"I don't know what to draw," Sarah moaned. She was in art class, and her teacher had handed out crayons and long rolls of paper. The teacher asked the class to draw "whatever you want." Almost everyone else had started work right away. But Sarah just couldn't come up with a subject. "I can't draw, anyway," she muttered to herself.

"Tell me what to draw a picture of, please," Sarah begged. "I can't think of anything at all. I'm not creative."

Sarah's art teacher came and sat down beside her. "Everyone is creative," she told Sarah. "Some people just have a hard time getting started."

Your creativity is your ability to invent things. Some people are creative cooks. Instead of following recipes, they read cookbooks for ideas. Then they invent their own delicious meals. Other people have creative imaginations. They are great at making up stories or inventing games. They can amuse themselves for hours without turning on the TV or reading a book.

Other people are creative with their hands. They can turn a paper bag into a puppet, or transform a lump of clay into a beautiful horse. It takes creativity to be a scientist, and discover new things about the world. Doctors are creative when they figure out new ways to treat diseases.

There are hundreds of ways to be creative. Can you think of more examples?

When people are young, their creativity is strong, but it needs encouragement. Some famous people remember that their families helped them be creative.

Alice Walker, the author of a book called "The Color Purple," grew up in a very poor Georgia family, but her mother gave her a typewriter and a little typewriter table so she could write stories.

Frank Lloyd Wright, the well-known architect, got a set of special blocks when he was 9. Using the blocks gave Wright many ideas about architecture. He used the ideas when he grew up and began designing real houses and buildings.

Jim Hensen, creator of the Muppets, made his first puppet out of his mom's green spring coat. She had given him the coat to make something with. His imagination and creativity did the rest.

Other creative people ran into trouble when they were children. Their teachers had a hard time understanding them. The writer and artist Theodore Geisel, who grew up to be Dr. Seuss, didn't do well in art class. In fact, one of his high school teachers told him he would never learn to draw and might as well drop out of her class. But he stuck to his work, as his many books from "The Cat in the Hat" to "Green Eggs and Ham" prove.

Charles Schulz, creator of the comic strip Peanuts, couldn't get his drawings accepted by his high-school yearbook. Charles Schulz and Dr. Seuss must have gotten support and praise from their families and friends instead.

"People who stay creative into adulthood often seem to be those children whose ideas were respected, appreciated and encouraged by adults," says Edie Pistolesi, an art teacher who specializes in encouraging children's creativity. Recently, she has been working with Crayola, the company that makes Crayons, to come up with a drawing contest for kids up to age 12 all over the United States and Canada. The subject of the contest is "Create Your Vision of the Future." Your parents can enter your original artwork in the contest. (See "Tips for Parents" below.)

But what about poor Sarah? Has she thought of something to draw yet? She did! She got some help, but she did the drawing and coloring herself. Here's what Sarah did. You might want to try it, too.

Sarah rolled the wide paper out on the floor. Then she stretched out on the paper and had a friend draw an outline of her body with a black crayon. Sarah spent the rest of art class filling in the outline with details of her own face and clothing and drew a picture of her cat down by her feet. Creating the self-portrait was a lot of fun. When the bell rang, Sarah couldn't believe art class had gone by so fast. Tips for Parents

The Crayola National Coloring Contest will award two $50,000 college scholarships, one for a child under 7, one for a child between 7 and 12. Parents or guardians can submit children's original artwork on the theme "Create your vision of the future." The artwork must be accompanied by an official entry form. For details on how to enter and an official entry form, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Crayola National Coloring Contest, P.O. Box 431, Dept. CNCC, Easton, Pa. 18044-0431. The contest ends Oct. 15. Catherine O'Neill is a free-lance writer in Baltimore.