Oftentimes when we think about creativity, we think about the greats like Einstein, Picasso or Beethoven but did you know that we are all repeatedly creative in our daily lives?
That one time you managed to fit a last minute meeting into your schedule. The tiny tweaks to an old family recipe that made it so much better. The many compromises that you have worked out in your relationships. The times that you asked “what if?” and ended up with an exciting answer, or even a disappointment!
In essence, creativity is simply divergent thinking. Asking new questions, looking at an old problem in a new light, or even just putting two seemingly unrelated things together to create something better. Pineapples on pizza, anyone?
Creativity isn’t born, it is bred
Instead of asking ourselves if we are creative, we need to shift to thinking about how we can be creative and open ourselves up to the possibilities that lie ahead.
Albert Einstein has been famously quoted as saying, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
And therein lies the secret to creativity. The willingness to work hard at unraveling the mysteries that are important to us.
Give up your quest for originality
This is perhaps the most important thing we need to learn about creativity. It’s not about inventing something entirely new but rather building on what’s already available to make it more efficient or more suited to a given situation.
When you find an older version of something you’re looking to create, think of it as inspiration or a benchmark for your work, not a reason to give up altogether and look for something else.
We have somehow convinced ourselves that singularity is the one true mark of creativity but if you think about it, it’s probably the biggest obstacle of them all, and also largely unattainable.
It doesn’t matter that it’s been done before; what matters is that it hasn’t been done by you. Your job, in any endeavor, is to improve upon what currently exists. Someday you might introduce something completely new to the world, but that should never be the goal.
Consider unrelated fields
Now that we’re not stopping in our tracks just to make sure we’re not looking too much like X or sounding too much like Y, we can concentrate on acquiring new perspectives and expanding our knowledge base.
Make it your mission to collect ideas, no matter how far fetched they might seem in the moment, and find a way to retain them. You’ve heard the one about the napkin notes, rights?
“Originality depends on new and striking combinations of ideas. It is obvious therefore that the more a man knows the greater scope he has for arriving at striking combinations. And not only the more he knows about his own subject but the more he knows beyond it of other subjects. It is a fact that has not yet been sufficiently stressed that those persons who have risen to eminence in arts, letters or sciences have frequently possessed considerable knowledge of subjects outside their own sphere of activity.” ~ Rosamund E. M. Harding.
Detach, and trust the process
Another important aspect of creativity is patience.
Have you ever turned your whole house upside down looking for something and then out of the blue remembered the exact location long after you gave up, probably on a walk in the park, or while taking a shower or doing something completely unrelated?
When you’ve studied everything you can about a given situation and you’re still not coming up with any solutions, then it’s time to give yourself a break. Your brain needs time to process all the information you’ve fed it and when it’s ready, it will give you the answers you seek, or help you see the problem with fresh eyes.
It all comes down to execution
In the end, no matter how many brilliant ideas you come up with, they will not amount to anything unless you share them with the world.
You have to be willing to put yourself out there repeatedly, to look for feedback and gain new knowledge on how to present your work in a way that makes sense to the world.