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I am not a creative person.
This is probably the reason why I stare at a blank page every week struggling to think about what to write here on the Thursday’s section. I really try to choose over originality over derivative ideas and this is why I squirm around most nights guilty over the fact that I cannot come up with any good ideas for the week.
How can I be more Creative ?
I decided to take help from the most unreliable source of information in this world – the interweb, about what makes those really creative people “creative” and how do they get such flashes of insight which makes ordinary mortals jaws drop to the floor.
Turns out it is a daily struggle for them too. I came upon the video of one of my favorite comedians, John Cleese, the writer and actor who created the incredible class comedy “The Fawlty Towers”. Cleese with his incredible mind tells us that creativity is often misconstrued as an ability, instead it is just a method. He also lays down the rules which I will try to explain to you in my own language, untalented that I am.
I realized I have been unconsciously been doing some of the things he talks about just that I have not been able to distill it into clear ideas. Finally, after listening to him, I could put some of the basic points down.
The Creativity Formula
Creativity is not just a single step where an insight just occurs. Before the “lightbulb” moment occurs, several steps follow which lead to it. Once you have a hint of a problem, here are the usual steps.
Exploration or wandering off has no real objective. You are really under no constraint to produce results. Once you have a hint of a problem or a project, you go wandering on the internet and unknowingly your exploration may trigger a new avalanche of ideas.
Application and Focus
Once you have wandered enough, in the global scale of things there is some what of a time limit. Then you sit down write your ideas on a piece of paper and get ready to ponder about them. The trick is to not be judgmental about your ideas yet and not be be around people who do not understand this method. These are the people at your workplace who get a project and immediately jump into it. They will never be the one coming up with the most creative ideas.
Maybe think of something innovative like using old knowledge in a new domain like using Venn diagrams to represent and demonstrate human psychology.
Incubation and Fermentation
Once your conscious part of the brain has accepted the necessary goals and the input information, let your unconscious take over and basically gel them together into an insight. To do this does not mean sitting at your desk staring at the points you have already written. Take a walk, take a shower or even take public commute.
When I am usually faced with the crisis of coming up with something original, I deliberately take the longest public commute to work. Turns out by the time I reach work, I have new exciting insights to try out or write about.
What will not help at this stage is getting interrupted, checking your messages or your friend’s Facebook updates. Creativity is kind of a solitary activity unless you are with the right group and the best results come when you let your ideas ferment in your head for a long time alone.
There is a reason why R&D departments of innovative companies are not located at the production factory floor. Executing and coming up with something original are very two different disciplines to be honest and striking a balance between them is most important.
Following through is extremely important. Once you have the insight, you should have the discipline not to play around anymore and execute the idea. It may even turn out that many of the ideas which you got excited about are not practical and must be rejected. In that case you go back to stage 3 again.
Once you have had success several times with your creative pursuits, you develop something called a “creative confidence” and it gets easier with time. This basically means you are not anxious to let your thoughts and ideas wander and eventually get better with time.
So Isn’t Creativity for “Creative” People Only?
Not really. Everything including the most mundane “regular” work can be improved with creativity. Never take anything for granted because everything can be improved. If you can isolate yourself, engage your inner child, let your ideas go a little wild you will stand out from your colleagues who are just jumping to do the task as mundanely as possible.
So go ahead, if you read this, when the next task comes, think about how you can improve upon it in a creative way. Keep your distractions under control and use some long hours of solitude to nurture the most innovating solution.