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Would you call yourself creative?

Probably not, or at least you would say that you might be with reservation.But the opposite is true. All people are creative. They just don't recognize their own ability or have stifled it and are afraid, for fear of failure or ridicule, to show the creativity they possess.

Criticism of the education system has pointed out that children are very creative in kindergarten and the early grades but lose their creative abilities as teachers and the system require pat answers.

Young children are apt to draw and paint in designs and colors that demonstrate imagination and fantasy. Later, they may choose to draw and paint as they believe they are expected, staying within the lines of a new coloring book and picking colors that are the standard.

Every child loves fairy tales, but he or she soon learns they are not the stories grownups read.

But good teachers have always stretched the imagination of their students by asking questions like "what if." Then young minds awaken to a thousand possibilities. What if we no longer had fire? What would the world be like? What if the oceans dried up?

If you are a homemaker, you are creative, but you may be using only a minuscule amount of your creative abilities. When you tried a recipe the other day, did you deviate from the amounts or the directions? What happened? When you cleaned your house, did you rearrange the furniture? When you made a flower arrangement did you follow the pattern suggested in a book? Or did you make it pleasing to your eye?

If you are in a business, where do you get ideas for improvement? Do you resist change because it has always been done the same way, or do you constantly seek to find shortcuts, avoid conformity and group thinking?

You can sharpen your creative ability.

- Take a risk, not just now and then, but on a regular basis. Tackle problems. Invest in new ideas.

- Be innovative. Don't worry about making mistakes. You can always learn from them. A mistake is a signpost telling you to change directions.

- Be glad you don't like the status quo, that you get bored with the routine and the ordinary. Think of something you want to try. Get off the beaten path. Explore new opportunities. Arrange and rearrange.

Someone once said there is nothing new under the sun, only new ways of doing it. Sometimes you can combine two or more old ideas and come up with something new and fresh.

- Don't look for the only answer. Look at other answers, sometimes second best answers. Don't categorize everything into right and wrong. Look at lots of maybes.

- Think of inventors who tried and tried and tried and never thought about giving up. Look for insignificant details. Don't worry about being called eccentric or foolish. Think of these past heroes who plodded on until their fantasy came to life.

- Keep your sense of humor. Laughter relaxes and pushes the mundane aside. And creativity is sharpest when you are rested and the mind is at ease.