Are you good? Do you suck? (creatively speaking, of course)

We all ask ourselves this question with deep yearning and uncertainty. We all want validation, definition, and true objectivity on this subject. And yet…

Can you get an answer to that question? Are you good or do you suck?

  • There’s the marketplace as arbiter, of course, but that’s not definitive. In fact, it’s quite fickle.
  • Your mom certainly has an opinion.
  • People who make money from your creativity have opinions – can their motives be trusted?

Writers in my coaching practice call me because they’re feeling frustration, dread, fear or despair, what many of us might call “Writer’s Block.” Their creativity “isn’t working” and they don’t know why.

They begin to wonder AmIGoodOrDoISuck? And they’re tired of letting that question rule their horizon, even if infrequently.

One of my starting points is to use scientifically-proven assessments with long and deep track records to help them better understand the nature and power of their innate creativity.  Today I’m going to share with you a look at various creativity assessments

  1. What the assessment assesses/tests
  2. Its track record, reliability, pedigree
  3. What it’s like to take these assessments
  4. What you’ll learn
  5. How and why that matters

Why should you care? Are you telling me you’ve never asked yourself:  Am I Good or Do I Suck? If that’s true, you might actually be a DOG or a CAT – who are known to think of themselves unconditionally, as MAGNIFICENT. And if you’re a DOG or a CAT who is reading this – no worries, you really are MAGNIFICENT. For the rest of us, doubt crops up, and weaknesses really do hold us back.

There are tried and true assessments of creativity that can help you quit worrying about if and how you are creative. In fact, armed with the new self-knowledge (and some new tools) you can create and write better than ever.

Why not jump in with both feet, then?

  • Some people are afraid that if they look at their creativity it will go away.
    You know your creativity. It has been there all your life. Do you really think that an assessment of where you’re strong and where you struggle can change that? Does an IQ test change your intelligence?
  • If they ask “science” about “magic” the answers will be “nonsense.”
    I agree that magic can’t be explained, and much of creativity feels like a surprise, even to the creator. Understanding how you create can’t take that away from you.
  • It is human nature to go to great lengths to hide or deny our weaknesses, sometimes, even from ourselves.
    Maybe you don’t need a test to “prove” you “suck.” But what if it simply told you plainly what you’ve always known privately. No judgement, no Armageddon. It’s a small and manageable problem, with the right tools and awareness.

The Assessments

Warning: I fully believe in creative assessment, as long as results are delivered by a certified, trained practitioner. Information about yourself can be empowering – if delivered right – and offensive or disempowering if delivered poorly. I am trained and certified in the Foursight assessment, trained in The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking and VIA.  I offer the Creative Selfie – a combination of those three assessments, that will help you see yourself for who you really are – creatively speaking, and feel empowered to maximize your strengths and mitigate your struggles.


What it Tests – your thinking style, preference. How you think… are you mostly a CLARIFIER? IDEATOR? DEVELOPER? or IMPLEMENTER? These four thinking categories correlate to the Foursight and Deliberate Creativity models of the Creative Process.

  • CLARIFIERS do their homework. They like to ask questions, dig into research, get it right.
  • IDEATORS think big. They are fluent and flexible thinkers who see the big picture and get the big idea.
  • DEVELOPERS wrap their hands around the project, take it from rough to refined, get it perfect.
  • IMPLEMENTERS are energetic and fast-paced. They like to get it done.

Pedigree – Developed by Dr. Gerard Puccio, the chairperson of the Int’l Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College, Foursight has been used by thousands in corporate, school and not-for-profit settings. It has been in use 16 years and has a high degree of scientific validation.

Experience – 36 questions that gauge attitudes and preferences in varying circumstances; Takes about 10 minutes to take. Results are delivered in an easy-to-read chart with accompanying explanation of results.

What you learn – You find out your thinking profile – which of the four types of thinker you are when faced with a creative problem. Test results are far more nuanced than a yes/no for each thinking style and there are many combination styles that might describe you best. My own profile is called an Optimist because it is low on Clarifying and very high in Ideation, and even energy for Development and Implementation. 

How and why that matters – Knowing your creative thinking preference is tantamount to defining where you’re good and where you suck.  It is vitally important to know, with a sure hand, your strengths so you can trust them.  It is equally important to have your blind spots revealed so you can shed light there, or seek help. 

Recap – Foursight helps you understand your thinking preference and areas of the creative process you might avoid or dread. You are validated for creative strengths and enlightened about why you struggle when you do. 

Torrance Test of Creative Thinking

What it tests – Degree of creativity in several thinking skills. I use an abbreviated version of the test in the Creative Selfie and I test for 6 skills:

  1. Fluency – number of ideas
  2. Flexibility – the variation/randomness of the ideas
  3. Originality – statistical rarity of the ideas
  4. Openness – the ability to create without pre-supposed ideas or rules
  5. Elaboration – titling, humor, context
  6. Elegance – beauty, sophistication of the ideas

Pedigree – This test was first published by Scholastic Testing, Inc. in 1962 and is still being administered in grade schools in the Midwest. It is no longer available for individual adults to take, which is why I offer an abbreviated version. 

Experience – This is a timed test, 10 minutes exactly, during which the testee draws ideas based on a simple prompt. It can feel fun, even for people who don’t normally draw at all. (It is not an “art” test.)

What you learn – You can literally see what skills you excel at on a national basis. And by inference, you get a view into other approaches to creativity. 

How and why that matters – Once again, you can see and feel your own creativity so you can wield what you are with confidence, and without apology for what you aren’t.  

Recap – TTCT ranks your creativity among others so you can literally know where you excel creatively. (Maybe even charge more for that kind of creative project.)

VIA Values in Action Inventory of Strengths

What it tests – It ranks what you value – among 24 character traits – like Love, Courage, Humanity, Justice

Pedigree – created by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman, well-known researchers in the field of positive psychology, taken online by more than 400,000 people. Its goal is to give traits of positivity a common language and measure.

Experience – 240 questions ask you to rank a statement about the world on a scale from 1= very much unlike me, to 5= very much like me

What you learn – Your top 5 strengths are typified as your signature strengths – your values. (Your bottom 5 strengths probably bedevil you in everyday life.)

How and why that matters – As writers and artists we direct our own careers and follow our noses into audiences and arenas. That’s when we’re lucky. More often, we do what my mother called “walking through open doors,” i.e. following opportunities. This assessment gives you a new way to consider what audiences and arenas you’ll value, find satisfaction and where you’ll be valued.

Recap – VIA ranks your values among 24 traits so you can have a clearer image of what you value – what you don’t – and find greater satisfaction in your choices of audience and arena. 

Testing Creativity

Should you be tested for your creativity? If there were a test, like the SAT but the CSAT that measured and reported your creativity to potential schools or employers would you see value in that? Many of us might have done better on a CSAT than the regular SAT. But this is not a high pressure situation where your future (and privacy?) are on the line. This is just you and me, learning more about how you create when you’re brilliant and how you sputter out when you’re not, and where in the creative world you might belong.

If you’d like to know EVEN MORE about the Creative Selfie, you can listen to a panel of three clients discussing their experience with it in their Storytellers Summit 2016 interview.