This article has everything you need to know about creativity.
I’ll share how creativity works, how can you boost your own creativity, and how to make creativity a habit.
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to unlock your hidden creative genius.
We have a lot to cover, so let’s get started.
What is creativity?
First, let’s define what creativity is.
According to writer Brian Clark, creativity is “seeing the intersection of seemingly unrelated topics and combining them into something new”.
Despite what some people think, creativity is not about creating something from scratch.
Rather, it is about putting together different pieces of ideas and concepts in a way that has not been done before.
The creative process: 5 steps of creative connection
Nearly all great ideas throughout history follow a similar creative process.
James Webb Young, a famous advertising executive, published a guide titled A Technique for Producing Ideas.
In this guide, he laid down 5 steps to the process of creative connection:
1. Gather the material: In the first stage, you read or watch a wide variety of subjects that are both general and specific to your subject.
2. Think about what you learned: This is where you spend time thinking about your ideas so you can better understand them. You also use this stage to pin together different ideas and see if they complement each other.
3. Step away from the problem: Now it’s time to put the task away and do something else. Without you knowing, this allows the ideas to marinate in your head subconsciously.
4. Write down all your ideas, even if they’re abstract or trash: Only after you’ve stopped thinking about it, do you begin immersing yourself in it and writing down your ideas. By this stage, you should have a renewed sense of energy to tackle your task.
5. Shape your idea based on feedback: For any idea to succeed, you must share it with others and allow them to criticize it.
Can you be “naturally creative?”
This is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot. Most people think that creativity is a natural skill that some people have and some people don’t.
Surprisingly, and contrary to popular belief, research suggests that creativity is more of a learned skill.
Psychology professor Barbara Kerr says that “approximately 22 percent of the variance in creativity is due to the influence of genes”.
They worked this out by studying the differences in creativity between twins.
Therefore, don’t believe someone when they say “I’m not creative” to avoid doing a task. They’re really just being lazy.
The bottom line is this:
Nearly every person is born with a level of creativity, but the majority of our creative skills are trainable.
How to be creative: 5 steps to boost your creativity
Step 1: Don’t be a perfectionist. Just start.
“The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic and a terrible waste of time.” – Edwin Bliss
Perfectionism and productivity don’t go hand-in-hand; having impossible standards makes it impossible to get things down.
Perfectionists are so worried about doing things perfectly that they have a hard time even getting started.
This is why you must allow yourself to create junk.
Take the example of a writer. If you write 10 pages a day, most of those pages might not be very good.
But there might be one page (or even one line) of gold.
But it’s only by accepting that you’ll create some rubbish that you’ll eventually create some gold.
Step 2: Have a schedule
Sticking to a schedule of creating is important.
Not only does forcing yourself to create allow you to practice your craft (so you can get better) but you’ll also get sh*t done.
Think about it:
If an author is constantly planning and thinking about their ideas, they’ll never finish the book.
But if a writer forces themselves to write every single day at the same time – they’ll learn as they go, they’ll practice, and pages will be written.
Don’t leave it to choice. Take the decision-making out of it and set a schedule for work that you religiously follow.
As we mentioned in step 1, creative gold arises when you show up enough times to get the junk out of the way.
3. Make sure you finish
We’ve all been there before. We plan, we research, and we prepare what work we’re going to do. But we never actually do the work.
This is called procrastination, and procrastination is the enemy of success.
Stephen King says it best:
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
So just finish something. Anything. It doesn’t need to always be incredible. Just complete it and produce something (even if it’s just a backyard project).
No one ever became great at what they do by half-finishing their work.
Stop debating about the perfect plan to follow, or the perfect idea, and just create something.
Step 4. Don’t judge yourself too harshly
Whenever you create something on a consistent basis, you’re going to judge your own work harshly as time goes on. That’s natural.
There are bound to be times when you feel disappointed because something you created isn’t as good as you hoped.
Sometimes you’ll question yourself, your ability, and whether you’re getting any better.
That’s fine, but you can’t let those feelings stop you from doing the work.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Laugh off any mistakes and continue to practice. Get better at what you love doing.
Don’t let judgment or criticism from others stop you from producing.
Step 5. Share your work with others
Look, it’s sometimes tough to share your work with others. They might hate it and criticize it. But it will provide you with the necessary feedback you need to improve.
And when you see others connect with what you create, it will inspire you.
The truth is:
You might have to deal with haters and critics on a consistent basis. No matter how good are you, someone is always going to be against you.
But never let them be the limit of your success.
This is where you need to stand firm, focus on improving, and on the people who are inspired by your work.
You’ll never know the effect your work can have on others if you don’t share it with the world.
What about when you’re feeling drained and uninspired? Here are 5 things that might help
Let’s be honest:
There are days where we feel completely dreadful and out of it.
So what can you do then?
Besides from getting stuck into the work no matter what (as I mentioned above) here are some ideas to get that creative spark back:
1. Change your environment
Whenever someone feels uninspired, changing the physical environment may help.
Yes, routine is excellent for productivity (as we mentioned above) but sometimes it can kill your inspiration.
Your brain gets too used to the way things are. A change, therefore, sparks new thoughts and ideas.
Even noise levels can influence your creativity.
A study from Juliet Zhu found that moderate noise levels provides enough distraction to encourage creative thought.
Find some different environments that work for you, and change them up when you need to.
2. Take a walk
You’ve heard the story that Steve Jobs only took his meetings while walking, right?
There’s a reason for that.
Stanford researchers found that walking improves creativity.
In fact, on average, creative thinking increases by 60% when there is walking involved.
Interestingly, this carried on even after the participants returned to their desks.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but taking a time out and having a daydream might help you spark your creative juices.
A study found that when people are bored, they tend to daydream more, which then leads to greater creativity.
In another study, bored participants performed better on creativity than those who were elated, relaxed, or distressed.
Research has shown that certain types of meditation are linked to increases in creative thinking.
In fact, one study found that a meditation called open-monitoring meditation in which an individual is receptive to any and all thoughts and sensations without focusing on anything can increase divergent thinking and creativity.
5. Get into nature
When you’re lacking inspiration, try to get out into the forests and trees.
One study found that getting into nature can enhance creative ways of thinking. It found that nature helps recharge our attention and our ability to develop new ideas.
3 important reasons to be more creative
You may ask, what is the point of being more creative?
Isn’t it just a waste of mental energy, particularly when you aren’t naturally creative?
Not at all. In fact, it could be the most important skill you’ll ever learn.
Here are 3 important reasons to improve your creativity skills:
1. Creativity predicts a longer life
Yep, you read that right. Creativity is associated with longevity.
According to an article in Scientific American:
“Researchers found that only creativity – not intelligence or overall openess- decreased mortality risk. One possible reason creativity is protective of health is because it draws on a variety of neural networks within the brain.”
2. Solve problems
Let’s face it:
Being creative helps you become a better problem solver in all areas of your life and work.
You can see things from different angles and formulate solutions more efficiently.
Furthermore, studies have found that creative people are better able to live with uncertainty.
Because they can adapt their thinking to allow for the flow of the unknown.
3. Boost your confidence
As we mentioned above, when you’re creative minded, you’re better able to deal with uncertainty. This boosts your confidence because you know you can deal with whatever problem is coming your way.
Not only that, but when you spend time on your creative skills, you learn a lot about the importance of failure.
Being accepting of failure and seeing it as a learning opportunity allows you the freedom to try new things and take calculated risks.
Don’t forget the importance of the Beginner’s Mind to creativity
In the book, Made to Stick, authors Chip and Dan Heath talked about the concept of the Curse of Knowledge:
“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.”
When we get so tied up in our experience and knowledge, we find it hard to see things objectively, or from a fresh perspective.
So, how are you meant to fix this? With the Beginner’s Mind.
What is the “Beginner’s Mind” I hear you ask?
The Beginner’s mind is an idea from Zen Buddhism called “Shoshin”.
“having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”
As Shunryu Suzuki says in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:
“In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
There’s real value in approaching things as a novice, even if you already know a lot about it.
All you need to do is ask “why” more and question the status quo. Try to forget everything you know about your subject of expertise and view it as if completely fresh – with no expertise or experience.
This is excellent for creativity.
Because you remove all the biases of your viewpoint and allow yourself to come up with new ideas.
In the end, finding your creative streak isn’t difficult. Make sure you do the work, get feedback, focus on improving, and show up again and again.