Wednesday, July 27, 2016
10 Keys to Greater Creativity
Creativity can be the key to a fuller, more enjoyable life. One dictionary (Microsoft’s Encarta) defines it as “the ability to use the imagination to develop new and original ideas or things, especially in an artistic context.” Writing for Psychology Today online (posted March 30, 2009) Dr. Shelly H. Carson noted “the aging brain resembles the creative brain in several ways…more disinhibited… [and more likely] to make novel and original associations.” Whether harnessed for art or literature or music or simply for living day-to-day, the creative brain finds novelty where others miss it.
Recently, an excellent book by Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, summarized ten habits research has revealed are typical of the creative mind, habits we can cultivate in ourselves to improve our own creativity.
Creative minds often ask themselves, “What if?” Like children at play, they put themselves into unusual, fictional situations. The Wired to Create authors quote George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Our roles as parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or even baby-sitters, can offer opportunities to continue childhood play, too.
A passionate interest fuels creativity, and the results reinforce the passion. We see that passion in child prodigies, like cellist YoYo Ma, but also in mature artists, like Grandma Moses. Steve Jobs urged us to do what we love, as have many others. Sometimes, we have to immerse ourselves in the endeavor to become passionate about it. Your garden may be the “canvas” for your “work of art.”
After retirement, we often have more time available to just daydream, a characteristic of many creative people. Associations are made that would not develop without our letting our minds wander. Creative solutions are often the joining of seemingly contradictory elements. Sweet and sour pork, anyone?
Creative people often prefer to be alone, and they don’t feel lonely. The “noise” of the world is reduced, so they can think more clearly, make more creative connections. Kaufman and Gregoire quote Henry David Thoreau, “I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” We can turn absence into advantage.
Reason carries us only so far, and then we tend to rely on our intuition, which is somewhat a product of our experience, and as we mature, we have more of it. “I just know….” Intuition allows us to think unconventionally, creatively, outside of the now-proverbial box. Such feelings often guide us and may have sources in our unconscious minds. Steve Jobs is quoted in Wired to Create as calling intuition “more powerful than intellect.”
Openness to Experience
Experience…we have plenty. Paradoxically, we need to be open to getting even more of it, in situations unlike those we’ve already enjoyed or endured. We can seek out these new situations, new people, new endeavors, and we can also just decide to view our current circumstances in new ways. “What if…?”
“Mindfulness” is awareness coupled with curiosity, attentiveness. Look outside of ourselves, but also within, Socrates is credited with affirming, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” While certainly an over-statement, this has more than a grain of truth. The mystic Ram Dass urged, “Be here now,” more profound than Nike’s “Do it now,” though the latter has merit, too. Note: mindfulness seems to be opposite of “daydreaming.” Each in its proper time?
When I say something that particularly pleases my wife, I maintain that I’m a “sensitive ‘60s guy,” attributing my sensitivity to the period when we were encouraged to “get in touch with our feelings.” Heightened awareness can lead to creative responses. However, “any virtue can be overdone,” someone said or wrote, I think. Being sensitive is a bit like turning up the volume on the television; you hear some things you might otherwise miss, but at the risk of overwhelming your thinking. Others may not appreciate your sensitivity. Having a thin skin leads to unnecessary inter-personal friction.
Turning Adversity into Advantage
With the experience of maturity, we’ve learned the wisdom of “this, too, will pass.” Moreover, we can creatively find ways to turn lemons into lemonade because we remember how we did that once or how someone we knew did it. “Every knock is a boost,” we mutter, as we pick ourselves up and learn from what just happened, from an altered perspective.
When you reach a certain age, you are more likely to be willing to “march to the beat of a different drummer,” be a non-conformist in thought if not in dress or speech. Original thinking is characteristic of creative people, and your willingness to non-conform, coupled to the lessons you’ve learned produce viewpoints that can be unusual. “Where you stand depends on where your sit,” and the accumulation of our unique experiences can put us in positions from which we get unconventional, creative viewpoints.
Go Ahead, Be Creative
The message? Harness your inner novelist, memoirist, poet, painter, sculptor, composer, choreographer, actress, and pursue an artistic hobby… or simply find creative ways to improve your life and the lives of others.
You’ve got the mature, creative brain to do it.
Is there a creative endeavor you have started recently or hope to start? Have you found ways to be creative in everyday life?
A former Harvard science professor, Dr. Cooper still publishes, and he helps others write and publish their books, via his http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com. His life's central theme has been a half-century romance (http://TingandI.com) with Tina Su Cooper, his wife, now quadriplegic due to multiple sclerosis and receiving 24/7 nursing care at home, as discussed at their website here.