How To Become More Creative (Part 2)
In the previous blogpost, we went through the first step in becoming more creative, which is Loading. What I need to add here is another important source of information, and that is our interactions with people, whether they be family members, friends, co-workers, or any person we engage with in everyday life. In many instances, you might find that the experiences of other people can enrich your creativity as well.
Let's now go to the second step of enhancing your creativity, and that is Meaning and Connection.
MEANING AND CONNECTION
No matter how much you load up on information, they're just that--information. What's crucial at this point is finding their significance or their value, and attaching feelings to them. It's true that we remember things more vividly if we're emotionally connected to them, and these feelings don't have to be of the sad sort. They can be happy feelings, or feelings of awe and fascination.
When you watch a movie, for instance, you would most probably remember that movie if it significantly affected you, positively or negatively. If a movie moved you deeply, you'd most probably be able to remember some key scenes of that movie, especially if you tell it to other people or write about it. Same goes if the movie was particularly bad. You'd tell your friends why you hated it, and you'll cite reasons why.
So when you consume a piece of information, try to attach a strong emotion to it, even if it's as simple as "that's fascinating!" I felt this way while listening to a podcast episode on comparative advantage, which is an economic concept. Comparative advantage essentially helps countries dictate what goods and services they would produce on their own, and what they would import instead. So if a person working in the garments industry loses their job because of cheap imports, that's because the government thought that it would better for the country in general to focus more on the industries where they have an advantage over other countries. (This is, of course, an oversimplification.)
If you have time to write or talk about what you've learned, then you further embed it in your mind. When I wrote about the comparative advantage example in the previous paragraph, it's my way of reinforcing that knowledge in my brain. And the fact that I was able to connect a podcast episode that I listened to two days ago with the subject of becoming more creative is a creative exercise in itself.
Sometimes feelings will come automatically, but some might take a bit of work. You might not get any significant feelings at all, but it wouldn't hurt to try,
Once you've found meaning and emotion in a piece of information, the next thing to do is to make Connections. And this is where the fun part begins, because you'll start to use your imagination to bring in additional layers. Here are the three ways I make Connections:
1) Causalities. With Causalities, you'll be mining the past and figuring out the future, pretty much what a detective and an analyst would do. Here are the questions that matter: "How did this come to pass?" "What could possibly happen after?" You could do it on a macro scale, or you could do it on a more intimate, emotional level, thinking about why people do what they do.
2) Parallels. With Parallels, we're looking at metaphors, or saying, "That's just like...". Does the information remind you of other pieces of information, because they have some underlying similarities? And why? When I think of comparative advantage in economics, it might remind me of an experience from ten years ago, when a CEO said that my strength as a graphic designer was for products and services geared towards mothers, or another article I had read about a co-worker who wanted to pursue dance as a career even if she had no formal training. It might even remind me of another article that's not even connected to economics at all, but with the simple idea of "staying in one's own lane."
Let's then take things to the hilt. With improvisation , you'll be twisting those ideas and information in a variety of ways, by asking what-if questions, or replacing original elements with new ones. Here, you can use the SCAMPER activity, an ideation tool first proposed by Alex Faickney Osborn in 1953, then further developed by Bob Eberle in his 1971 book, SCAMER: Games for Imagination Development.
SCAMPER is an acronym for a list of actions or activities that propose "what if" situations. These are:
- Substitute: Take an element of the information you're thinking about and replace it with something else.
- Combine: Take two or more seemingly unrelated information and find ways to connect them,
- Adapt: Is there anything in the information that you can transfer or apply to another set of information?
- Modify: Change an aspect of the information. Make it bigger, or smaller, or some other kind of modification. It's similar to substitution, but you're just changing a quality or characteristic, not replacing it with something else.
- Put To Another Use: It's similar to Adapt, but the main goal is to repurpose the information so that it applies to other contexts or situations.
- Eliminate: Take out elements or aspects of the information and see what happens. On the flipside, you can also try Adding, or bringing in a new element into the picture.
- Rearrange: If you're working with a series of events, try rearranging their order. If it's a pattern or arrangement, what would happen if you moved things around?
You can do all of this by just daydreaming, or by writing it all down in some kind of diary. You might even do some experimentation, especially if the ideas have a physical component. The whole idea is expanding your sensitivity to possibilities.
Of course, in order to make Creativity blossom within you, you would need to make it a habit to BE creative on a regular basis. Do this by making Loading, Meaning and Connection, and Improvisation part of your day.
The one thing, perhaps, that you have to watch out for when training your brain for creativity is the headaches you might experience, because you'll be forcing yourself to think in different ways and shifting your perception. I certainly went through this in early-2019 when I was heavy in research for my series of short fantasy fiction. So, do take breaks. After rounds of creativity exercises, stop for a while, and let the brain and the subconscious do the background work.
The above is really scratching the surface, but it can apply to whatever field you're in, not just the arts or design. Bottom line, creativity is about solving problems. And expanding your creativity is no different from any physical workout. When you push a bit further each time, your body adapts, making it more capable to handling challenges in the future.