Creativity: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc. This is the definition from dictionary.com.
Creativity is a hard word to define. We all know creativity when we see it but when we try to define it there will be people that agree and people that won’t agree. Everyone has their own theory on where creativity comes from and how to develop it or coax it out of hiding. I have been thinking about this topic for a long time and been reading many opinions and have tried to be more creative myself. I wrote this post to reflect my thoughts and understanding on this topic. Please leave a comment if you have affirming or dissenting thoughts on this subject.
Innate or Learned
Like most arguments about different ability levels of people, the first question is whether we are born with creativity or if it is learned. I believe that creativity is innate within all of us. You just have to find the pursuit that you are passionate about and learn all you can about that topic/area so that creativity can flourish. Obviously people will be born with abilities that will give them an advantage in certain things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work hard and learn that craft or find the thing that you are good at. I cannot draw or paint or sculpt art from clay. I have tried and tried all of those but it just wasn’t working. I do love photography though and worked hard at it to create art that I enjoy from it.
School today teaches you how to not be creative. They push memorization and multiple choice tests so that you can be another cog in the system when you get out. This happens in almost every country, not just the US. The system makes you like a machine that can crank out more products in less time for the big corporations. They don’t allow you to wander and spend time with art and new ideas. There was a recent study that came out that showed 90% of Asian schoolchildren are nearsighted. The conclusion they came to is that they weren’t going outside enough and were inside studying so much that their eyes were not developing correctly (http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/07/why-up-to-90-of-asian-schoolchildren-are-nearsighted/). The reason I bring this up is that they are so focused on making the grades and fitting into the system that they are not even enjoying childhood and going outside. Humans have a long history of connectedness to nature, you can even say it is a spiritual connection. By not going outside you are cutting yourself off from what the divine has created, maybe even closing yourself off to the creativity that is there. I am not saying to not study hard and stop going to school. Just that you should try to push past basic education to learn things on your own and live a balanced life. The more experiences you have the more creative you can become.
I will give some more of my thoughts about how to attain creativity later in this post.
A Little History on Creativity
Different cultures have explained the moment when you tap into creativity in very different ways. Romans and Greeks both believed that humans did not have the ability to be creative on their own. They thought a higher or divine power infused humans with the insight and ideas to be creative The Greek’s called this higher being a “Daemon” and the Roman’s called it a “Genius”.
During the Renaissance creativity was first seen as an attribute separate from the divine, it was the ability of “Great Men”. For the first time people were given credit for the work they created as individuals apart from a higher power.
Now we have the ability to do brain scans when people are trying to solve a problem that takes some creativity to get through. Using this you can see certain parts of the brain activate when there is an “aha” moment and something clicks. This is the moment when the brain connects multiple ideas to create a new interesting idea. Even though we can scan a brain and see what parts are in motion when a creative thought arises we still can’t explain why it happens.
Most of the time this “aha” moment happens when we aren’t even trying to make anything up. A great idea will just pop into your mind while you are daydreaming in the shower, or zoned out driving in the car. I believe these types of thoughts come from the unconscious mind, which would have a more adept ability to connect all these ideas than our regular conscious and hectic brains would. The question I cannot answer is if some brains just connect multiple thoughts together to make something interesting and new, or is there something more. Whether it comes from a Muse (goddess of literature, science, and arts in Greek mythology), divine power, or just an ability of the human brain does not matter. There are ways to get creativity to show up more often.
Ways to Be More Creative
Most people will have felt the power of creativity at one point or another in their life. Whether it was an idea that just popped into your head during the day or if you have ever sat down for hours trying to write a paper and the words just started flowing effortlessly out of you, this is the power of creativity. The point is creativity is not just reserved for a select few. There are things you can do to try and have more “aha” moments or create more interesting things.
Here is a list of ways to coax creativity out of your unconscious or even from the divine:
- Do your work everyday. The more you grind down and keep doing your part of the bargain (assuming the creative part comes from the daemon) the more opportunities there will be for you to be open to receive an insight or creative idea. The more you immerse yourself in your art the better chance you will learn the ins and outs and create something interesting.
- Find something you are passionate about so that you can put in the amount of work needed in point 1 to consistently make creative things.
- Be ready for it at anytime. Creativity is fickle, it can strike at any time, and leave just as fast as it came. You have to be ready for it to strike at any time. Most of the time it will not be in a convenient location, which is a big reason a lot of people that come up with many ideas carry around a notebook to capture these “aha” moments.
- Learn your craft like the back of your hand. If you like photography then learn how to do the basics such as what shutter speed, iso and aperture are and how they can help you create different effects in your pictures. Make changing these settings so ingrained that you don’t have to think about them when you are presented with a beautiful scene to capture.
- Be your own best critic for your work and keep improving it on a daily basis.
- Travel and explore new things. Don’t just stick with your one form of art or you will never grow. Explore museums, read literature, and expose yourself to other art forms so that your brain has numerous different ideas to pull from to make new creative connections. By traveling you will be forced to see things from other people’s point of view which will broaden your horizons.
- Don’t specifically search for creativity. You will never find it. There is no exact definition or understanding for creativity so it will be impossible to find it. If you are searching for it that means you are not concentrating on your work enough for creativity to shine within you. Just keep your mind working on your specific art and others will let you know when your work is creative.
- Don’t be afraid of doing your work. Don’t listen to other people when they judge you or say you are not creative. To make great work you have to be confident in what you are doing. I am not saying to block out constructive criticism, just don’t listen to the haters that don’t ever create anything and sit on the side line being critical about what everyone else is doing.
Let me know how you view creativity in the comments. Everyone may have a different method of invoking the muse into their life since no two people’s art is the same. Just get out there and do what you love and let creativity come to you in whatever vehicle it will arrive in.