A lot of people struggle in getting their creative juices flowing. In this busy world we live in, we sometimes don’t give ourselves time or permission to explore our creativity and realize new projects. These projects sometimes get put on the backburner, and instead we prioritize other tasks.
What is creativity?
According to Kaufman and Sternberg (2007), creative ideas comprise three components. 1) Those ideas must represent something different, new or innovative. 2) They need to be of high quality. 3) Creative ideas should be appropriate to the task at hand. A creative response to a problem must be new, good and relevant. But creativity not only applies to ideas. The “four P’s” model distinguishes among the creative person, process, product and press.
As these authors express, the experience of being creative can be captured through the concept of flow. This concept refers to the sensations and feelings that come when an individual is intensely engaged in an activity. In this way, flow can be experienced in anything from rock climbing to playing the piano, as long as the individual’s abilities are a match for the challenges of the situations.
Give ourselves permission to be creative
The actor Ethan Hawke gave a TED Talk called “Give yourself permission to be creative”, through which he expresses that, “Most of us really want to offer the world something of quality, something that the world will consider good or important. And that’s really the enemy, because it’s not up to us whether what we do is any good. If history taught us anything it’s that the world is an extremely unreliable critic.” According to him, we tend to forget about the importance of creativity, until we need it. He says that human creativity can be define as nature manifesting in us. To be able to express ourselves we have to start getting to know ourselves. As Hawke says, “What do you love? If you get close to what you love, who you are is revealed to you.”
Adults and children have different ways of expressing their creativity. Kids don’t have ingrained habits in the same way adults do. They don’t care if they are good at doing something or not: they just do it. They throw themselves at whatever project you put in front of them. Any opportunity they have, they use it to express their individuality.
Tools to improve our creativity skills
Dr. Balder Onarheim is a creativity researcher at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and the founder of the Copenhagen Institute of NeuroCreativity – an institute devoted to understanding and disseminating knowledge about the neurological underpinnings of creativity.
He asserts that there are three simple tools that can help us improve our creativity:
It consists in training the ability for randomness. When you think about a concept or an object, you need to try thinking up new out-of- the-box ideas that you can associate with it. This allows ideas to become associated with other ideas that no one ever thought before. It is an exercise that helps imaginative processes. As often as you can, try to challenge yourself come up with random words.
Using the sleeping time as a creative technique:
About 90 minutes after we fall asleep, the process of “rapid eye movement sleep”, or dream sleep, begins. When we sleep, we don’t apply many rules: everything is possible. The rules that we tend to use during day time can easily sabotage our creativity, because they limit, in some way, the multiple scenarios that we consider possible.
Right before you go to sleep, try to think about the problem you are trying to solve, but don’t try to solve it. This improves the chance that you will dream about this without all the normal constraints. Then try to make sure that you wake up after around a 90 minutes cycle, repeatedly, during six or eight hours, to increase your chance of waking up in your dream sleep. In the morning, try to take notes on everything you remember. Did you dream about the problem you wanted to solve? This technique may help you visualize new ideas that you wouldn’t’t come up with while awake, due to all the limitations we have to think in a creative way.
If you are stuck with a creative problem, you need to think about what can you do to get to the next step. When you think about your problem, try to introduce random solutions. Even Wikipedia has a random article button, in which they show you a completely unexpected piece of information. This can be useful to practice randomness, which in turn, may help you introduce creative solutions you wouldn’t otherwise think of.
Embracing a creative way of living
Creativity is a vital process that helps us express ourselves as individuals. When creativity takes place, it is associated with positive feelings, because it enables the fulfilment of creating something unique with our own abilities, values, and points of view. When creativity is shared, it can also bring healing to the group. As Hawke says, “If you want to help your community, if you want to help your family, to have to express yourself. And to express yourself, you have to know yourself. It’s actually super easy, you have to follow your love. There’s no path until you walk it.”