Contrary To Popular Belief, Creativity Takes Work

Creativity is an intangible, immeasurable force that has fascinated human kind since we first became aware of our ability to think our way out of problems. Creative people are given a great deal of leeway when it comes to behaviour and what’s considered normal, which they often exploit with outlandish and wayward actions and habits. How else do you explain art students?

Creative people are expected to be weird, it’s as if people think that creativity breeds weirdness or weirdness breeds creativity, or something that doesn’t allow for balance. Creativity is so mysterious that even in today’s rational world, people don’t like to interfere with those considered creative, just in case they do something awful, such as damage the creativity or frighten it off.

The truth is that creativity is like any other human attribute or ability. It’s fairly robust but requires constant exercise and hard work to be developed and maintained. It can be nurtured and grown, and can, to a degree, be learnt. But if it’s ignored or taken for granted it will atrophy.

Creativity is a much sought-after characteristic, with people willing to try (or believe) just about anything that claims to enhance it. A very popular theory is that classical music (especially Mozart and Bach) stimulates the right side (the creative side) of your brain and gets all the creative juices flowing. Many babies are subjected to the strains of classical music while still in vitro, because their parents want to give them a head start in life.

This is bad news to all those who hate classical music and find comfort only in Metallica or Marilyn Manson. Some studies, however, have found that all music stimulates the right brain, even Billy Ray Cyrus and Mariah Carey. So while it appears that there is no accounting for taste, there is at least hope for all of us, creatively speaking.

Reading everything that you can get your hands on is also an excellent way to cultivate creativity. Reading opens your mind up to new ideas and points of view. It also stimulates your imagination, and when it comes to creativity, imagination is vital. Skip the TV (not called the idiot-box for nothing, you know) for a couple of nights and start that book you’ve been to meaning to read. If that’s a sacrifice too unimaginable to consider, try delaying your TV watching by an hour and use that time to read. Alternatively, pick up a book when you can’t find anything to watch. It’ll beat channel surfing mindlessly for 15 minutes before settling on a rerun of a B-grade movie you’ve seen three times already. You think you won’t be able to live without it, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Sudoku, which took the world by storm a few years ago, is an excellent way to exercise your brain and kick start ye olde creativity. Cross words, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit are all fun ways to flex your thinking muscles, even non-geeks think so, although they might just not know it until they try it. A good argument will also stimulate the right side of your brain. It has to be a good, challenging argument though. Mindless name-calling (unless, maybe, they’re really creative names and not foul four-letter generics) will not cut it.

When it comes to writing, experts agree that writing everyday is the best way to hone your creativity. In his book On writing, Stephen King advocates writing every day as the only real way to improve, and as far as I’m concerned his word is gospel. For those who require more than one opinion (no matter how expert), Sonia Simone, a professional blogger with 20 years of professional writing experience, says that writing every day will give your work greater depth, maturity and clarity.

One thing that these two experts have in common is that when they say every day, they mean it. There are no days off. Not even Christmas. If this sounds intimidating, and it does, they add that you needn’t write for hours at a time, 20 minutes will do. Putting pen to paper, or text to screen, is the important bit, time is not. As you improve though, you may find that you spend more time writing simply because you enjoy it.

Some people think that being creative means that you always have a limitless supply of brilliant ideas just waiting to be tapped. This is a myth. Creative people are as capable of coming up with rubbish as anyone else. In fact, if you believe that life is all about balance, then creative people can come up with worse ideas than anyone else just to even out the really good ones.

The creative process is like mining. You get a lot of useless sludge with your diamonds or gold. But creative people are good at spotting the gleam among all the waste and go about gently uncovering it. And in the end that’s what creative people are remembered for: their diamonds in the rough.

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