On Creativity

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”
-ALBERT SZENT-GYÖRGYI

1. Creativity
Creativity is a Big word. It is indeed a rare luxury to be allowed to spend each and every day working with ideas and inventions; to be in the middle of the creative process and realize the conceptual embryos that are born in the inner depths of the brain. There is definitely a certain element of magic to it. But this kind of romanticizing makes it very difficult to relate to creativity in a practical, constructive way.

There is definitely a point in demystifying the entire creative process. For many people, the mere word “creativity” evokes an almost voodoo-like mystique, sometimes disenfranchising people and creating a stigma that prevents them from actually thinking creatively. Many people therefore instinctively and defensively reject all creative propositions, perhaps feeling that they are somehow less capable of creative thought than others, as if creativity is somehow a threat to them.

But creativity is not a supernatural force. Inspiration is not some sort of spiritual revelation or magical phenomenon that affects only a select few creative people, like a lightning bolt from above.

Creativity is an attitude. The more openly you approach the creative process, the more creative you will be.

In psychology, it is suggested that the natural creativity we all inhibit as children wears off as we grow up, and are conditioned to obey and follow the rules of society and the expectations of how adults are supposed to behave. In this perspective, the creative process is a method of freeing ourselves from the yoke of these rules, and return to our childlike selves.

2. Of course you are creative!
The first and most important step in the creative process is to shake off all the skepticism and doubt. A person who believes him- or herself to be incapable of creative thinking is very rarely creative. This has very little to do with innate capacity for creativity – you ARE creative. Anyone can plant the seeds of a good idea, it´s just a question of releasing the brain´s associative powers and give the subconscious a little more room to maneuver. This may sound hokey, but basically it’s about relaxing, letting go of that inner critic and freeing oneself from the many mental constraints we are forcing upon ourselves in our daily lives. An idea in itself is just a thought and a thought can never be harmful. But in the world of thoughts, anything is possible.

3. Creativity and spontaneity
True creativity requires a certain amount of spontaneity. This is something that can seem uncomfortable for many people, especially in our inhibited Western intellectual climate. As people, we have a penchant for applying common sense and practical methodology; to submit to unwritten laws and regulations at all times. But creativity rarely germinates in an atmosphere of caution and anxiety. Do not be afraid to make yourself look ridiculous – good ideas are usually born out of spontaneity. Be generous with yourself!

4. Creativity and triviality
A misconception that often stymies the best of creative intentions is the expectation that one´s first ideas will be brilliant. This is very rarely the case. To be creative, you have to allow yourself to make mistakes. Do not be worried if your first ideas are trivial. The brain often requires time to get up to speed – consider it an initial discovery process, where all parameters and facts must be shaken and stirred to blend together. The worst thing you can do at this stage is to begin to censor yourself. Let out the cheapest, most trivial ideas and clear the brain from all its initial superficial associations. Eventually, you will notice that your ideas are gradually becoming more and more discerning and relevant.

5. Creativity and flexibility
The French 19th century philosopher Émile Chartier supposedly said: “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one we have.”

Forget any thoughts of The Perfect Idea. It does not exist, or rather, it will not manifest itself in splendid isolation. Avoid tunnel vision. The path to the truly good, useful ideas lies not in striving for a single optimal solution, but rather in searching for as many potential solutions as possible. Only when you can compare several ideas to each other will you be able to decide which of them are the most appropriate. Do not evaluate your creative efforts too soon. Write down everything, establish categories and seek flexibility. Eventually, you will see a pattern in all the ideas and get a clearer picture of which of them you will be able to build on.

6. Creativity and multitude
It’s very easy to fall in love with one´s ideas. The itch to move on and start realizing those ideas is very hard to resist. That eagerness often tricks people into diving into an idea way too early, which is where the idiom “kill your darlings” comes from. Imagine that there are always another ten solutions around the corner, at least five of which are going to be better than your last idea.

7. Creativity and tenacity
It is easy to despair when one feels that one has milked the brain of every ounce of creativity it could muster. But not all solutions are simple and obvious. Sometimes, the brain needs a break, to process all the accumulated thoughts. Do not give up if you hit the wall. Take a break and start anew, with fresh thoughts and rejuvenated inspiration.

8. Creativity requires nourishment
Perhaps the biggest fear of every professional designer is to face creative blockage. The way out of this dilemma is to not overstate the problem. This type of mental freeze is very common and almost always the result of the brain not having been given enough nourishment. The brain needs to be fed with new impressions and new input in order to function, much like fuel in a car. Learn to recognize the warning signs when you are trying to create something out of nothing.Take a step back, release your ambitions and seek out new inspiration and information. Eventually, the blockage will clear.

9. Creativity is open source
Creative, collaborative teamwork is very difficult, because the creative process is very tender and newborn ideas are very delicate. We often feel that criticism of our ideas is equal to criticism of us as individuals. Therefore, the best approach to creative collaboration is to refrain from premature criticism – it is impossible to say when a single idea has reached maturity, and it is usually better to allow it time to solidify and take shape. By doing so, people have time to take stock of their own ideas and become less attached to them. In the end, if the process itself is engaging enough, people may not even always remember who came up with which idea. Everything is shared, and everyone can feel some degree of ownership. That increases the  chance that there can be a consensus on which ideas to move forward with.

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