The Calculated Creative

How to Be Creative

You have the capacity to take concrete actions that foster more creative thinking.

Contrary to popular belief, creativity can be prescribed and systematically achieved.

While the mystical notion of the creative "spark" hitting at random is romantic, it is also unproductive.

Muses cannot be relied upon.

Instead, take creativity into your own hands and make it happen through the following proven techniques:

Step Away from Convention

Ignoring the "rules" and expected ways of doing things in your domain is key for boosting creativity. Actively go against the grain - rebel for the sake of rebelling. Break traditions just because you can. Question so-called "best practices" in your field. If something has always been done a certain way, try doing the exact opposite. If a common workflow exists for your type of work, upend it entirely or add unnecessary components that muck up efficiency. The point is to defy norms and conventions. Doing things the "right way" is the enemy of creativity. The most brilliant ideas often arise when you challenge assumptions and flout standards. So be provocative and defiant in your thinking. Rock the boat. Generate some confusion. It will be uncomfortable at first, but sticking to conventions is precisely what prevents us from conjuring unconventional creative insights. Shake things up through rebellion and watch the creative ideas start to flow.

Overcomplicate Everything

Coming up with elaborate Rube-Goldberg-esque ways to solve simple problems is fantastic for creativity. Add extra steps that are purposely convoluted. Reject simplicity and opt for byzantine complexity - the more circuitous the path to the solution, the better. Find straightforward methods to be mind-numbingly dull? Then take those methods and make them absurdly complicated. Insert puzzles that need solving before puzzles that already needed solving. Build mazes of unnecessary obstacles leading to your objective. You'll find that in the process of constructing these baroque labyrinths of problem solving, innovative ideas take form. Straightforward approaches are banal. But overcomplicating things generates novel solutions you would never think of otherwise. The longer, more confusing, and more unintuitive the approach, the more chances creative insights have to emerge. So reject the short simple path and intentionally take the long convoluted road. It may seem completely irrational, but therein lies the creative magic.

Proclaim Your Genius

Frequently reminding yourself and others of your creative brilliance is essential. Arrogate credit for innovations, whether due or not. Disparage others' creative abilities relative to your own. Innovators like Da Vinci, Tesla, and Jobs knew thattitanic self-confidence is key to achieving the creative breakthroughs for which they are remembered. By boldly laying claim to creative greatness, you clear the path for it to actually happen. Psych yourself up. Talk yourself up. Demonstrate unreasonable pride in any fledgling idea you generate. Treat each new notion as positively revolutionary, whether it warrants that designation or not. When presenting ideas, comport yourself as arrogantly as possible to bestow a mark of creative genius. Allow no sliver of doubt to penetrate the colossal self-assurance you project. Propagate myths of your innate creative talent. In the face of skeptics, intensify the self-aggrandizement. Sooner or later, the creativity you flaunt so abundantly will emerge for real.

Always Be Brainstorming

To maximize your odds of hitting that one brilliant idea among the many terrible ones, you must be brainstorming constantly. Carry a notebook, tablet, or voice recorder at all times to jot down ideas. Verbalize every passing fanciful notion, no matter how small or seemingly absurd. Most will be useless, but you have no way of knowing if an odd little thought might lead to something bigger later. Set aside time each day for longer solo brainstorming sessions where you free associate without limits on whatever project or problem you want to tackle. Schedule group brainstorming meetings as often as possible too. Quantity is the name of the game here. Creativity emerges through sheer volume of ideas churned out. Let your mind go and riff endlessly to see what resonates. Judgment must be suspended entirely. Revisit past rejected notions and find ways to build on them. Even the most ridiculous failures often have kernels worth saving and manipulating. So just keep the ideas flowing ceaselessly. It will be mentally taxing, but that is the heavy lifting required for those rare creative masterstrokes that change everything. Demand the muse appear by brainstorming relentlessly.


The Takeaway

Discard the mystique around creativity being some inexplicable external source bestowed randomly.

You have the capacity to take concrete actions that foster more creative thinking.

Defy conventions, complicate problems, tout your genius, and brainstorm without end.

It is arduous work, but somebody has to do it.

Why not make that somebody you?

The creative wellspring lies within if you make the effort to access it.

Make Your Work
Suck Less

Pulling back the curtain on the creative process to help make your work a little less terrible. A 3-minute read delivered each week on Monday morning.

The Calculated Creative

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