The Calculated Creative

The Basics of Creativity

By unlearning creativity myths and engaging your creative cognition, you can systematically strengthen your creative faculties over time.

Contrary to popular belief, creativity is not some mystical talent that only a gifted few possess.

We all have the capacity to be creative in our own unique ways.

But creativity does require an intentional shift in mindset to tap into.

It's not necessarily an innate trait that some have and some don't, but rather a skill that can be developed over time with conscious effort.

What Exactly is Creativity Anyway?

Defining creativity clearly is an important first step in cultivating it. Creativity is often misunderstood as those sudden bolts of inspiration that seem to strike randomly. However, real creativity is more of an ongoing process than a single event. Here are some key things to understand about the nature of creativity:

  • It's a process - Creativity is not instantaneous, but develops incrementally through phases of preparation, incubation, insight and evaluation/refinement.
  • The ability to generate novel and valuable ideas - For an idea to be "creative", it must be both original and useful according to some criteria.
  • Seeing familiar things in new ways - Creativity often comes from finding fresh perspectives, patterns and connections in existing information.
  • Making new connections between concepts - Combining disparate concepts can lead to creative breakthroughs by revealing unseen relationships.
  • Imagining alternative realities - Creativity engages the imagination to venture beyond current limits about what is possible.

Creativity is not so much about lightning bolts of inspiration striking out of the blue. True creativity is an ongoing process of preparation, experimentation and incremental progress towards innovative ideas or solutions. Destructive myths about creativity being an innate gift lead too many of us to avoid flexing this muscle. But it is one we are all capable of strengthening.

Busting the Biggest Myths About Creativity

There are several popular myths and misconceptions about the origins of creativity that discourage people from attempting to be creative themselves. Debunking these limiting beliefs is imperative for unlocking more of our innate creative capacity.

Myth #1: Creativity is a Talent You're Either Born With or Not

This myth assumes creativity is entirely innate -- something you either have or don't from birth. However, while some people may exhibit more natural creative tendencies than others early on, creativity is ultimately a skill that can be intentionally honed over time with the right strategies. Believing it is a fixed trait is a self-fulfilling prophecy that too often prevents us from becoming more creative. Realizing creativity is a teachable capacity we all possess to some degree can be very empowering.

Myth #2: Creative People Are Messy, Disorganized Rule-Breakers

Another common myth is that highly creative people are chaotic non-conformists who break all the rules and throw organization to the wind. However, history shows many famously ingenious creators like Charles Darwin, Pablo Picasso and Benjamin Franklin were actually quite meticulous with their working habits and environments. They employed rigorous structure, schedules and organizational systems that enabled their productivity and output. Constraints and self-discipline can facilitate rather than impede creativity.

Myth #3: Creative Ideas Appear Fully Formed in Flashes of Insight

The iconic "eureka!" moments of sudden insight get so much attention, they lead us to think genius strikes instantly without effort. But creativity is often a long, incremental grind requiring foundational research, experimentation and failure before breakthroughs emerge. While those spontaneous "aha" moments feel thrilling in the moment, they are generally built on other preliminary discoveries that came before it over time. The creative muse favors the prepared mind.

Building Daily Habits That Flex Your Creative Muscles

While many still mistakenly think of creativity as an innate talent, not a teachable skill, the reality is we all have untapped creative potential we can cultivate. Unlearning limiting myths is the necessary first step. But creativity truly expands when exercised actively in daily life - not just left for big special projects or times you "feel inspired." Here are some habits you can build to stretch your creative muscles on a daily basis:

  • Ask "what if" questions constantly - Frequently speculate possibilities without limits using your imagination. Entertain absurd scenarios. This mental muscle strengthens creative ideation skills over time.
  • Deliberately combine dissimilar concepts - What new hybrid configurations or mashups could yield fresh insights? Creative breakthroughs often come from connecting seemingly unrelated concepts and information.
  • Diversify and cross-pollinate your inputs - Build a curiosity habit and expose yourself to wide-ranging sources of information, ideas, art forms and life experiences to fuel creative connections.
  • Practice defamiliarization with your routine - Find fresh vantage points on ordinary aspects of your day by questioning assumptions you normally take for granted. Creative insights often emerge simply from shifting perspective.

The key is not expecting full-on "creativity" right away, but actively exercising the mental muscles every day that accumulate into greater creative capacity over time. Start small without judging yourself too harshly. Build momentum gradually. Before long, you'll start experiencing more micro-doses of creative insights or ideas popping up. Bit by bit, creativity expands through ongoing practice rather than overnight gifts.


The Takeaway

Creativity is not some magical quality the gods randomly sprinkle on just the chosen few.

It is very much a teachable aptitude we all possess in varying degrees.

By unlearning creativity myths and engaging your creative cognition, you can systematically strengthen your creative faculties over time.

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