How to unlock your creativity

How important is curiosity? When considered, it is a vital part of what makes us human. With age, we often lose the sense of wonder confronting us in our world, so how can we cultivate our interest in our own surroundings, however mundane?

Prepare to be amazed by something every day. Be open to the possibilities around you. Break the routine of your activities. Cycle or walk to work. Take a bus for a change. Stop to chat to people.  Ask something you might not feel confident about normally. Try something different on the café menu.

Buy a notepad you can write down your ideas as they occur to you, or simply use it to doodle on while you wait. Most creative people keep a record of their thoughts, experience should tell us all how much we lose by not doing so. After a day or two, read over your ideas and reflect on them. You may find a pattern emerging that indicates your creative response to your environment. Try the suggestions in : The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Learn to use the Internet effectively. For most, if not all, casual users, it can appear daunting; how do you decide from half a million search responses which is the one you want? What if you miss a better one? Creative people cut through those worries, and learn the effective ways to use what they find, they can organise information so they can find it again, and they don’t overload their own memories whilst using a machine designed to do the same task more efficiently. Flow diagrams are good; in similar fashion we display a family tree, with the possibility of adding information in ‘layers’, using spread-sheet software, for example.

It could be that we have forgotten the joy of being curious, when there is nothing to demand our concentration, we lose our focus, we fall to the lowest energetic state, facing the day on auto-pilot, in short we become depressed. You see this all over the place, in hospital waiting rooms, packed commuter trains, school assemblies, college lectures, to name just a few.

Wake up in the morning with a goal in mind. Creative individuals don’t have to be dragged out of bed; they are keen to get on with the day. Save an interesting or exciting thing to do later, if you have more mundane tasks to do, that way you have something to mentally review as you work. Daydreaming, as a school-teacher might describe it, is much maligned.

Increase your satisfaction by doing things to the best of your ability. Do not expect perfection, but do remember the quality of the experience tends to improve in proportion to the effort you invest in it. The runner may be aching and exhausted, yet he is exhilarated if he is putting all his strength into the race. The more we do with excellence and style, the more we will get out of life.

We need to pay more attention to how well the demands we make of ourselves actually suits the daily routine, when we feel best eating, sleeping, working and so on. Make time for relaxation and reflection. New ideas will form in your subconscious anyway, and over time you will notice it appears to take less effort to drive your creativity. Creative people will often recall moments of insight whilst carrying out a task that doesn’t need all of their attention, swimming, gardening, or housework, for example.

Creative people don’t assume they understand what is happening around them, and they don’t assume others do to. Remember the school subject you hated? Compare with the subject you loved, and the chances are, that one was taught by a creative teacher. Learn from the way they taught, and not simply what they taught.

When someone asks you to solve a problem for them, view it as a request to help them solve it themselves. It is as the old African proverb puts it, ‘Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and feed him for a lifetime.’ Look at how others solve problems. I remember the brief the BBC once gave Nigel Calder, to present  Einstein’s theories to a television audience in plain fashion, without complex mathematics. His book of the TV series is a superb example of clear explanation (Einstein’s Universe: The Layperson’s Guide).

Creative people use language effectively. Metaphors and similes not only add colour and form to our speech, but communicate abstract thought quickly and efficiently. New ideas often demand new metaphors otherwise we would still be thinking inside the box.

Question the obvious. Accept standard explanations only when you have fully explored the alternative possibilities. It pays to be able to scan written material quickly for key words and phrases, remembering to stop and check what you do not understand, and learn to spot the shortcomings of accepted explanations. Creative people sense problems quicker, and hence solve them, often by taking in several viewpoints in succession.

Have you tried lateral thinking? Do you appreciate the value of role playing, games of all description, they are important to us precisely because they make learning fun, the benefit is seldom immediate, but to play a game well, often gives us skills in seemingly unrelated areas, not least social skills when we play with others.

It is vital in problem solving to be able to identify the nature of the problem, because what you do about it depends upon the degree to which you are correct. By naming a problem and attributing a cause to it, you will shape not only the past, but the future. Because creative people consider a greater range of possible explanations for what happens to them, they create a wider and less predictable range of possibilities to choose a course of action from.

Reference: Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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