How to be creative

Posted: November 14, 2008 in Self development

How to be creative 


Photo credit: Jaki Good

Everybody can be creative, and if you look at your own life you will discover that you are already creative in numerous ways. Humans have a natural capacity to be creative – that’s how our minds work – and with practice can become very good at it.

The trick is to understand how creativity works. Sometimes people think that creative ideas spring out of nothing (like the proverbial “blank page” staring back at the writer) but creativity is in fact the result of using and manipulating your knowledge in certain ways.

Genuine creativity is almost always a response to something. This article, for example, was written in response to an article on the same subject that I thought was not well thought out. Creativity also arises in response to a specific problem: how to rescue a cat, how to cross a gap, how to hang laundry.

So, in order to be creative, the first thing to do is to learn to look for problems to solve, things that merit a response, needs that need to be filled. This takes practice (try writing it down, or blogging it, every time you see a problem or need).

In addition, creativity involves a transfer of knowledge from one domain to another domain, and sometimes a manipulation of that knowledge. When you see a gap in real life, how did you cross a similar gap in an online game? Or, if you need to clean up battery acid, how did you get rid of excess acid in your stomach?

Creativity, in other words, often operates by metaphor, which means you need to learn how to find things in common between the current situation and other things you know. This is what is typically meant by “thinking outside the box” – you want to go to outside the domain of the current problem. And the particular skill involved is pattern recognition. This skill is hard to learn, and requires a lot of practice, which is why creativity is hard.

But pattern recognition can be learned – it’s what you are doing when you say one song is similar to another, or when you are taking photographs of, say, flowers or fishing boats. The arts very often involve finding patterns in things, which is why, this year, you should devote some time every day to an art – music, photography, video, drawing, painting or poetry.

       

     

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