The Calculated Creative

The Origins of Creativity

For many, the belief that creativity is limited to a select few becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy masking untapped creative depths.

Creativity has long been thought to be some mysterious quality bestowed upon a lucky few.

Only geniuses like Mozart, Einstein, or Steve Jobs made innovations that changed the world with their brilliant ideas and dazzling works of art.

Meanwhile, the rest of us could only stand back in awe, doomed to enjoy their creations rather than make any of our own.

But what if this view of creativity was totally wrong?

What if it wasn't something you either had or didn't have?

What if anyone could access their inner genius and unlock their creative potential?

Creativity is in All of Us

Recent research in psychology and neuroscience has shown creativity likely exists along a spectrum - very few people are at the extreme ends. Experiments have found nearly everyone displays some level of creative thinking ability:

  • Studies where people were tasked with coming up with novel solutions to problems found that even those who did not consider themselves "creative types" were able to generate innovative ideas. Basic creativity seems wired into our brains - most people are able to make remote associations and connections when they try.
  • Simple techniques like brainstorming, taking walks, playing games, or exposing yourself to new environments, cultures, and ideas can unlock latent creativity within anyone. The seeds are there - they just need the right conditions to sprout.

In other words, basic creativity is not some rare gift from the gods only available to the chosen few. Rather, it arises from normal cognitive processes hardwired into how human brains work that we all share. The potential to be creative exists within all of us - it only needs to be nurtured.

Creativity Can Be Developed

If creativity lives somewhere in everyone, then it stands to reason it is something that can be actively nurtured and developed. But how? Decades of research has revealed several key ways to grow your creative capacity:

  • Try new things - Exposing yourself to novelty triggers the release of dopamine and expands neural pathways. Learning something new like an instrument, visiting somewhere foreign and unfamiliar, or taking up a creative hobby like painting, writing, or dancing exposes you to new ideas and environments. This "changes up" standard patterns of thinking, making you more open and receptive to novel connections.
  • Practice idea combination - Many innovations are combinations of solutions that already exist rather than something wholly new. Steve Jobs famously said that creativity is simply "connecting things". Set aside time to actively combine old ideas from different disciplines and fields - many breakthrough concepts can emerge from the collision of two preexisting elements no one thought to put together.
  • Persist through frustration - The creative process is messy, nonlinear, and often intensely frustrating. Hitting walls and barriers is part of the territory. But research shows grit and perseverance ends up separating the truly successful creators from those who gave up too early. Sticking it out through all the many iterative failures often precedes creative breakthroughs.

Rather than something mystical you either have or don't have from birth, creativity is available to all and can be systematically encouraged. With some persistence and the right approach, anyone can foster their inner genius into something powerful enough to change the world. The only question is - will you put in the hard work necessary to develop your creative potential?


The Takeaway

For many, the belief that creativity is limited to a select few becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy masking untapped creative depths.

Realize the opportunity exists dormant within all of us.

We all harbor the seeds for creative greatness - we just need to nurture them.

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.

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