Archives April 2019


Let’s define creativity.
The creative process is the act of making new connections between old ideas or recognizing relationships between concepts. Creative thinking is not about generating something new from a blank slate, but rather about taking what is already present and combining those bits and pieces in a way that has not been done previously.

Young believed the process of creative connection always occurred in five steps.
The Creative Process
1. Gather new material. At first, you learn. During this stage you focus on 1) learning specific material directly related to your task and 2) learning general material by becoming fascinated with a wide range of concepts.
2. Thoroughly work over the materials in your mind. During this stage, you examine what you have learned by looking at the facts from different angles and experimenting with fitting various ideas together.
3. Step away from the problem. Next, you put the problem completely out of your mind and go do something else that excites you and energizes you.
4. Let your idea return to you. At some point, but only after you have stopped thinking about it, your idea will come back to you with a flash of insight and renewed energy.
5. Shape and develop your idea based on feedback. For any idea to succeed, you must release it out into the world, submit it to criticism, and adapt it as needed.

Is There Such a Thing as ‘Naturally Creative’?
While we often think of creativity as an event or as a natural skill that some people have and some don’t, research actually suggests that both creativity and non-creativity are learned.
According to psychology professor Barbara Kerr, “approximately 22 percent of the variance [in creativity] is due to the influence of genes.” This discovery was made by studying the differences in creative thinking between sets of twins.
All of this to say, claiming that “I’m just not the creative type” is a pretty weak excuse for avoiding creative thinking. Certainly, some people are primed to be more creative than others. However, nearly every person is born with some level of creative skill and the majority of our creative thinking abilities are trainable.
3 Lessons on Creativity from Famous Creators
• The 15-Minute Routine Anthony Trollope Used to Write 40+ Books: Beginning with his first novel in 1847, Anthony Trollope wrote at an incredible pace. Over the next 38 years, he published 47 novels, 18 works of non-fiction, 12 short stories, 2 plays, and an assortment of articles and letters. Let’s break down why Trollope’s simple strategy allowed the author to be so productive and how we can use it in our own lives.
• The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work: In 1960, the founder of Random House publishing firm challenged Dr. Seuss to write an entertaining children’s book using only 50 different words. The result was a little book called Green Eggs and Ham. Here’s what we can learn from Dr. Seuss…
• How Creative Geniuses Come Up With Great Ideas: Best-selling author Markus Zusak estimated that he rewrote the first part of his popular book “The Book Thief” 150 to 200 times. His work ethic and dedication tell us something crucial about how creative geniuses come up with great ideas.
How to Be Creative
Step 1: Give yourself permission to create junk
In any creative endeavor, you have to give yourself permission to create junk. There is no way around it. Sometimes you have to write 4 terrible pages just to discover that you wrote one good sentence in the second paragraph of the third page.
Creating something useful and compelling is like being a gold miner. You have to sift through pounds of dirt and rock and silt just to find a speck of gold in the middle of it all. Bits and pieces of genius will find their way to you, if you give yourself permission to let the muse flow.
Step 2: Create on a schedule
No single act will uncover more creative genius than forcing yourself to create consistently. Practicing your craft over and over is the only way to become decent at it. The person who sits around theorizing about what a best-selling book looks like will never write it. Meanwhile, the writer who shows up every day and puts their butt in the chair and their hands on the keyboard — they are learning how to do the work.
If you want to do your best creative work, then don’t leave it up to choice. Don’t wake up in the morning and think, “I hope I feel inspired to create something today.” You need to take the decision-making out of it. Set a schedule for your work. Genius arrives when you show up enough times to get the average ideas out of the way.
Read more: The Difference Between Professionals and Amateurs
Step 3: Finish something
Finish something. Anything. Stop researching, planning, and preparing to do the work and just do the work. It doesn’t matter how good or how bad it is. You don’t need to set the world on fire with your first try. You just need to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to produce something.
There are no artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, or scientists who became great by half-finishing their work. Stop debating what you should make and just make something.
Read more: Why You Should Make Things
Step 4: Stop judging your own work
Everyone struggles to create great art. Even great artists.
Anyone who creates something on a consistent basis will begin to judge their own work. I write new articles every Monday and Thursday. After sticking to that publishing schedule for three months, I began to judge everything I created. I was convinced that I had gone through every decent idea I had available. My most popular article came 8 months later.
It is natural to judge your work. It is natural to feel disappointed that your creation isn’t as wonderful as you hoped it would be, or that you’re not getting any better at your craft. But the key is to not let your discontent prevent you from continuing to do the work.
You have to practice enough self-compassion to not let self-judgement take over. Sure, you care about your work, but don’t get so serious about it that you can’t laugh off your mistakes and continue to produce the thing you love. Don’t let judgment prevent delivery.
Read more: It’s Not Your Job to Tell Yourself “No”
Step 5: Hold yourself accountable
Share your work publicly. It will hold you accountable to creating your best work. It will provide feedback for doing better work. And when you see others connect with what you create, it will inspire you and make you care more.
Sometimes sharing your work means you have to deal with haters and critics. But more often than not, the only thing that happens is that you rally the people who believe the same things you believe, are excited about the same things you are excited about, or who support the work that you believe in — who wouldn’t want that?
The world needs people who put creative work out into the world. What seems simple to you is often brilliant to someone else. But you’ll never know that unless you choose to share.
Read more: Lessons on Sharing Your Gifts With the World From Someone Who Didn’t
How to Find Your Creative Genius
Finding your creative genius is easy: do the work, finish something, get feedback, find ways to improve, show up again tomorrow. Repeat for ten years. Or twenty. Or thirty.
Inspiration only reveals itself after perspiration.
Read more: How to Find Your Hidden Creative Genius
Best Creativity Books
• The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
• The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
• The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander
• Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod
Want more great books on creativity and business? Browse my full list of the best business books.
All Creativity Articles
This is a complete list of articles I have written on creativity. Enjoy!
• For a More Creative Brain Follow These 5 Steps
• The Proven Path to Doing Unique and Meaningful Work
• Creativity Is a Process, Not an Event
• The 15-Minute Routine Anthony Trollope Used to Write 40+ Books
• Lessons From a Vexillonaire: Creativity, Simplicity, and the Carefully Constrained Life
• The More We Limit Ourselves, the More Resourceful We Become
• Albert Einstein’s Incredible Work Ethic
• 6 Famous Artists Talk About What It’s Like to Overcome Fear and Create Beauty
• Never Check Email Before Noon (And Other Thoughts on Doing Your Best Work)
• Martha Graham on the Hidden Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others
• Minimalism, Success, and the Curious Writing Habit of George R.R. Martin
• How Smart Do You Have to Be to Succeed?
• Free Download: Mastering Creativity (1st Edition)
• How to Uncover Your Creative Talent by Using the “Equal Odds Rule”
• How Creative Geniuses Come Up With Great Ideas
• How to Solve Big Problems
• Lessons on Sharing Your Gifts With the World From Someone Who Didn’t
• Masters of Habit: The Wisdom and Writing of Maya Angelou
• How to Find Your Hidden Creative Genius
• Smart People Should Create Things
• Thoughts on Struggling to Finish My First Book
• Why I Write
• The Myth of Creative Inspiration
• The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work
• What Every Successful Person Knows, But Never Says
• How to Chase Your Dreams and Reinvent Yourself
• Haters and Critics: How to Deal with People Judging You and Your Work
• Be Honest: Are You Rejecting Yourself? (Why You Should Make Things)
• The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers
• Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity
• The Two Types of Inspiration
• The Difference Between Professionals and Amateurs
• The Easiest Way to Live a Short, Unimportant Life

What is Creativity?

From Human Motivation, 3rd ed., by Robert E. Franken:

• Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others. (page 396)
• Three reasons why people are motivated to be creative:
1. need for novel, varied, and complex stimulation
2. need to communicate ideas and values
3. need to solve problems (page 396)
• In order to be creative, you need to be able to view things in new ways or from a different perspective. Among other things, you need to be able to generate new possibilities or new alternatives. Tests of creativity measure not only the number of alternatives that people can generate but the uniqueness of those alternatives. the ability to generate alternatives or to see things uniquely does not occur by change; it is linked to other, more fundamental qualities of thinking, such as flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity or unpredictability, and the enjoyment of things heretofore unknown. (page 394)
From Creativity – Beyond the Myth of Genius, by Robert W. Weisberg.

• …”creative” refers to novel products of value, as in “The airplane was a creative invention.” “Creative” also refers to the person who produces the work, as in, ?Picasso was creative.” “Creativity,” then refers both to the capacity to produce such works, as in “How can we foster our employees’ creativity?” and to the activity of generating such products, as in “Creativity requires hard work.” (page 4)
• All who study creativity agree that for something to be creative, it is not enough for it to be novel: it must have value, or be appropriate to the cognitive demands of the situation.” (page 4)
From Creativity – Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

• Ways that “creativity” is commonly used:
1. Persons who express unusual thoughts, who are interesting and stimulating – in short, people who appear to unusually bright.
2. People who experience the world in novel and original ways. These are (personally creative) individuals whose perceptions are fresh, whose judgements are insightful, who may make important discoveries that only they know about.
3. Individuals who have changes our culture in some important way. Because their achievement are by definition public, it is easier to write about them. (e.g., Leonardo, Edison, Picasso, Einstein, etc.) (pages 25-26)
• The Systems Model of Creativity: (pages 27-28)
1. the creative domain, which is nested in culture – the symbolic knowledge shred by a particular society or by humanity as a whole (e.g., visual arts)
2. the field, which includes all the gatekeepers of the domain (e.g., art critics, art teachers, curators of museums, etc.)
3. the individual person, who using the symbols of the given domain (such as music, engineering, business, mathematics) has a new idea or sees a new pattern, and when this novelty is selected by the appropriate field for inclusion into the relevant domain
• Creativity is any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one…What counts is whether the novelty he or she produces is accepted for inclusion in the domain.” (page 28)
• Characteristics of the creative personality: (pages 58-73)
1. Creative individuals have a great deal of energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.
2. Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive at the same time.
3. Creative individuals have a combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
4. Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy ant one end, and rooted sense of reality at the other.
5. Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion.
6. Creative individuals are also remarkable humble and proud at the same time.
7. Creative individuals to a certain extent escape rigid gender role stereotyping and have a tendency toward androgyny.
8. Generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent.
9. Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.
10. The openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.

The Components of Creativity
Two of the primary components of creativity include:
1. Originality: The idea should be something new that is not simply an extension of something else that already exists.
2. Functionality: The idea needs to actually work or possess some degree of usefulness.
When Does Creativity Happen?
In his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggested that creativity can often be seen in a few different situations.
• People who seem stimulating, interesting, and have a variety of unusual thoughts.
• People who perceive the world with a fresh perspective, have insightful ideas and make important personal discoveries. These individuals make creative discoveries that are generally known only to them.
• People who make great creative achievements that become known to the entire world. Inventors and artists such as Thomas Edison and Pablo Picasso would fall into this category.
Types of Creativity
Experts also tend to distinguish between different types of creativity. The “four c” model of creativity suggests that there are four different types:
1. “Mini-c” creativity involves personally meaningful ideas and insights that are known only to the self.
2. “Little-c” creativity involves mostly everyday thinking and problem-solving. This type of creativity helps people solve everyday problems they face and adapt to changing environments.
3. “Pro-C” creativity takes place among professionals who are skilled and creative in their respective fields. These individuals are creative in their vocation or profession but do not achieve eminence for their works.
4. “Big-C” creativity involves creating works and ideas that are considered great in a particular field. This type of creativity leads to eminence and acclaim and often leads to world-changing creations such as medical innovations, technological advances, and artistic achievements.
What Does It Take to Be Creative?
Csikszentmihalyi suggests that creative people tend to possess are a variety of traits that contribute to their innovative thinking. Some of these key traits include:
• Energy: Creative people tend to possess a great deal of both physical and mental energy. However, they also tend to spend a great deal of time quietly thinking and reflecting.
• Intelligence: Psychologists have long believed that intelligence plays a critical role in creativity. In Terman’s famous longitudinal study of gifted children, researchers found that while high IQ was necessary for great creativity, not all people with high IQs are creative. Csikszentmihalyi believes that creative people must be smart, but they must be capable of looking at things in fresh, even naïve, ways.
• Discipline: Creative people do not just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. They are playful, yet they are also disciplined in the pursuit of their work and passions.
While some people seem to come by creativity naturally, there are things that you can do to increase your own creativity. As Csikszentmihalyi has noted, creativity requires both a fresh perspective combined with discipline. As Thomas Edison famously suggested, genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
The late Maya Angelou also suggested that thinking creativity helps foster even greater creativity:
“Creativity or talent, like electricity, is something I don’t understand but something I’m able to harness and use. While electricity remains a mystery, I know I can plug into it and light up a cathedral or a synagogue or an operating room and use it to help save a life. Or I can use it to electrocute someone. Like electricity, creativity makes no judgment. I can use it productively or destructively. The important thing is to use it. You can’t use up creativity. The more you use it, the more you have.”

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