake decorating, the creative element is self-evident. But I can also look deeper to examine what specifically fuels that love… imagining a concept, collecting the just-right supplies and experimenting and discovering along the way to creating a final vision.
In my professional life, this perfectly complements the clarifying step of creative problem solving. Just as with decorating, in business, I eagerly jump into the weeds in understanding, untangling, and learning. However, it wasn’t until I saw this step through the lens of my creative pursuit of cake decorating that I truly realized that this is indeed an essential part of the creative process—even if at the surface level it would be easy to categorize it in a more strategic or analytic sense. And frankly, simply framing this as a step within the creative process helps to kickstart the momentum of thinking creatively moving forward.
Key Takeaway: Identifying precisely what you love about one of your passions and examining the creative elements that are part of its makeup can empower you to translate that creativity to other areas of your life.
2. Rediscover Your Motivation
WHY do you love this pursuit? What about it “fills your cup?” For me, my love of cake decorating stretches back to my childhood. My mother and I often baked together, so it’s one of the core experiences of my upbringing. While I watched my mother dabble in decorating, it inspired me to explore and expand upon that art form with my own family—baking and decorating for my children, and now grandchildren. It speaks to my love language, which is acts of service, but also fulfills a deeper connection to family, tradition and sharing special moments together.
In other contexts, this might not seem as easy to pinpoint. Where passions outside of work can come from those core personal experiences, professional tasks are often assigned and obligatory… not the typical recipe for emotional motivation! However, consider the motivation behind the personal pursuits you DO enjoy, and imagine how that might translate to this other context.
So, in my example, as I said, I’m motivated by sharing acts of service and bringing people together—so when I’m facing a creative problem-solving challenge in the workplace, I can seek motivation in the same ways. How might my solution deliver delight to my team or my clients—by being so interesting or intuitive or well-put-together? How might my solution unite disparate teams through communicating a unique perspective or bridging the gap as no other solution has done before?
Key Takeaway: Viewing your challenge through the lens of your own motivating factors can provide the fuel to push for something truly special.
3. Develop and Grow
One thing that is sure to set your personal passion apart from the ordinary is your willingness and innate drive to continue developing and growing in regard to that passion. Whether or not it’s a formal outreach for furthering skills or information, the creative pursuits we feel most passionately connected to seem to naturally draw us in… asking us to explore what’s next, what’s more.
For me, I find myself always seeking out the next challenge. For instance, for the fairy-themed cake I recently created for my granddaughter, I could have easily settled for something straightforward, like putting some figurines on a cake. But instead, I was inherently driven to create something magical—to emulate the experience of a fairy wonderland through the eyes of my granddaughter, which led me to explore unique decorations, new techniques and stretching my skills to greater heights.
In the professional world, this looks like not settling for the status quo just because that’s the way things have always been done. Finding creative solutions to your business challenges means learning and exploring to discover the best-possible approach to express your idea.
Key Takeaway: Whether it means following your intuition down rabbit-holes or exploring new models to illustrate your ideas in a succinct and compelling way, allowing yourself the space and freedom to explore, develop and grow is key to unlocking your creative thinking in these contexts.
4. And Finally, Enjoy the Journey
You’ll know you’ve found your creative pursuit when you realize you enjoy the journey—maybe even more so than the destination. For me, it’s the act of baking and decorating that brings me joy. The time spent exploring and investigating, crafting and tinkering, bonding and sharing the experience with loved ones… that’s what makes it enjoyable. Sure, it’s satisfying to see the end result, but the heart of it all lies in the experience itself.
Now professionally, as we all know, the final deliverable matters. That’s what we’re all aiming towards at the end of the day. But that doesn’t mean the journey isn’t also equally as important—as long as you let it be.
Key Takeaway: By reframing your mindset to capture more of what you experience while following your creative pursuit—enjoying the journey, exploring the pathways, dabbling with new solutions—not only will the work feel more fulfilling, but it will also likely make the output something you can feel even prouder of when all is said and done.
I believe that whether you consider yourself a creative or not, there is almost certainly something you do in your life that is creative. After all, creativity is a core feature of the human experience. It may not be painting the next masterpiece, but our ability as humans to think creatively is what makes us, indeed, human.
By considering the core facets of your creative pursuits, I hope that you too can identify that not only are you indeed more creative than you may have ever imagined, but also that your creative passions can fuel creativity… even in the most unexpected places.
Interested in learning more about how to boost your creativity? Check out our article on 5 Ways to Sharpen Your Creative Chops.
Written by Troy Geesaman. Troy is SVP, Strategy at Seed, where, as a natural connector, he brings together ideas and action; learning and context; humanity and leadership.
Edited by Adam Siegel. In addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.