Everyone can become more creative.
This could involve everything from inventing new software, decorating a home, or preparing a unique bean dish.
But did you know that your creativity can be nurtured and enhanced? Here’ how.
Test your creativity
How many ways can you use a brick? You have twenty seconds to come up with the answer. Go.
Now reflect on what you have just done. Did you come up with 2 ways? Five ways? It doesn’t really matter because, and this may surprise you (!), this type of task is guaranteed to crush creativity. Why? Because it is the antithesis of what creative people do. Let’s see why.
What Creative People Do
The above exercise violated two of the four principles for creative production: I asked you to give a list but there was no overarching problem to solve (e.g., how can you use bricks to solve a particular problem). I then asked you to make a decision.
Here is what happens when you are being creative. Each step is a pointer to what you can do to become more creative.
- Solve a problem.
When a person is being creative, whether they know it or not, they are attempting to solve a problem. They are working on questions like “How can we find a solution for the water shortage in our community?” This presents an invitation for the creative journey to begin. It cues the mind to start connecting disparate pieces of information and looking for patterns of thought.
All of us have inchoate burning questions about problems that we care about deeply. They point to a path never traveled. But the creativity does not begin until the problem is felt.
Question: What problem do you feel passionate about?
- Defer making a decision
In the initial stages of a creative process the last thing a person needs is some externally imposed deadline. Of course we all have deadlines from editors, bosses, and other stakeholders in life. But true creativity happens when the mind can operate without such constraints. We all know about writer’s block, stage fright, fear of failure, and mind freeze. All of these occur in part because we impose on ourselves the real or imagined expectations of others.
So in order to be creative we need to defer making decisions. This allows the mind to mull over the burning question even if we cannot envision the timing of the end result.
Question: How can you arrange it so that there is no particular outcome expected of you?
- Engage the unconscious
The unconscious mind is like part of a car engine. It’s under the hood and we are vaguely aware its there. It is therefore imperative that we know what it is, how to access its power, and what to do to nurture its growth.
The creative mind is a different form of intelligence from our rational abilities. The creative path does not follow the path of left-brain analysis. It shows up in dreams and images and feelings. One reason we don’t hear its voice is because it does not use the language and logic of our everyday discourse. Albert Einstein talking about his creative process says,
“The words of the language as they are originally spoken don’t seem to play any role at all in my mechanism of thought”
The first step in nurturing the unconscious is for us to get off the 12 hour a day work treadmill.
The unconscious thrives on slow contemplative ways.
One executive even insisted that he have a shower installed at his office because he did his best creative thinking in the shower. Others find that jogging, yoga, meditation, or time in the beauty of nature can help their most creative thinking. When we are not consciously thinking about the problem the unconscious mind is putting the pieces of the puzzle together. The result is that, out of the blue, a unique answer to the problem pops into our mind.
Question: What can you do to slow down and put yourself into a creative frame of mind?
- Play at it
Creative people seem to be in a state of play. They are like children in a sandbox totally immersed in building some equivalent of an enchanted city. Their imagination is so engaged with the challenge at hand that time passes by and they don’t notice it, they have lots of fun, and their work seems like a game. * Others have described this as a state of “flow” where they are so deeply absorbed in the creative process that it does not seem like work to them. How many times have we heard creative people say “You mean, they pay me for this?”
Question: What creative activity seems like play to you?
5. Work the Learning Curve.
There is a big gap between our creative aspiration and the final output. Artists have to learn the color wheel. Writers have to learn the basics of editing. Works of genius don’t just pop out of the mind of the neophyte. All of us have felt that the first draft of our work is useless. At some point we all felt that we wanted to throw in the towel and quit.
We need to learn the patience with ourselves that comes with viewing creativity as a journey not a destination.
Now let the creative journey continue for you. Check to see if the above steps are evident in your creative effort”.
What has facilitated the creative process for you?