I wondered if my friend was right the other day when she complained that she lacked creativity. No one in my family is creative except for my Uncle Joe and he was an uncle by marriage she woefully admitted. It’s just not in our genes. What my research uncovered is that there are ways to be more creative. And that’s what this post is all about.
Before we discover the best ways to be more creative, we need to clarify a few definitions so we’re all talking about the same thing. For instance, creativity is often associated with the arts. Leonardo De Vinci was creative as an artist. Hemmingway was creative as a writer. However, creativity and creative thinking is much much more.
Webster defines creativity as the ability or power to create. (There are actually three definitions, but this one will suffice for us today.)
Webster defines art as the combination of a skill and imagination, but that’s only one definition, the emphasis on the other definitions is on skill.
Is creativity genetic?
We are all born with creative ability. Some of us are born with loads of raw talent in the arts while others of us exercise our innate creativity in other ways.
For instance, in my family on my mother’s side, everybody was in the arts. One of my great aunts (a horrible person I was told) was a New York clothes designer. My other great aunts were in pottery (Wedgwood), my great uncles played on stage and my grandmother could sing opera and would have done so professionally if tuberculosis hadn’t dampened her career early on. My mother had a beautiful singing voice and was very artistically inclined.
On the other hand, neither my dad nor anyone in his family demonstrated talent when it came to the creative arts. However, my dad was an amazing problem solver. If he had a project that required a tool he didn’t have, he invented (created) and built the tool to do the job.
The point here is that both my mother and dad were creative but in different ways. All of us are creative, but that creativity expresses itself uniquely depending on our skill level (training and practice) and our imagination.
If you want to be more creative, there are ways to enhance your creativity. However, you will also need to gain skills such as knowing what paints to use or how to play an instrument.
As you develop skills, it is not uncommon for creativity to follow. For instance, say you want to be a musician. When your skills are fine tuned (pun intended), you may be able to write a song of your own or creatively alter a piece of music. You might even decide that playing music is not where your creative muse exists. Instead. it might be in creating a new musical instrument or perfecting the sounds out of an existing instrument.
What does science say about ways to be creative?
Scientists are trying to get a grip on what happens in the brain when someone is being creative. What they’ve discovered is that creativity is not centralized in the brain. In other words, they can’t point to your head and say, “There, that’s your creative spot.”
The 5 best ways to be more creative
- Practice convergent and divergent thinking. Convergent thinking is when you gather information in order to solve a problem. Divergent thinking is when you move away from the idea of a single solution to a problem and try and discover multiple solutions.
Exercise in convergent thinking – You have $100 to spend on groceries for a whole month. This is the problem. Find the best single way to do this. Maybe you decide to eliminate all unnecessary food such as candy, pop, and junk food from your grocery list.
Exercise in divergent thinking – You have $100 to spend on groceries for a whole month. Look for multiple solutions to the problem. For example, you decide to eliminate all junk food from your shopping list and only shop the sales.
- Get plenty of exercise. Creativity increases for up to 2 hours after you do aerobic exercises for 30 minutes. This comes as no surprise since aerobic exercise increases blood flow to all parts of the body including your brain.
- Change projects – If you’re writing a book, change from the book project to another project. You will get more done by allowing a project to “steep.”
- Take a trip and study other cultures. If you can’t physically take a trip, watch a show on other cultures. In one study, a 45-minute slide show increased creativity for a week.
- Play – When you play and are having fun you become more creative. (See https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm). If you visit the help guide article, you will find it suggests that the play should include other people. Try and take a project such as gift-wrapping and make it a creative fun thing to do. Get together with a friend and be amazed at how many creative ideas you will come up with.
- This is a bonus way to be more creative. Be curious. Be filled with the wonder of questions like who, what, when, where, why, and how. These questions will take your thinking to amazing places.
In addition to these suggestions, there are a couple of great Ted episodes on creativity. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
One important point to remember is that you are already creative, what I’ve given you here are ways to be more creative. When you are more creative, you can have more fun out of life and that’s what we want for you.
Now go have fun and relax.