Productivity 105: How Creativity Works

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Creativity is the ability to create

Creativity usually implies imagination or original ideas

People place creative minds on a pedestal, but anyone can be creative

Creative minds are trained, not born, to be creative

Creativity is not intelligence

  • Genius often comes from birth, but genius combines intelligence and creativity
  • Creativity never requires formal education
  • Innate talent only determines how easy it is to be creative, not whether it is possible

Creativity doesn’t come exclusively from contemplation

  • Creativity requires work
  • Frustration is the creative process, not an interruption of it

Many misconceptions about creativity come from workers in creative career fields

  • Many “creative” career decisions like music, art, design, and writing don’t pay enough for the creator to make a living off of it
  • Many people in those work capacities do work that isn’t in line with their desire

Creativity has specific characteristics

  • Creativity is finding an unconventional solution to a conventional problem
  • A creative result always starts with a perceived problem or failure
  • Creation is, fundamentally, a response
  • Creative responses always remove obstacles, minimize challenges or add previously nonexistent value

To be creative, maintain a state of mind

Constant curiosity is critical to being creative

Learn self-love

  • Overall happy, self-accepting, and at peace with oneself
  • Allowed to make mistakes
  • Eating correctly and exercising routinely (more on this later)
  • Getting plenty of rest (more on this later as well)

Become critical of all ideas, from both yourself and others

  • Look for constant constructive feedback from others
  • Re-evaluate values, goals, and ideas on a regular basis
  • Stop brainstorming “new” ideas and spend more time disagreeing with ideas and finding flaws in theories

Develop a natural openness to new things

  • Try to alternate intentionally between thoroughly considering what others think and disregarding their thoughts
  • Live boldly and fearlessly
  • Be continuously prepared to commit ideas to writing
  • Regard the rules as meant to be occasionally broken

Creative people are focused on productivity

  • Avoid complaining or feeling entitled
  • Choose decisive and “good enough” over indecisive and perfect
  • Fight the fantasy of perfectionism
  • Focus on mastering one thing at a time
  • Take advantage of boredom for routine and uninteresting tasks
  • Stay organized and structured
  • Be persistent and disciplined

Creativity is a progressive process

Every creative medium has rules for high-quality work

  • The medium itself has to abide by specific shared standards of quality
  • Even avant-garde and experimental works acknowledge these rules by intentionally defying them

1. Gather

Find something you’re passionate about

  • Any creative work connected to a passion can succeed

Pull together tons of raw information from everywhere you can

  • Browse all sorts of information, from general topics to specific subjects

Do some brainstorming exercises

  • Mass Brainstorm – write out 100 ideas as quickly as possible, irrespective of whether they’re good ideas
  • Reverse Brainstorm – identify ways of causing the problem, or pick the worst ideas you can
  • 30 Circles – draw 30 circles on a piece of paper, then doodle inside them with a time limit of 3 minutes
  • Zentangle – draw a curvy line across a paper, draw a pattern along the line, build the patterns up stroke by stroke until you’re finished

Question absolutely everything

  • Ask dumb questions and find new answers to them that are unconventional or different
  • Step outside of your field of experience
  • Add these notes to the other information you’ve collected

2. Digest

If you can, consolidate the number of “containers” that hold your information

  • Keep all the scraps of paper that get used for brainstorming in one box or cabinet
  • Try to only use one digital service, like Evernote, a cloud storage system or OneNote

Sift and sort through the gathered materials and look at them from different viewpoints

  • Lotus Blossom Technique – start with a central idea and expand outward with solutions
  • Mind-Mapping – draw circles representing ideas and draw lines to connect them with other ideas
    • Some software like bubbl.us or Coggle allow mind-mapping on a computer
  • Try a less conventional way to view the information, like Wordle

Try combining things and seeing how they are or aren’t connected

  • Write cards with phrases and combine them together
  • Swap out the 6 Thinking Hats
    1. White Hat – looks at information and data
    2. Black Hat – exercises judgment and caution
    3. Red Hat – covers feelings, emotions, and intuition
    4. Yellow Hat – finds reasons why something will work
    5. Green Hat – alternatives, proposals, provocations, and changes
    6. Blue Hat – controls processes, looks at the thinking of the subject instead of the subject itself
  • Create limits and constraints
    • Arbitrary limits can inspire new ways of seeing a familiar method
    • Scarcity and deadlines can create clarity
  • Think about what other various successful people would do if they were in your situation

3. Turn off your thoughts

Don’t worry about the “blank page” problem, since it will happen when it happens

Let your impressions and thoughts unconsciously fade away

Drop the problem entirely and turn to something else that stimulates your imagination

4. Wait for the spark

1) Carry on with life and do creative things in other avenues

  • Do pretty much anything, as long as it involves and engages you
    • Add to your daily routine right before you want to create
    • Make your life more memorable to have more ideas
  • Do something routine or “small-minded”
    • De-clutter
    • Drink coffee or alcohol
    • Drink peppermint tea
    • Finish projects
    • Imitate someone else’s success
    • Keep up with trends
    • Make lists
    • Meditate or self-reflect
    • Practice silence
    • Take a nap
    • Write a diary
    • Write things down
  • Do something fun
    • Dance
    • Find a new hobby
    • Finesse something you’re already good at
    • Hang out with friends
    • Read books
    • Sing
    • Watch films
  • Do something new
    • Go for a walk
    • Learn a new skill
    • Listen to new music
    • Take a risk
    • Travel
    • Try new food
    • Visit a new place
  • Do something unconventional
    • Ask 3 random people from your phone list about an idea
    • Break your routine
    • Start over with everything, just to see what happens
    • Talk with strangers
    • Try free writing or sketching about something random
    • Visualize being distant from everyone and everything
  • Avoid a few things that can inhibit creativity
    • Though they improve productivity, computers stifle creativity because they’re easy to hide behind
    • Repetitive and boring tasks that don’t need to be done lock the brain out of a creative state

2) Out of seemingly nowhere, an idea will appear

  • Keep a notebook constantly with you, since it’ll happen when you least expect it
    • Your journals hold on to good ideas, but they also connect them to other ideas
  • We don’t create ideas consciously, but we fuel their creation with conscious actions
    • Fostering creativity is giving the subconscious mind enough information to process a connection
  • The more you link concepts, the more accessible and quickly the “a-ha!” moment will come

3) If you’re hitting a creative wall and aren’t patient enough, try some workarounds

  • Just dive right in and figure it out as it goes
    • For huge projects, this will create rework later
  • Imagine your audience as a friend you want to convey a vision to
  • Record your thoughts and play them back at a later time
  • Make a routine to stay at the creating station, even if it’s sitting waiting for an idea
    • One sentence or two brush strokes is still worthwhile because it started the project

5. Create

Most creative people have a problem finishing projects

  • When you make something, have a defined endpoint if you don’t want to go back to it again and again
  • Setting the end of a project is harder to do than it sounds because we desire pr

Don’t start until the spark comes

  • Creation needs to be from passion and not merely out of duty

Get into a routine, especially for larger projects

  • Routines take discipline but guarantee success

Don’t expect anyone else to see your vision

  • Most people won’t or can’t accept what a great creative work inspires, even when you’ve completed it

6. Rest

After you’ve finished your work, redirect your mind to something else

Creativity is a lot like breathing, and you need to inhale more consumption before you can exhale more content

  • If you overlook resting, you won’t succeed in future creative endeavors

The creative process is messy and disorganized but is how our minds work

99% of your ideas will be unused, unfulfilled, lead nowhere or have no relevance

Periodically purge the ideas if you want, but it’s the mind’s natural work-in-process space

Don’t concern yourself too much about the scope of the pile or you’ll become unhappy, which stifles creativity

After you’ve created a viable idea, research if it’s possible

1. Submit the ideas to constructive criticism

Surround yourself with others who support you and value your work

Be reasonable and practical while you’re considering turning the idea into reality

Something authentic enough is often just as good as something completely original

2. Start creating an action plan on how to do it

Marketing and conveying the creative idea to others is a matter of what people want more than whether it’s a great idea

If you hit snags, use Unstuck or sub-divide the problems and attack each smaller problem individually

Next: Productivity 200: How To Be Productive With Computers
Alternately, Jump Ahead: How To Manage Money