How to Be Creative - Think Deep

How to Be Creative

I’ll admit it. The title of the article is a bit misleading. Why? It’s because you already have the natural ability to be creative. We all have the natural ability to be creative. But the fact is that most people think the creative bug is something reserved for a special few. It’s not.

Then why does it seem like some people have been bitten by the creative bug and some haven’t?

It’s because those who are creative understand the process of it and even if they don’t understand it, they trust the process when it kicks into gear. Others who don’t consider themselves creative are ignorant of the process and they don’t trust it, even if the process of creativity is kicking into full gear.

You don’t have to learn how to be creative. You just have to know how the process of creativity works to be creative. Let’s take a closer look at the process to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about.

First off, what do I mean by being creative? I’m not going to quote Websters here (I hate doing that). What I mean by being creative is simply the ability to create. That’s a pretty big definition that casts a wide net. We use creativity to solve problems, to look at things in different ways, to think of great ideas, etc. Look around you – the computer you’re viewing this article on, the keyboard, the mouse, the Internet, batteries, chairs, books, etc., – they all stemmed from an idea – the starting point of all achievement as Napoleon Hill likes to put it. We create first in the mind in the form of ideas and then we act on them on the outside.

Like anything worth getting better at, the more you practice something, the better you become at it. There’s no other way around it. But what makes you voluntarily practice something?

You have to like doing it first.

If you hated playing piano, would you practice playing it in your free time? Probably not. You would go watch TV or play basketball instead. Tiger Woods. Michael Jordan. Roger Federer. They all have love for their respective games. It’s that love that makes them go out and practice everyday from dawn to dusk. So must you love the game of creativity. Once you understand the process of creativity, implement it, see the results, you’ll begin to love it which will make you want to practice it even more to become better at it.

Let me give you an example of what I mean by what I just wrote. I had a friend who had never watched football before on TV until a couple of years ago. When he first saw it, he hated it because he had no idea whatsoever of the rules of the game. To him, it just seemed like two lines of big men running into each other. BUT, once he understood the rules, the trick plays, how he could read the defense, special teams, etc., it became fun to watch and to play for him as well.

Similarly, I think that because we don’t understand the “game” of creativity, we jump to the wrong conclusions, the biggest one namely that we are not creative. It’s such an elusive quality that we don’t understand and because we don’t understand it, we tend to think it’s something we don’t have. However, once we understand how it works, we can start to reconnect with that creative power that was always within us.

The first step in the creative process always involves clearly defining what you want to accomplish. Always. No ifs ands or buts. Do you want to solve a problem, think of an idea, think of a clever way to do things? What problem exactly? An idea for what exactly? A clever way to do what exactly? Cleary define what you want. The mind cannot operate on unclear instructions. Clarity always precedes creativity. Always.

One of the main reasons why people seem so frustrated that their creativity process is not kicking in is because they don’t take the time to sit down and really clearly define what they’re trying to do. It’s as if they’re trying to identify an object at the bottom of a muddy pond. No matter how hard they strain their eyes, they can’t make it out. You have to remove the mud, the sticks, the grass, and the sand to get a crystal clear look at what you want. Your mind cannot devote its resources to creative power if it’s wasted on running around in circles trying to figure out what it’s supposed to do. Remember, clarity always precedes creativity. Always.

Once you’re clear on what you want to do, expose yourself to as much information as possible relating to the subject of what you’re trying to accomplish. Read the books, the magazines, the articles, talk to people to get different viewpoints, etc. What this does is slowly add “fuel” to “spark” the fire of creativity within you.

What happens next is you’re going to get an epiphany. A flash of insight. A bolt of lightning that shoots straight into your mind. Most people think that creativity comes in this type of one big flash of insight but what most people don’t realize is everything that happened in the background before, that contributed to this one big flash of insight. Creativity is a result of an entire concoction of clarity, knowledge, experience, etc., that all stew in your subconscious mind until it analyzes all that to give you that flash of insight.

Your job is to provide your mind with everything it needs to arrive at that one big flash, but you’ll find that flash of insight is just the beginning. The biggest misconception regarding creativity is that it’s a one time event. It’s not. Creativity is a never ending process that takes you on tangent after tangent after tangent. That great idea, when implemented will lead you to another great idea, and another, and will motivate you to seek out more knowledge and experience, which will spark another idea, etc.

To give you a better understanding of the process of creativity, I’m going to use a simple visual analogy. Imagine clearly defining what you want to do as gathering wood for a fire and stacking it in a pile. Then imagine getting the information from books, people, magazines about what you’re trying to accomplish as gathering combustible fodder material for the fire – dead leaves, moss, lighter fluid etc. That flash of insight you have – think of it as a match that’s just been lit – if you don’t act on that flash of insight that comes into your mind, that’s the same thing as just holding that match and refusing to throw it into your pile of combustible material. Once you act on that idea – it’s as is you toss that match onto your pile of combustible material to start the fire of creativity.

You can start to do a lot more things with the fire now. You get warmth from the fire, you can cook food, light a torch and explore a different path and see things you’ve never seen before because of the light – (of course these are all metaphors to illustrate the different paths and tangents you can go on now that you’ve fully engaged the process of creativity) but the point remains – the most crucial component is acting on that flash of insight that comes because that’s really the starting point of creativity. The process then loops itself and it completes a lot faster and then you engage in that “flow” that everyone speaks of when they describe their experiences with creativity.

The majority of people are never clear on what they want and that’s the hardest part. Once you do that, finding the information becomes a bit easier and the last hurdle that people face is when the match is lit, but they keep on holding onto it. They have that flash of insight and they rationalize that it can’t be a great idea because they themselves thought of it. How many times have you thought of a great idea only to see it acted upon later on by another person? Each time you don’t act on your flash of insight, you burn yourself in the sense that you hurt yourself by not trusting your creativity. Once you trust it and act on it, your flow of creativity begins. The fire gets started. Things start to happen. Things get done. More ideas come shooting into your head, etc.

What did I mean by those who didn’t understand the process of creativity, but trusted it? What I meant by that was that those people knew about the importance of identifying that big flash of insight and acting on it. They trusted that part of the process.

What did I mean then when I said that they didn’t understand the process? By that I meant that they only considered the flash of insight as creativity. They did not consider being clear on what they wanted and getting the information as part of the process because they did that naturally. That big flash of insight – that’s what they trusted and that’s what triggers the floodgates to open. Acting on that idea. That’s when you engage in the “flow” of creativity – when you act on that idea, you begin to see so many different things that you could never see before.

The people who don’t call themselves creative – they are ignorant of the process, even if it’s kicking into full gear – by that I mean they were clear on what they wanted, they got the information and they got that flash of insight, but they don’t trust it, and as a result, the fire of creativity never gets started. They burn their fingers as they hold on to the match.

When inspiration hits, write it down. I can’t emphasize that enough. Write it down because if you don’t, you will forget and you’ll miss out on starting your fire of creativity. Read any autobiography and you’ll find that these flashes of insight are worth their weight in gold. However, writing it down is like lighting the match. You have to then act on it and that’s akin to tossing the match onto the pile of wood to start the fire.

One of the biggest factors in the process of creativity is trusting that your mind can get the job done. Doubt shuts down the mind. Think of the popular example of “I can’t” vs “How can I?” The difference is too big to imagine. I can’t – the game is over. It didn’t even start. No fire can ever be started. How can I? – the fire has a chance to get started.

I know I covered a lot of material in this article so I want to briefly recap. We all have the ability to be creative. The key to unlocking our creative potential is to understand the process of it. We start by becoming clear on what we want, gather information, trust that our mind will do the job, get that flash of insight – implement it – and watch the floodgates open and that’s when “flow” starts happening. The starting point of that flow is when you act on your first flash of insight. That will repeat the process of creativity much faster – you’ll find yourself having to define new objectives, gather new information, have new insights that you act on which will then take you on different tangents, etc., – hence the term “flow”.

Remember, don’t get caught holding the match while it’s burning. Act on it by throwing the match on to the pile of wood you gathered to start the fire of creativity.

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