Those who struggle to find new ideas often look up at people who consistently manage to come up with the most brilliant ideas. Little do they know that the difference between them is fairly minimal.
This is what extremely creative people do differently
There is one thing highly creative people certainly do differently; they generate loads of ideas. Instead of aiming for ‘one good idea’, they strive for quantity. They stretch their imagination and are not easily satisfied. This hunt for abundance is hardly a talent. It’s a habit. And like any habit, it can be acquired.
How to become a creative genius with one simple exercise
Becoming a creative genius is simple: teach yourself to generate many ideas. And when I say ‘many ideas’ I don’t mean ‘more than three’. Challenge yourself. Make it a habit to consistently generate (at least) 10 ideas per day . This is how you go about it:
Make a list
If you’re going to generate 10+ ideas every day, you need challenges. So the first thing you’ll want to do is create a list with all the challenges you’d like to solve. Don’t make this list too exclusive. Write down as many challenges as you can think of. Big and small, personal and business-related, urgent and non-essential. Some challenges you could put on your list are for instance:
– How can I save money?
– How can I sell more products?
– How can I make sure my employees arrive at work on time?
– How can I make sure I always have a parking spot in front of my house?
It doesn’t matter what kind of challenges you put on your list, as long as you have something to work with.
Choose your moment
To make it easier to stick to your resolutions (and to prevent yourself from skipping a day), it’s smart to pick a fixed time of the day. Ask yourself what’s right for you. Perhaps you’d like to start the day with this creative exercise …but it’s equally conceivable you’d rather do it in the evening, before going to bed.
Generate 10 ideas …EVERY day
Every day, set apart 10 minutes to do this exercise. Grab a pen and paper and look at your list of challenges. Pick one challenge from your list and generate (at least) 10 ideas to solve it. The solutions don’t have to be brilliant; they don’t even have to be reasonably good. Just write down any idea that comes to mind. Don’t judge. Write down boring ideas, unrealistic ideas and ideas that are so far out of your comfort zone that you’re pretty sure you’ll never implement them. It doesn’t matter. You’re aiming for quantity. Writing down 10 ideas shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes.
Are you struggling to generate 10 different ideas? Try using a thinking technique to force yourself to come up with original solutions.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a flow and you’ll have written down 10 ideas before you know it. Don’t stop. Challenge yourself and try to reach the 20. Consider using a thinking technique, like ‘the wise proverb’ to squeeze out a few more ideas.
Make it a habit
If you keep doing this every day, at some point it will become automatic. For most people doing this short exercise for 30 days in a row will be enough to form a new habit. Of course, this seems easier than it actually is. Did you skip a day? Start counting from zero again.
Don’t forget to keep adding to your list. Our lives are dominated by all sorts of problems and it shouldn’t be hard to keep adding challenges to the list.
How a 10-minute exercise will make you a 100 times more creative
Only one month after the implementation of this new habit, you’ve generated AT LEAST 300 ideas to tackle your challenges. Of course, not all of them are brilliant, but what if only 1 in 10 ideas is a good idea? In that case, you’ll have 30 good ideas to choose from each month! And how many of the ideas will be absolutely brilliant? 1 in a 100? You’ll have 3 of those…
Even if you’re a pessimist, and you expect only one in a thousand ideas to be brilliant, you’ll want to try this. After all, even this cautious prediction means that every year you will have generated 3 or 4 of those gems! Ask yourself what you would be willing to invest for the guarantee of some ingenious ideas to help you tackle your biggest challenges… 10 minutes a day? Sure you would!
Generate 10 ideas per day for only one month and not only will you have generated hundreds of ideas for the challenges that keep you busy, but you’ve also created a completely new habit. From now on you will strive for quantity. A habit that makes you more creative than anyone around you. Never again will you have a shortage of ideas. When others generate only a few, you will generate hundreds. The incredible abundance makes sure you always have original approaches to choose from.
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Skill development expert profile — Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso is one of the world’s most famous artists, and his name can almost be used synonymously with creativity. He was an artistic icon who deliberately broke conventional rules in his contribution to redefine what we think of as art.
What brought Picasso to become such a creative genius, and what lessons can he teach us about thinking differently? This piece will explore this through some of his most famous quotes and experiences.
‘It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.’
As a child, Picasso always had a pencil and paper with him. He was obsessed with things and would stare intensely at them before recreating what he had seen. According to his mother, his first word was ‘piz, piz’, a short version of the Spanish word for pencil, lápiz.
Picasso’s father, Don José Ruiz, was a crucial role model. He was a painter and fine arts professor who taught him many of the classical techniques. When he saw 13-year-old Pablo finish one of his works, he realised that his son had already surpassed him and gave up on the ambition to become a great painter. Instead, he dedicated himself to give Pablo the best possible conditions to become a successful artist. He motivated and pushed young Picasso, and they had numerous fierce arguments over how to do things.
‘Good artists borrow, great artists steal.’
Before you can become great in any field, it is crucial to learn from past masters. Picasso had an overwhelming ambition to become a masterful artist and was willing to do the work. He intently studied and copied the well-known Spanish artists, to learn their techniques and ideas.
Pablo was already an acclaimed artist at the age of 15, having achieved what took decades for most other artists. He was able to enter the School of Fine Arts in Barcelona when he was only 13 and moved on to study at Spain’s premier art school, San Fernando, when he was 16. Through his classical education, Picasso had a solid foundation and could produce quality art in many styles.
But he had started to develop a strong objection to the strict teachings from the fine arts university he was attending. He stopped going to classes and started exploring his own ways. Picasso became a rebel that went against everything he had learned in his studies and decided to unlearn much of what he had learnt.
‘Learn the rules like a pro, so that you can break them like an artist.’
As Pablo tried to get away from the influence of his father and classical education, he started down a path of innovation and experimentation. Instead of becoming one of the many artists that could recreate a lifelike impression of reality, he went on to become one of the most influential and transformative artists in history.
When photography arrived, Picasso asked himself what was the point of being a painter, if reality can be captured by a lens. He had to do things differently. To surpass photography, he had to take painting beyond what was real.
‘A picture used to be the sum of additions. With me, a picture is a sum of destructions.’
Picasso decided to paint what he felt, rather than what he saw. This meant that his paintings would often look nothing like reality.
‘I paint objects as I think them not as I see them.’
He felt that art should be more than just a copy of what we could see in front of us and wanted to bring out the essence and interpretation of things around us.
‘We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realise truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.’
He further used art as a way to better understand the world. A world that in no way was easy to understand.
‘The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?’
‘When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up a Picasso.’
Picasso had an incredible inner drive and urge to become the best at what he was doing. When you have such a drive, you’re likely to become successful in almost any area you devote yourself to. Picasso combined this with his incredible artistic talent, which he developed at every opportunity from a young age.
You are not born as a painter, composer or tennis player. Rather, you develop your talents over time. If you combine this with incredible curiosity and drive to become great, you have a recipe for someone who’s going to achieve great results.
‘The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.’
‘I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it’
Picasso was always experimenting with new techniques and styles to improve his skill. When he felt he had explored a way of doing things for long enough, he would switch direction completely, to keep developing himself.
Throughout his career, he moved from style to style and influenced them in his personal way. He reinvented his style at a rapid pace, which contributed to make him an influential artist.
A trademark of any great performer is that they are always curious about how to improve and look for ways to get better. Whenever they feel that they are not developing sufficiently, they will seek out new methods to train and perform.
‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’
Through his 78 years as an artist, Picasso produced 13,500 paintings, 100,000 prints and engravings, 34,000 illustrations, and 300 sculptures and ceramic pieces.
Waiting around until you are inspired before you do something, will most likely not make you a great artist. Instead, it is essential to create as much as possible. As you’re working at your craft, you will improve at it and find inspiration as you go.
‘Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.’
Picasso had an extreme urgency to get things done. Even into his eighties and nineties, he was still a prolific producer of art. The week before he died, he was still painting.
- When Picasso was young, he studied the masters of the past intently, in an effort to copy and recreate what they had produced.
- He then developed his path by deliberately breaking the rules and trying things that hadn’t previously been done.
- Picasso had an intense drive to become the best and was willing to do whatever it took to achieve it.
- He was constantly learning by practicing skills that he hadn’t already mastered.
- It’s better to start doing than to wait around for inspiration to arrive.
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UX Designer, HubSpot Design & GDD Certified, Designer for 70+ Sites for HubSpot and Various CMSs
June 24th, 2017 min read
When it comes to the topic of creativity it seems like there’s a cloud of mystery that surrounds it.
Everyone has their own view of what creativity is. To some, it’s the random bursts of inspiration that can strike at a moment’s notice. To others, it’s the actual ability to act on those bursts of inspiration and bring them to life.
This usually leads to the age-old debate; is creativity the result of nature or nurture? Can it be learned or is it something some people are just born with?
The folks over at Zippi , a custom printing company, are firm believers in the latter.
They believe in this so much that they’ve even put together an infographic to help you unlock your creative genius in as little as 5 days!
In their infographic below, they outline a process that includes everything from creating the perfect playlist to breaking through creative roadblocks . The day-by-day process is broken up into five phases.
Day 1: The Right Environment
Your first day will be focused solely on creating an environment that will inspire you while working on your creative projects.
Day 2: Think Creative
Once you’re in the right environment, it’s time to start brainstorming. Sketch out some of your ideas, research some the topic online, refer back to any inspirational material you might have saved for the project.
Day 3: Go Ahead & Create It!
Now comes time to create your masterpiece. Take all those sketches and ideas you came up with and execute on them. Try to work in 90-minute sessions; separating each session with a short break.
Day 4: Take a Critical Eye & Refine
Once your initial piece of work is done, take some time and step away from the project until the follow day.
When you’ve taken some space, return to your project with a fresh mind and analyze the parts you think could be improved on. You may have to go through this process a couple times to get the best final product.
Day 5: The Art of Self Promotion
When your project is finally at a point you’re happy with it’s time to blast it out to the outside world.
Zippi suggests taking advantage of social media or blogging to get the work out there. This will help you not only increase your following but is also a great way to generate some additional feedback.
Check out the infographic below to get the full breakdown of Zippi’s five-day breakdown of becoming a creative genius.
While most of us aren’t aiming to become the next Steve Jobs or Claude Monet, everyone can use a bit more creativity in their lives. However, what if you are trying to become a creative genius? What if your passions revolve around harnessing your creative talent and releasing it as a product or service to those around you? What do you do then?
Well, I don’t have all of the answers, and honestly I don’t think anyone does. If you look at the lives of a hundred geniuses, I doubt you’ll find any completely identical paths. What you will find however, are a couple of common threads. There are recurring themes that are pervasive throughout their lives, and though many times there are innate abilities, there are also plenty of habits and best practices that you can emulate in your own journey.
No creative genius woke up one day and said “This is it. Today is the day that I’ll be great!” Sometimes it might appear that way, but we know that in reality these people spent hours honing their craft, learning from others, and working through difficult times to come out on the other side as a more capable person.
Practicing an art takes more than effort and time, it takes the knowledge to know what to practice, how to practice, and what good results look like to make true progress. If you spend all of your time practicing something incorrectly, or aiming for the wrong thing, you’re going to end up with poor results.
A Learning Mentality
If you think you know everything, then there’s no reason to keep trying harder. There’s nothing that kills creativity faster than failing to learn. It could come in the form of learning from others directly, learning from them indirectly through books and other materials, or learning from yourself and your triumphs and failures. Whatever the source, the ability to continually learn keeps you informed on what advancements have been made and leverages the work of dozens of others all trying to achieve the same thing.
If after the first failure you gave up, there’s no chance in becoming a creative genius. If after the one-hundredth time you gave up, there would still be no chance in becoming a creative genius. Creativity is about pushing boundaries and looking for new ways to attack problems that may have been around for centuries. That means lots of failures, and lots of attempts that end with nothing to show, but some unusable parts or failed plans. But that’s okay, because attempts are what gives you more to learn from and tons of practice, both of which are key parts to developing your creative genius.
Obviously, failure is not something to aspire to, but neither is it something to avoid at all costs. Aversion to failure leads to taking the safe road every time, to always looking for the easiest, most foolproof way to attack a problem, and to making decisions that aren’t stretching you very far out of your comfort zone. And that’s exactly what leads to mediocrity.
“I have to start thinking out of the box.”
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As Michael Michalko noticed that an average person focusses his attention on a specific information and excluding all else. In contrast, a creative genius sees the whole but would move from one detail to another and examine each seperately. He demonstrates this phenomena by showing us nine solutions that only genius are able to come up with.
Sorry guys, if you are an average creative person, nowadays to say just an average person, leave the creative effort to a genius. But is this true?
No, creative thinking is not a matter of “loosing up your thoughts and let them move freely in your mind”. Following a few focused thinking instructions will let you quickly escape from the box.
One such thinking instruction is SCAMPER, which in turn is derived from a checklist originated by Alex Osborne (See the Histoty of Deliberate Creativity)
- Give a clear description of the thinking task
- Describe the objects of the problem and there mutual relations
- Change the elements or their relations one-by-one by
- Substituting one element or relation by another element or relation
- Combining …..
- Adapting ……
- Magnifying ……
- Puting to other uses …
- Eliminating …
- Reversing …..
- The thinking task is to connect the nine dots using 4 or less straight lines without lifting the pen
- The elements of the problem are:
- nine dots
- a pen with a pointer
- 4 straight lines
- a table
- Construct a 5 by 8 matrix ( 5 elements by 8 SCAMPER-modifiers)
Then, go along all 40 possible escape routes, f.e. (the examples are derived from Michalko’s article)
Magnify the Dots Substitute the flat paper by a round one Modify the pencil
4. Construct a 5 x 5 matrix (for modifying the relations between the elements)
- nine dots with themselves, with pen, with 4 straight lines, with paper. with a table
- a pen with itself, with nine dots, with straight lines, with paper, with a table
For example: (the examples are derived from Michalko’s article)
Modify the relation between the dots Rearrange the relation between paper and the dots
We garantee that you will come up with at least one creative solution that Michael Michalko missed!
If you haven’t that much time, just try a random combination of one element/realtion and one Scamper modifier and let’s force it you out-of-the-box.
Show off your genius by purpose by sending us your solutions!
How to Become a Creative Genius Infographic
Would you like to become more a more creative person? Want to learn how to draw inspiration and come up with great ideas? Creativity and imagination can mean the difference between your business standing out from your competition or getting lost in the noise. Whilst some people are naturally more creative it is a skill you can improve with a bit of hard work.
The start of a new year is a popular time to try something new and to set yourself challenges for the months ahead. So to get creatives up and running for 2016, creative marketplace Zippi have produced the How to Become a Creative Genius Infographic that shows you how to start making your masterpiece in less than a week.
It is a step-by-step guide to help inspire creativity—from preparing your environment, brainstorming, creating your work and refining it, to promoting your work. Stuffed with tips on how to get inspiration, tackle creative blocks and promote yourself, this colourful infographic walks you through each day of the process. In just five days you could be well on your way to finishing that project you put off in 2015.
At eLearning Infographics you can find the best education infographics based on a thriving community of 75,000+ online educators, teachers, instructional designers, professors, and in general, professionals that have a great passion about education.
How to brainstorm, courtesy of one titan of advertising.
Panic burned wild in the minds of the creatives at PJ Pereira‘s advertising firm, Pereira & O’Dell. The same brains that had come up with successful media campaigns for Skype, Lego, Corona, Fiat, the Cheesecake Factory, Scrabble, and Reebok now found themselves firing blanks. They had been working for a month on something special for Intel and Toshiba, but the clients kept raising objections. A deadline was looming. But instead of refining the existing ad, Pereira, 39, told the team to kill it.
“You have to be comfortable knowing that the same place that generated that amazing idea is capable of generating ideas that are even more amazing,” he says.
Liberated from stale material, the team went on to develop The Beauty Inside, a video series about a man who wakes up every day in a different body. It was a viral hit, with fans cast in the starring role, and it won three major prizes at the ad industry’s version of the Oscars, in Cannes. Here’s how to follow Pereira’s lead and never settle for an idea that’s merely good enough. And for more insight into the minds of super-successful people, be sure to check the 5 Ways Billionaires Think Differently Than Most People.
Pereira has a near-impossible standard: He wants to come up with ideas nobody has had before. “You need to go through that pain and write 10, 20, 100, 200 ideas. Then you can say, ‘Okay, that’s probably all the crap I had to get out of the way.'”
It may sound exhausting, but it’s the only way to truly be original, he says. “When you feel you’ve run dry, that’s when you’re actually ready.” For more helping coming up with brilliant ideas, here’s The Best Way to Double Your Productivity Every Single Day.
After rejecting all of his team’s ideas for a recent project, Pereira asked if they had anything else. One guy said, “Well, there’s one thing, but I thought it was stupid.”
That’s when Pereira got excited—because the best ideas sometimes sound crazy. And this one, in fact, turned out to be a winner (he can’t reveal it just yet.) “You need a feeling of safety within your team, to say what you think is stupid,” he says.
Pereira & O’Dell has employees from at least 10 countries, and that’s no accident: Brazilian-born Pereira believes a diverse group brings diverse ideas. “Someone’s creative box is usually their life,” he says.” What’s inside the box for one is outside the box for another.” To expand your box, read. Pereira likes to study the mythology of West Africa, a culture that spurs him to think differently.
“When you’re searching for a creative solution, it’s important to think deeply for a long time,” he says. “But then it’s equally important to let go for a few hours.” So he practices kung fu for two hours a day (he has a black belt.) It’s mentally consuming—drift off and you’ll get kicked in the face—and he often has his best ideas right afterward. “Your brain needs that break so you can come back to work fresh” he says.
To gather pitches for a client, Pereira challenged his team: “Twenty ideas by tomorrow . I might choose one.”
The challenge continued for four days—cruel, yes, but he was making an important point: Don’t feel attached to your ideas, because better ones will always come. “The creative process requires quantity, volume,” he says.” Most of what you come up with is horrible. That’s part of the process.”
Pereira recently re-read The Art of Learning, by chess champion Josh Waitzkin. “In both chess and martial arts, you plan your moves far in advance. But that means you’re trusting your opponent to act predictably,” he says. “If he makes a stupid move, he can gain the advantage.” The lesson: Be nimble and don’t get stuck in the mindset of your advance plan. For more great career advice, check out the 20 Ways Smart Workers Keep Cool Under Pressure.
Ed Note: This story originally ran in the Fall – Winter 2013 issue of Best Life.
‘Genius is 1% talent and 99% hard work’ – Albert Einstein
Are you or aren’t you?
The question of creativity comes up a lot in the workshops and training programmes that we run as Ignition. Who’s got it? Who hasn’t? Are we born with it? Can you learn to be creative?
It seems we’re not the only ones wrestling with these questions.
The School of Life
The broader question of attaining genius – whether that be creative genius, sporting genius or any other kind of genius, came up at a brilliant School of Life Sermon we had the joy of attending one Sunday last month.
For those not in on the secret, The School of Life is a fascinating enterprise in London’s Marylebone run by social commentator Alain de Botton. They run all sorts of wonderful training courses, lectures and events designed to tackle fundamental life questions such as ‘How to realise your potential’, ‘How to worry about money less’ and ‘How to think more about sex’.
Their Sermons are monthly gatherings in a town hall where maverick cultural figures are invited to speak about “virtues to live by and vices to be wary of.”
Happily for some of you, the religious content only extends as far as the name, although we did sing a hymn of sorts – in this instance ‘Clever Bastards’ by Ian Dury and The Blockheads!
At this particular sermon, the American author and Contributing Editor of Wired magazine, Jonah Lehrer, was ministering to the assembled flock on genius. He shares our view that creative genius isn’t a singular gift possessed by the lucky few; it’s actually something we can all strive for.
Jonah talked us through a handful of principles that he believes provide the building blocks to genius. I’ll describe them here…
It may disappoint you to know that there are no shortcuts to genius, according to Lehrer. Being born with an unusually high IQ or identifying with a particular Myers Briggs type is no guarantee of creative genius.
The fundamental ingredient in the attainment of genius is true grit. A stubborn, tenacious refusal to give up. Single-mindedness that borders on the obsessive. A lot of time dedicated to the goal. Taking obstacles and challenges in one’s stride.
As Woody Allen said “80% of success is just showing up.”
This idea of total dedication chimes with Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion in The Outliers: The Story of Success, that those individuals who achieve greatness in their chosen pursuit, do so typically as a result of practising for around 10,000 hours.
Who said it would be easy?
The underwear test
It’s all very well setting off enthusiastically towards attainment of genius, but if you’re going to dedicate time (10,000 hours) and effort to achieving it, Lehrer argues you’ve got to make sure your dream is worth pursuing.
But how to tell? By putting it through ‘the underwear test’ of course!
We don’t usually notice or feel our underwear because we have become habituated to the feel of cotton. A feature of the human mind is that we quickly take things for granted and become numb to anything vaguely predictable. That’s why the first bite of chocolate cake always tastes better than the second and the third.
Similarly, the dreams that we go after need to be sufficiently inspiring and motivating that they don’t bore us before we’ve put in all the necessary practise or ‘true grit’. They need to contain the kinds of subtle thrills that keep us motivated and don’t grow old.
Feelings of knowing
We’ve all experienced ‘feelings of knowing’. These are the moments when we feel like we’re really close to the answer or a creative breakthrough but just can’t quite attain it.
A simple example would be those ‘tip of the tongue’ encounters where we’re excruciatingly close to remembering that person’s name, but it continues to elude us.
When you’re having a ‘feeling of knowing’ moment, Lehrer recommends sticking with it. Staying focused on the problem. This is an important part of the creative process and you’ll usually be rewarded with the answer with just that little bit of extra effort and concentration.
At the other end of the scale from ‘feelings of knowing’, being stuck is a common, healthy milestone in the pursuit of genius. Those moments when no matter how hard you try, you just can’t seem to make any progress. When the well has run dry. When you’re wading through treacle.
Lehrer’s advice is to then step away from the challenge altogether. Ignore it. Put it away. Do something else.
The chances are that your brain will continue beavering away at the challenge subconsciously while you are otherwise engaged. Then when the time feels right you can return to the subject feeling newly inspired and unstuck.
Apparently Bob Dylan was firmly stuck after an intense few months of touring in 1965 and almost retired altogether from song writing. But a period of time spent holed up alone with no access to music of any kind in Woodstock, upstate New York, was followed by one of the most creative periods of his career with the writing and recording of his masterpiece ‘Like a Rolling Stone’.
What are you waiting for?
So there you have it. Genius the Jonah Lehrer way.
We in Ignition would subscribe to much of his thinking. We’re certainly of the view that everyone has a reserve of creativity waiting to be mined. Armed with the right tools, techniques and attitude, genius could be within reach of every one of us.
To many, creativity is thought of as a “God-given” talent or quality that one is born with. An idea that you’re born with the ability to think differently or “think outside the box” instead of learning a process to get you to a certain result. As a creative, I often hear people say they “aren’t creative enough” to complete a task, as if creativity is a gas tank, and they’ve been riding on fumes for miles.
Every single person is capable of creative thinking or becoming a “creative genius.” Think of one person at any time in history that you would consider a “creative genius.” Consider all of the attributes that the individual possesses and really think about what it is about them that, in your mind, makes them creative. What accomplishments or successes have they had? Build a profile of who this person is, what it is that they do and why you hold them in such high esteem.
Now, take a step back and consider how they got to this position. To prove the point, I’ll use an example given by Allen Gannett, Author of “The Creative Curve.”
I think it’s fair to assume that we can all agree on Paul McCartney as someone we view as a “creative genius.” He himself even claims to have had a “stroke of genius” in his lifetime. McCartney claims that in 1963 a tune that came to him in a dream, would eventually become the melody for The Beatles hit “Yesterday,” the most recorded song in music history with more than 3,000 different versions.
During the filming of various movies, McCartney would work on “Yesterday” and would even have a piano moved into The Beatles hotel rooms so he could fine tune the song. He would record, re-record, alter the tune and, eventually, write lyrics for the song that became a smash hit. Every single day he obsessed over the melody until finally, in 1965, he finished “Yesterday.”
Although the melody came to McCartney in a dream, an act that many would consider a sudden inspiration or creative miracle, it was actually a two-year obsession filed with long focused nights and grueling work that finally made the song a reality. This proves that creativity is not something that is brought to us by divine intervention, but instead is pulled out of the hard work and perseverance that we all have inside of us. Creativity is something that can be learned, as long as you are willing to put the time into it. The repetition of doing something over and over, and in the example with Paul McCartney, the repetition of playing the tune and using the knowledge of music that he already learned, took the idea to the next level and ultimately to completion.
If you want to start down a path of increased creativity, consider that tools and knowledge you already possess and work it into your decision-making process. You are already a creative person. You just need to continue to work at it.
This page pulls together my most essential information about creativity. I’ll share how creativity works, how to find your hidden creative genius, and how to create meaningful work by learning how to make creative thinking a habit. I’ve tried to present the basics of everything you need to know to start mastering creativity, even if you don’t have much time.
At the end of this page, you’ll find a complete list of all the articles I have written on creativity.
What is Creativity?
Let’s define creativity.
The creative process is the act of making new connections between old ideas or recognizing relationships between concepts. Creative thinking is not about generating something new from a blank slate, but rather about taking what is already present and combining those bits and pieces in a way that has not been done previously.
While being creative isn’t easy, nearly all great ideas follow a similar creative process. In 1940, an advertising executive named James Webb Young published a short guide titled, A Technique for Producing Ideas.
Young believed the process of creative connection always occurred in five steps.
The Creative Process
- Gather new material. At first, you learn. During this stage you focus on 1) learning specific material directly related to your task and 2) learning general material by becoming fascinated with a wide range of concepts.
- Thoroughly work over the materials in your mind. During this stage, you examine what you have learned by looking at the facts from different angles and experimenting with fitting various ideas together.
- Step away from the problem. Next, you put the problem completely out of your mind and go do something else that excites you and energizes you.
- Let your idea return to you. At some point, but only after you have stopped thinking about it, your idea will come back to you with a flash of insight and renewed energy.
- Shape and develop your idea based on feedback. For any idea to succeed, you must release it out into the world, submit it to criticism, and adapt it as needed.
Is There Such a Thing as ‘Naturally Creative’?
While we often think of creativity as an event or as a natural skill that some people have and some don’t, research actually suggests that both creativity and non-creativity are learned.
According to psychology professor Barbara Kerr, “approximately 22 percent of the variance [in creativity] is due to the influence of genes.” This discovery was made by studying the differences in creative thinking between sets of twins.
All of this to say, claiming that “I’m just not the creative type” is a pretty weak excuse for avoiding creative thinking. Certainly, some people are primed to be more creative than others. However, nearly every person is born with some level of creative skill and the majority of our creative thinking abilities are trainable.
How to Be Creative
Step 1: Give yourself permission to create junk
In any creative endeavor, you have to give yourself permission to create junk. There is no way around it. Sometimes you have to write 4 terrible pages just to discover that you wrote one good sentence in the second paragraph of the third page.
Creating something useful and compelling is like being a gold miner. You have to sift through pounds of dirt and rock and silt just to find a speck of gold in the middle of it all. Bits and pieces of genius will find their way to you, if you give yourself permission to let the muse flow.
Step 2: Create on a schedule
No single act will uncover more creative genius than forcing yourself to create consistently. Practicing your craft over and over is the only way to become decent at it. The person who sits around theorizing about what a best-selling book looks like will never write it. Meanwhile, the writer who shows up every day and puts their butt in the chair and their hands on the keyboard — they are learning how to do the work.
If you want to do your best creative work, then don’t leave it up to choice. Don’t wake up in the morning and think, “I hope I feel inspired to create something today.” You need to take the decision-making out of it. Set a schedule for your work. Genius arrives when you show up enough times to get the average ideas out of the way.
Step 3: Finish something
Finish something. Anything. Stop researching, planning, and preparing to do the work and just do the work. It doesn’t matter how good or how bad it is. You don’t need to set the world on fire with your first try. You just need to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to produce something.
There are no artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, or scientists who became great by half-finishing their work. Stop debating what you should make and just make something.
Step 4: Stop judging your own work
Everyone struggles to create great art. Even great artists.
Anyone who creates something on a consistent basis will begin to judge their own work. I write new articles every Monday and Thursday. After sticking to that publishing schedule for three months, I began to judge everything I created. I was convinced that I had gone through every decent idea I had available. My most popular article came 8 months later.
It is natural to judge your work. It is natural to feel disappointed that your creation isn’t as wonderful as you hoped it would be, or that you’re not getting any better at your craft. But the key is to not let your discontent prevent you from continuing to do the work.
You have to practice enough self-compassion to not let self-judgement take over. Sure, you care about your work, but don’t get so serious about it that you can’t laugh off your mistakes and continue to produce the thing you love. Don’t let judgment prevent delivery.
Step 5: Hold yourself accountable
Share your work publicly. It will hold you accountable to creating your best work. It will provide feedback for doing better work. And when you see others connect with what you create, it will inspire you and make you care more.
Sometimes sharing your work means you have to deal with haters and critics. But more often than not, the only thing that happens is that you rally the people who believe the same things you believe, are excited about the same things you are excited about, or who support the work that you believe in — who wouldn’t want that?
The world needs people who put creative work out into the world. What seems simple to you is often brilliant to someone else. But you’ll never know that unless you choose to share.