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Encouraging creativity by being non-judgmental

There are many steps towards being creative, and the first one is the most important, trying.

When I started teaching at The Art Institute of Phoenix, back in the late 90s, one of the classes that I did was an introductory class called *Concept Development*. It was essentially an introduction to the creative life. And for many people who had felt that they didn't *fit in* anywhere, it was a revelation. And mostly my job was to discourage people from stopping their own creativity, and the creativity of the people around them. So, if you are a creative person, or know someone that is a creative person, start with being non- judgmental. It is very difficult to do.

And no, I'm not talking about the phony encouragement where everybody gets a prize just for showing up. Being non-judgmental is much deeper than that. The exercise that I would have the class do would be to get together in a group and say nothing that was a criticism, or an evaluation, or, well, a judgement.

The *cheerleaders* in the group had the hardest time. They needed to not say, *hey, that's good*, or *what a great drawing!* Whether positive or negative, a judgment is a judgment. It was actually surprising to see well-meaning people whose constant evaluation was in fact discouraging people from trying, or even speaking up. The trick was to get these people to shut up, without actually telling them to.

Once the harsh environment of judgment was gone, the creative people started trying. They started speaking up. They started doing. And that's where it all begins. It was actually quite magical to see.