How To Be Creative Even If You Think You’re Not
As a writer, I often meet a lot of people who tell me they are not creative, and usually their definition of being creative means someone who knows how to write, sing, paint, etc. Creative people are often considered eccentric and somewhat otherworldly in their thinking. Creativity in itself is often times considered an innate ability that you are born with. While some researchers have stuck with that theory, other research has shown us how creativity is a skill that can be learned! So, what is creativity? Creativity is defined as something that is both novel and useful. This can apply to anything in any industry and in any part of your life.
According to Margaret Boden, there are two types of creativity. P-Creativity and H-Creativity. P-Creativity refers to personal creativity, and H-Creativity refers to historical creativity. Obviously, not everyone achieves historical creativity, those are saved for people who usually achieve some type of large-scale innovation that changes the world.
It’s great, but it isn’t the only type of creativity there is. Personal creativity has to do with your everyday life, career, and passion. This is the creativity that people often overlook and forget to acknowledge within themselves.
What Are the Characteristics of a Creative Person?
What does a creative person look like, what do they act like? In his book, Creativity Forever, researcher Gary A. Davis discusses several characteristics a creative person has. These characteristics include:
- A risk taker
- Has a sense of humor
- An attraction to complexity and novelty
- A need for privacy
- Heightened perception
- Tolerance for Ambiguity
- Awareness of their own creativity
These are just some of the many characteristics creative people had, and not every creative thinker has ALL of these traits.
How Can Someone Who Doesn’t Have These Characteristics Be Creative?
So some of you may have seen this list and said: “Oh, that’s definitely me!” While others may look at it and feel that none of these characteristics define you. That’s fine. The great thing about this is that some of these are buildable skills that can help improve your creativity.
The first thing you should understand is that creativity is a process. It’s not just a lightbulb going off in your head, it is more than that, and there are a couple of different ways to go through this process. One of my favorite methods and one that is widely known is Graham Wallas’s four stages of creativity.
- Preparation — This is the first part of the process. You brainstorm and come up with as many ideas and/or solutions as possible. In the preparation phase, you investigate the problem and gather information, this is where you consider every possibility.
- Incubation — The incubation, is the period of rest for conscious mind on the matter, and it is where your subconscious starts to kick in. During this time, your subconscious is going over and processing all the information you gathered, in order to get you to the next step.
- Illumination — This is where the lightbulb comes in! After your subconscious has thought over everything from the preparation phase, it generally provides you with a viable idea or solution to your problem.
- Verification — The verification phase is when you test your idea/solution. You apply it, and you see if it works.
This process can happen really fast or super slow and sometimes, well most of the time you go through it over and over again, until you come up with your new dope idea, and then boom! Look at you being creative!
What is divergent thinking?
Divergent thinking is your typical out of the box type thinking. It is forcing ideas together until something new forms. It is going outside of the norm, generating multiple solutions to solve problems. It’s a spontaneous way of thinking, which is crucial to the creative process.
That is not to say that convergent thinking isn’t just as important to the process. Convergent thinking is systematic and logical, and both types work together in the creative process. But in this article, divergent thinking is the part that we’re going to focus on for anyone trying to be more creative.
Divergent thinking is essential because it is the originality side of creative thinking. It’s where you form good ideas, bad ideas, unicorns, superheroes, and ideas that need just a little more work. Everyone can do that, right? Yes.
The obstacle that people run into when it comes to divergent thinking is the application, how to use those ideas. The first part of the creative process is really where divergent thinking takes place. Coming up with new ideas and solutions should happen in mass droves.
Okay, maybe not mass droves but this is where you think up a bunch of ideas. But, you don’t filter these ideas. That is the hard part, not filtering your thoughts in the beginning. I know, it’s easier said than done because sometimes you want to get rid of some ideas immediately because they are terrible ideas. Trust me; initially, you want to think about all of those impossible ideas.
What Are Some Techniques For Working On Divergent Thinking
So, how does one go about trying to think divergently? Well, if I were to list all the methods here, this would be a really long article, so let’s just start with two easy ways to apply divergent thinking in your everyday life.
Continually asking yourself ‘why’ or ‘what if’ is a small step towards building your divergent thinking skills. Another technique includes taking some part of your routine and changing the way you do it. Asking yourself, “what is a different way to do this?” will help you get those creative juices flowing.
Start building your creative thinking muscles by taking some minor risks. This can include anything from taking a different route to work, trying a new recipe..or making your own recipe, to just taking a day to do something you have never done. The point of taking the small risks is to start jolting your mind to think outside of the usual, and oftentimes self-placed, limitations.
Brainstorms help you to get your idea generation flowing. Every idea is not going to be a great idea. I repeat, EVERY IDEA IS NOT GOING TO BE A GREAT IDEA! I cannot stress the importance of remembering this. It is perfectly fine to have bad ideas, every successful creative person thinks and sometimes acts on their bad ideas before the good ideas start to flow. (insert analogy here). Let those bad ideas, silly solutions, and impossible thoughts flow. Brainstorming is just apart of the idea generation/preparation phase of the creative process.
Discovering Your Creativity
Reading one article isn’t going to make you a creative person overnight, but fortunately, you don’t need magic to become creative. It’s a process. Your journey to being a creative person most likely will never end, and it isn’t supposed to. I mean, ask any creative person you know. You get to this point where you realize there are endless possibilities, but for that specific situation, you can only choose one, or maybe ten.
But at some point, every creative person has to choose a solution, an ending, a route, whatever it is you’re being creative about has to have a conclusion of some sort or it just becomes novelty without the usefulness. Originality without meaning.
Divergent thinking is simply the underlying skill that creates novelty and makes an idea or solution, unique or causes it to stand out. If you can start to apply divergent thinking in your everyday life and routine tasks, it allows you to start working out your creative muscles.
While I haven’t discussed the rest of Wallas’ 4 stages, you’ll find that this process may come naturally to you. You think through a couple of solutions, you stop thinking about it for a while, an idea hits you, and you try it out. If it works, that’s great, and if it doesn’t, you go through the process again.
Sometimes going through the process again means going through all the stages or going back through one or two steps. Just remember, that you can make the process your own.
The techniques for building your divergent thinking skills in this article are small actionable steps that you can start trying today.