Creativity Is a Process, Not an Event
In 1666, a man was strolling through a garden and was struck with a flash of creative brilliance that would change the world.
While standing under the shade of an apple tree, Sir Isaac Newton saw an apple fall to the ground. "Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground," Newton wondered. "Why should it not go sideways, or upwards, but constantly to the earth’s center? Assuredly, the reason is that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.
And thus, the concept of gravity was born.
The story of the falling apple is considered as an iconic example of the creative moment. It is a symbol of the inspired genius that fills your brain during those “eureka moments” when creative conditions are just right.
What most people forget, however, is that Newton worked on his ideas about gravity for nearly twenty years until, in 1687, he published his groundbreaking book, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. The falling apple was merely the beginning of a train of thought that continued for decades.
Creative Thinking: Destiny or Development?
Creative thinking requires our brains to go beyond the truth and facts, towards the world unknown to others. Is this a skill that one already withholds or develops through practice? Let’s see
In the 1960s, Dr. George Land conducted a study of 1,600 five-year-olds and 98 percent of the children scored in the “highly creative” range. When the same children were 10-years-old, the percentage reduced to 30. This number dropped to 2 percent by age 25. As they grew into adults, they effectively had the creativity trained out of them. In the words of Dr. Land, “non-creative behaviour is learned.”
Similar trends have been discovered by other researchers. Example, one study of 272,599 students found, although IQ scores have risen since 1990, creative thinking scores have decreased.
This is not to say that creativity is 100 percent learned. Genetics do play a role. According to psychology professor Barbara Kerr, “approximately 22 percent of the variance [in creativity] is due to the influence of genes.”
All of this to say, claiming that “I'm just not the creative type” is a mere excuse for avoiding creative thinking. Certainly, some people tend to be more creative than others. However, nearly every person is born with some creative skill and the majority of our creative thinking abilities are trainable.
Being intelligent does not correlate with being tremendously creative. Instead, you simply have to be smart (not a genius) and then work hard, practice willingly and put in your reps.
Your creative skills are largely determined by whether you approach the creative process with a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. When we use a fixed mindset we approach tasks as if our talents and abilities are fixed. In a growth mindset, however, we believe that our abilities can be improved with practice. Interestingly, we can easily stir ourselves in one direction or another based on how we talk about and praise our efforts.
How to Be More Creative
Assuming that you are willing to do the hard work of facing your inner fears, here are a few pointersto be more creative.
Constrain yourself. Carefully designed constraints are one of the best tools for sparking creative thinking. Dr. Seuss wrote his most famous book when he limited himself to 50 words. The more we limit ourselves, the more resourceful we become.
Write more: Creativity is something that isn’t the first thing you will learn when writing. But with time you develop, all that is required is the will to keep on writing.
Broaden your knowledge. One of my most successful creative strategies is to write on diverse topics. In the words of psychologist Robert Epstein, “You'll do better in psychology and life if you broaden your knowledge.
Read more books: Enhance your skills by reading good books. Not only it will open the gateof your imagination but will also spark up the ideas to work on.
Embrace positive thinking. Positive thinking can lead to significant improvements in creative thinking. Severaltypes of research have revealed that we tend to think more broadly when we are happy.
The honest truth is that creativity is just hard work. Keep working on it till you make it right.
Final Thoughts on Creative Thinking
Creativity is a process, not an event. It's not just a eureka moment. You have to work through mental barriers and internal blocks. You have to commit to practicing your craft deliberately. And you have to stick with the process for years; perhaps even decades like Newton did, in order to see your creative genius blossom.