How to Become More Creative (Part 1)

Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels


In my line of work, creativity is a non-negotiable. I draw, I design, and I write stories, so the more creativity I can tap, the more I'm able to do what I do. Even the less "artistic" fields, say teaching and instructional design, which I also do, demands a good level of creativity. In fact, it's not even bound by work. Creativity permeates across many aspects of life.

When I talk about creativity, I'm referring to problem-solving. How do we make the most of what we have? What can we do when we're given certain boundaries or limitations?

The basic principle behind this is increasing the connections within the brain. It's pretty much established that we can rewire our own brain (unless there are physiological conditions that prevent us from doing so). When we try to learn a new skill, particularly something we're not very well-versed in, and we dedicate a substantial amount of time to it, our brain will do its thing automatically--reinforce some connections and build new ones, so that things become easier later.

In a nutshell, developing your creativity can be broken down into four distinct activities, and these activities are not exclusive to the artistic fields:

  1. Loading
  2. Meaning and Connection
  3. Improvisation
  4. Repetition

LOADING

There's this line from a song in "The Sound of Music" that encapsulates Loading. "Nothing comes from nothing." It's hard to be creative when we don't have anything to work with. How can you cook a good meal when you don't have much in the pantry? How can you play a complex song if you only know two chords? In Loading, you're filling up your reservoir with raw material.

The kind of raw material you'll be Loading will depend on what you need to do. In my case, if I need to create a new story, I would start by reading other stories. And I mean any story, even if it's a news article or a blogpost. If I have to create a new logo, or a drawing, I would then look at what others have done.

This is not about copying. One can call it "looking for inspiration," or "looking for pegs." But, to me, I would call it "looking for possibilities." The more possibilities you explore, the more raw material you can work with. 

I don't like to use the word "research," though I admittedly would refer to that on occasion. Research sounds too clinical, too academic. But "looking for possibilities" has that air of discovery, of wonder, of exploration, like a treasure hunt. It sounds more fun that way.

Also, researching suggests that you'll only do it because you have a project. But to maximize Loading, I found it very useful having it as part of my lifestyle. When you look at the blogs I subscribe to, I have a whole bunch of topics in there, from entrepreneurship and marketing, to science, to history, to "weird stuff." Ditto with the podcasts--on one end I listen to "Lore," but I would also listen to "How to Think Like an Economist." Documentaries are good sources as well.

You might think that I gorge on these and go all nerdy about them, but I don't. I just try to learn something new everyday. When I have some down time, I try to read an article. When I do my walking workouts, I listen to a podcast.

What You Can Do: I use Feedly to subscribe to different blogs. Feedly allows me to create different topic categories to keep things organized. For podcasts, I have Podcast Addict on my phone. Then, for documentaries, I would do a search on YouTube, or find some in streaming services. YouTube is also nice for videos on random subjects. Make it a habit to learn something new everyday. Strike a balance between topics you love and stuff you wouldn't normally look for.

In the next blogpost: Part Two


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