“Creativity is…seeing something that doesn’t exist already. You need to find out how you can bring it into being, and that way be a playmate with God.” – Michele Shea
According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of creativity is artistic or intellectual inventiveness. Creativity is marked by the ability or power to create or bring into existence, to invest with a new form, to produce through imaginative skill, to make or bring into existence something new. When you create something, you are actually bringing it into being, making it from nothing. But how do you make something from nothing? How do you achieve creativity? What is the essence of creativity?
Perhaps only magic can explain creativity, that sudden “aha!” moment when it all comes together. Some have said that it’s something mysterious and puzzling, perhaps impossible to figure out. Some have said it must be divine inspiration. Creativity is simply thinking the impossible, and then doing what no one else has done before, sometimes developing completely new worlds. If you’ve taken a new approach to a problem and it works, then you’re using your creativity.
Creativity comes in many forms. It can be scientific creativity, resulting in inventions or medical cures. It can be artistic or musical, resulting in beautiful paintings, sculptures or operas and songs. It can be creative writing, resulting in novels, short stories and poems. Creativity can even be as simple as arts and crafts, such as needle arts, yarn crafts, and woodcrafts – things you create with your own two hands.
The important thing to remember is that creativity includes generating the idea or concept, as well as applying that idea and producing or manifesting the end product or result. Creativity or imagination is an integral part of being human and separates us from the animal world. Carl R. Rogers said, “The very essence of the creative is its novelty, and hence we have no standard by which to judge it.”
Are You Creative?
“The only truly happy people are children and the creative minority.” – Jean Caldwell
Have you ever watched five-year-olds at play? They are curious and highly creative in their games. They don’t know yet, what they don’t know. Their creative limits have no bounds; no one has told them that they can’t do something. They’re fearless explorers, artists, or musicians; some are even comedians in the making. They have not yet been pressured to conform and they think they can do anything and that nothing is beyond their capabilities.
Research shows that every human being is capable of creative thought. We have creative abilities that often show up very early in life. Studies show that the average adult thinks of only three to four alternate ideas for any given situation, while the average child can come up with sixty. They have proven that as far as creativity is concerned, quantity equals quality. Having the subjects make a list of ideas, they have shown that the longer the list, the higher the quality of the final solution. The very best ideas usually appear at the end of the list.
Actually, creativity is bred into us as humans; it’s in our genes – a part of our very DNA. Unfortunately, as we grow older, the pressures of having to grow up, go to school, get a job, all seem to repress our creative tendencies. The stress of everyday living, coupled with occasional dilemmas, leaves us too drained to be truly creative.
But creativity is power and is essential to our well-being. Without creativity, our lives become predictable, routine, boring, and pedantic. The good news is we can all be highly creative. Now I know you’re saying, “But I’m not at all creative. I can’t paint or even draw a straight line, I don’t know one note from another, and I’ve never been able to write worth a darn. Poetry? Don’t make me laugh!”
Okay, so most of us are not Mozart, DaVinci, Einstein, or Shakespeare. However, we are all creative in our own way. We simply have to recognize our own unique talents and skills. Ask yourself these questions:
Are you constantly looking for new goals, something new to accomplish?
Do you like to look at what already exists and ask “What if?”
When you try something new and different, does it make you feel smarter?
Do you enjoy teaching someone a new skill?
Are you good at problem solving?
Then, pat yourself on the back – you are a “creative” person! Creativity doesn’t always result in a tangible product. Sometimes its ideas, problem solving, or teaching; but it is indeed, creativity in action. Creativity enables us to better ourselves, develop awareness, and expand our horizons as well as those of other people.
When the potential for creativity meets the promise of skill, you’ve made contact with the creative spirit. There’s no holding you back now. You’ve received that flash of inspiration, that “aha!” moment of illumination, and you are ready to take those creative risks.
Now, you’re probably wondering exactly what it is that you need to do to assure yourself of creative success. You do need certain tools and skills to accomplish this task. First, you need a certain expertise in whatever arena you’ve chosen to pursue your creativity in. If you have zero knowledge in the field of science, odds are you will not make the next fantastic breakthrough in medicine or invent the replacement for the wheel. You must find the field that is your special interest and skill setting. Some expertise is essential for success.
The next tool essential for your success is the ability to think creatively in your chosen field – being able to imagine a whole realm of possibilities. That includes the ability to turn things over in your mind until you find the answer. Persistence is required – that determination to keep on tackling a problem until you solve it. Know when to turn things upside down and look at them differently. You must know when to nurture the process of creativity and when to let it rest in your mind until it’s ready to fly free.
Another vital tool in this search for creativity is courage – to be willing to take the creative risks and try something you’ve never tried before. You have to be open to whatever new possibilities that present themselves to you. You never know when ideas will come.
Lastly, you must have passion – the desire to succeed no matter what. It doesn’t matter what the end prize happens to be or what manner of compensation you might receive. The passion is all that’s important – the desire to make whatever works, no matter what. Albert Einstein said, “Sticking to it is the genius.”
Most importantly, you must face any creative risk with the mind of a child. Childhood is when creativity first comes to you. Will it grow or be stunted? You should play like a child.
Children may not realize it, but playtime is actually a learning process. It’s the brain’s favorite way to learn. The child learns about math, verbal skills, music, and visual arts during playtime. They learn to explore and they learn the thrill of discovery. They learn about their own culture and others as well.
So, is it true that children are more creative than adults are? During the Industrial Revolution, two hundred years ago, this country devised the educational system and started training people to be good little workers and always obey instructions. This didn’t leave much room for individuality or nonconformity in our thinking. The good news is that today’s educational system, for the most part, allows children to be more freethinking and creative.
Childlike creativity should be studied and emulated. Let yourself think that anything, even something outrageous, is possible. This will help you develop creative connections. The non-creative mind says, “I can’t,” but the creative mind says, “I can and here’s how!” If you can see, speak, hear, remember and understand, you too can be creative. Never, ever say you’re not creative. Whatever you believe or disbelieve about yourself, you’re right.
How do you feel about being creative? Do you tie creativity to strange, artsy, or flaky behavior? Do you feel suspicious of those with that description? Or maybe you automatically tie creativity with extremes of madness or psychosis. “I’m too down to earth to be creative!” you protest.
Sometimes you are in possession of facts already known to the world at large. The difference is in your organization and interpretation of those facts. Perhaps your creativity lies in your ability to take a room full of people and convince them to make a buying decision. Maybe you’ve saved your company millions of dollars with a single idea. Ever resolved a conflict in your family or company? Guess what? You’re creative!
Maybe you’ve even been told how talented you are in a particular area; you may even know it to be true. So why be shy about it? But what do you do about it? How do you go about unleashing all that talent? How do you nurture it?
Let’s go back to the idea of being more childlike, unhampered by daily life and stress. Let’s play! Grab a drawing pad and colored pencils, and draw circles and patterns. If you have children of your own, borrow one of their coloring books and crayons, and join them in the coloring fun. Make objects of outrageous colors, just as children do. Color outside the lines, way outside the lines! Find yourself some clay or Playdoh and start sculpting; it doesn’t have to be anything in particular; just have fun with it. Squish it, cut it, slice it, and then mash in all together again. Try making shapes with the clay.
Now you’re asking, “What on earth is the purpose of all that nonsense?” Well, there is no purpose, you just need to play, have fun, and be free. It’s amazing how much your brain will appreciate this ‘no purpose’ playtime. You suddenly discover that you’re more relaxed. You may even feel happy. Even your breathing rhythm is different while you’re playing. Instead of the short, shallow breaths you take when you’re stressed, you’re now breathing deeply. You’re not experiencing the ‘fight or flight’ sensation. You’re totally relaxed. You need to push the worries and stress aside once in a while. Do not worry about problems or deadlines, and just play, with no purpose whatsoever.
Just a few minutes a day of the ‘no purpose’ play will make a world of difference in your creativity, problem solving, mediating, teaching, or anything else that you do. You’ll soon realize it’s time to take that talent to the next level, so let that creativity come out more often and let yourself go. Stephen Nachmanovitch once said, “The most potent muse of all is our own inner child.”
Keep in mind though, that talent is not enough. Let me repeat this. You must have absolute passion and discipline to develop your creativity. You must be dedicated to commit to your talent.
What does the word creative make you think about? Breathtaking art? Totally original thinking? Exciting musical composition? Astonishing inventions? Have you let yourself believe that it’s impossible for you to be creative?
You may have let yourself become a creature of habit over the years. Have you condemned yourself to be incapable of creative thought? Perhaps you’ve been stuck in a rut or boring routines, and you feel that you couldn’t possibly be capable of change.
Now, imagine how your life would be if you’re allowed to live it creatively, every day. You know you’re creative and talented. What if the world around you treated you as such and you were allowed to nurture that talent, enhance your skills, and give your creative personality the attention it needs and deserves? You’d trust your own creative passions, be capable of solving any problem, and embrace your own creativity as a part of your very life – one of the necessary components to your happiness and mental health. Remember that pure enjoyment is a key ingredient in your creative life. Eileen Caddy said, “Live and work but do not forget to play, to have fun in life and really enjoy it.”
Integrate Creativity into Your Life
“Leap and the net will appear.” Julia Cameron
Okay, we’ve established the fact that everyone is basically creative. You’ve recognized the creative energy that you possess; and that creative energy must go somewhere or be applied to something, or you will find yourself unhappy and unfulfilled, without understanding exactly why.
The benefits of adding this creativity to your everyday life are numerous:
Better control of your life
Unbelievable satisfaction – at last, you’re expressing yourself, finding purpose.
By applying this creativity to all aspects of your life, you’ll discover even more benefits.
So, how do you apply your creative energy to your daily life? You apply that newly discovered creativity to family and relationships, to work, and to your community. It’s time to explore all the possibilities and perhaps better our world. Simply start with your own little corner of it. You must implement those marvelous new ideas to your information gathering and problem solving. Create checklists and plans. Adapt a new idea; give it a twist. Allowing your creative side to show can make you more competitive in the corporate world. You can look at something that everyone else has looked at, but see it in a totally different light. Give it that twist. Go with that hunch, that intuition, that special insight the creative person possesses. “A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something,” said Frank Capra. Those little creative moments are vital to every area of your life.
Once you start on this creative journey, you’ll discover that your life is filled with the “aha!” moments. Push beyond the mere routine and let yourself come up with dazzling visions or earth-shaking ideas.
Webster’s Dictionary defines innovation as the introduction of something new or different. The National Innovation Initiative (NII) defines innovation as “The intersection of invention and insight, leading to the creation of social and economic value.” So take that creativity and let yourself be innovative!
Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” If you need to come up with new ideas, say for work, try brainstorming. You can do this alone or with others. This works especially well in the work environment. Many hands make light work, and many minds make marvelous new and unique ideas. It also makes for a convivial work place. Just let your mind go wherever it needs to go.
Then you must act on your creative impulse. Without action behind it, it’s only just so many facts, a little knowledge. Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is more powerful than knowledge.”
Creativity in the Work Place
“Creative minds have always been known to survive any kind of bad training.” – Anna Freud
In today’s competitive world, it is more important than ever for businesses to attract and keep highly talented people. In order to do that, they must provide a work place environment that is challenging, creative, and fun. Since creativity is at the root of innovation and invention, it would behoove all companies – large, small, or in between – to help promote a creative atmosphere in which this talent may flourish. What better way to get a huge return on their investment?
A two-year in-house creativity course offered at General Electric resulted in a sixty percent increase in concepts available for patents, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In 1999, after investing over two million dollars in research and development, Hewlett Packard generated more than 1,300 applications for patents.
When the Sylvania Company offered several thousand employees a forty-hour creative problem-solving course, their return on investment came to $20 for every $1 they spent.
So how can your company keep its employees happily coming up with great, innovative ideas?
Look for these creative people. Recognize them for the intelligent innovators that they are.
Create an atmosphere that’s conducive to creativity. You need to let the ideas come forth and thrive. Be tolerant about ideas that don’t work out initially. There’s always a next time when more fresh ideas can be implemented.
Acknowledge the people in the company who generate new ideas. It’s important to foster that creativity and show visible support. Champion those innovators!
Reward the creators with public recognition, monetary rewards, or both.
The workers and the managers should bring about creative changes in the company together, shaping a fellowship that allows for a feeling of safety for those creative ideas. It should provide an environment where people can feel secure about expressing those ideas, without being fearful of criticism or ridicule.
The feelings of respect and trust for one another will foster inspiration, and dismiss any negativity or critical judgments. The perfect atmosphere would be one of encouragement, motivation, good training, and lots of opportunities to be creative. This would provide the necessary creativity to the organizational level.
No longer would you go to a work place that fills you with dread each day. The job that provides you with money for food, clothing, and shelter, not to mention a few luxuries, could also be a pleasant haven during the workday. You’d have security and status, but without so much stress. If your creativity is allowed to blossom, your heart and soul for your career returns as well. This could change the face of the work place. Implement this yourself and see if you can make a change for the better in your own workplace.
Many companies try to avoid putting creativity back into the work place. They feel it could lead to chaos. They say that it would be illogical, unruly, and uncontrollable. This needn’t be the case, if approached in the proper manner.
If you encourage creativity within your company and support the talented people, it will help you compete, regardless of your industry. According to Fortune Magazine (January 1998), highly motivated employees are up to 127% more productive than those averagely motivated employees in complex jobs. It’s simple – if an employee feels satisfied and encouraged in his job and happy with the company, he will become more motivated and thereby become more productive. A happy worker is a productive worker!
Unfortunately, our country has become a nation of workaholics. We feel if we’re not busy 24/7, we must be slacking off; we must produce nonstop or other people will think that we’re lazy. But busyness for its own sake is a sign of low self-worth and should be avoided. Even God rested after working for six days.
It’s okay to sit and do nothing once in a while. Sometimes, you have to let a problem sit awhile and incubate in your mind. The answer will come more easily if you stop obsessing about it. Even daydreaming is useful. If you allow your child to daydream, they will develop a higher IQ. Why not do the same for yourself? Remember too, that play is just as important for an adult as it is for a child.
Believe it or not, the number one concern of employees at any level of a company is not money, but the desire for a good balance between their work life and their personal life. In order for good employees to keep up with the level expected of them, they must attain a certain balance of work and play. Vacations, occasional personal time, and a pleasant work place are essential for their careers and their health.
There’s a Zen saying that the bow kept forever taut will break. This is very true. We need to play and relax in order to be productive. Play, even at our work place, makes us happy and joyful. It clears those cobwebs out of the brain and allows us to think more clearly, thus becoming more productive. The problems that seemed beyond your reach while brainstorming might come so much easier when your mind is free of stress and worry.
Creativity and play are essential these days. We’re all looking for more purpose in our lives, and we’re beginning to re-think our jobs and careers as well. Job security is a thing of the past; and unless employers begin to recognize and encourage creativity on the job, there could be radical changes coming.
In many companies, smart employers are beginning to see the advantage of closely-knit teams working together to form creative, problem-solving forces. They’ve begun using a more open kind of office, omitting walls between the departments. They’re making use of more computers and other forms of communication with each other. Department heads are working more closely with the lower levels, so they are aware of what’s happening at all times. The chain of command is made simpler, responsibilities are expanded, and creative and innovative ideas are welcomed and encouraged.
In any job or profession, there are problems to be solved; and where there is problem solving, there will be creative thought. The first step to solving a problem is to know everything you can possibly know about the problem. You must know how it started and what caused it. Get hold of all pertinent information.
Start to look at all the facts. Figure out how they fit together. Sometimes, you’ll find that unlikely elements can start to make some sense together. Try not to fall into what scientists jokingly refer to as “psycho sclerosis” or hardening of the attitudes. This just means not falling back into the “this is the way we’ve always done it” syndrome. If it has always been done that way, why is there a problem with it now? Obviously, it isn’t working now, so it’s time to figure out a new way to do things.
Watch out for the notorious “inner critic.” (More about that in another chapter.) This is simply that little voice in your head that tells you it’s impossible for you to solve this problem. It’s the old “if others haven’t been able to solve this muddle, what makes you think you can?” critic. Disregard this voice. Unfortunately, you might also hear this selfsame voice coming from others as well. Remember the words of Mark Twain, who said, “The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”
Watch out too for the frustration that can come at you. Long hours of preparation and anguish, when the answer doesn’t present itself, can often lead to total frustration with the whole project. You just want to throw up your hands and yell, “I quit!” But don’t! That’s just the “darkness before the dawn,” as they say. Stay persistent. The answer is out there and you’ll find it; just don’t give up. It’s not that a problem is unsolvable; sometimes, people just give up too quickly.
Sometimes, you just have to let that thought simmer in your brain for a while, let things gel a bit. Maybe you just need to “sleep on it.” Let your subconscious work on it for the night. (More on the subconscious in another chapter.)
Often times, going on about your usual business, getting ready for work, showering, and shaving will break the dam and the brilliant ideas just pop to the surface of your brain. A long walk or a drive in the country will make all the difference. You just need to relax and let those ideas simmer in your brain until they’re done. Maybe it’s time to play!
Try to take a break often during your day and let your mind rest a bit. Our world is encroaching on our thinking time, all during the day. Your boss, associates, teachers, students, even television, all want to tell you what you should be doing, every minute of the day. Sometimes, you just need a break from all the mind controlling going on and think your own thoughts.
Whether it’s on the job or at home with your family, the creativity you possess is a vital tool in your life. Have faith in your own creativity. Don’t be so hard on yourself if things don’t work the first time. Be an observant human, watch everything, learn, and don’t be afraid to ask the dumb questions. You know what they say – the only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask.
Nurturing the Creativity Within
“An idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.” – Bill Bernbach
Now that you’ve accepted the fact that you are indeed a creative person, and that you are capable of becoming creative more than you have ever dreamed of, it’s time to put that talent to work and practice, practice, practice.
The first thing you need is a place in which to be creative – a space of your own. If possible, it should be a space that’s comfortable and conducive to creative thinking – a place free of distraction and noise.
To start with, you will need a desk, a comfortable chair, good lighting and the proper tools or equipment. At this stage, you are only focusing on your creativity and formulating ideas. You’re still brainstorming. To help you focus, you might try a little mood music.
Grab that pen/pencil and paper. If you like, you can use a recorder. Whatever medium you choose, make sure you record every single idea; don’t let any of them get away. You may not be able to retrieve them later. At this stage, don’t try to censor yourself, just write down everything that occurs to you, no matter how silly or bizarre it might sound.
Don’t be negative; this is no time to be critical with yourself. Just let yourself go. Try writing for about fifteen minutes at a time. Natalie Goldberg says to just keep your hand moving across the page. Francis Bacon said, “Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.” Then take a break. Get up, stretch, take a walk, and relax
Give yourself time every day to daydream, to ask “What if?” Remind yourself you’re a creative being and allow yourself to maintain that childlike wonderment. Question everything. When you run into the “That’s just the way we’ve always done things,” attitude, try this:
Think of a new way to do things. Think outside the box, as they say. Don’t be afraid to challenge traditional thinking.
Maintain the motivation.
When something strikes you as interesting, go with it and find the twist.
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to avoid losing all those marvelous ideas your creative mind is capable of churning out. Allow yourself that spontaneous creativity.
Increasing the creativity in your life is easy if the activities you’ve chosen are of particular interest to you. William Shakespeare said, “No profit grows where is no pleasure taken, in short, study what thou dost affect.” Simply put, do what you love and you will succeed. You work hardest where your heart lies.
Give yourself the proper incentive to work hard on developing your creativity. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Sit down and begin the process of creating; and the Muse, in curiosity, will appear.
Many times, visualization is very helpful in the process of creating a new idea. Each person has their own way to bring their creativity to the forefront. You will doubtless find your own way to entice the Muse to visit you. Benjamin Franklin used to take air baths to stimulate his thinking. The ritual itself is not important; it’s only a way of focusing your mind on developing creative ideas. Other factors may include a music that inspires you, the time of day when your creativity is at peak, or working in a particular place each time. The important part is to train your mind to think creatively. This takes a little time and effort, but is well worth it in the long run. When creative inclinations (such as questioning everything, asking what if, and stretching your mind) become automatic, you can pat yourself on the back. You’re developing the creative side of your brain, inviting the Muse. Congratulations!
Remember, developing creative ideas is not enough. You must back it up with action. Robert Ringer said, “Nothing happens until something moves.” Put those wonderful ideas into motion. Take action!