Seven Misconceptions About Creativity and How to Use It

We’ve all been there. That enchanting, mysterious moment when the muse strikes. Creativity is intoxicating. This is frantic. And – so as not to sound rude – it is beneficial. Unfortunately, creativity is also fickle: the more you chase it, the harder it is to catch it.

No one feels this tension more than those of us who are called creative professionals. Whatever your artistic leanings – designer, writer, musician, developer – the question is: what do you do when the well runs out? More specifically: what do you do when your energy, clock, and livelihood is slowing down, ticking away?

When it comes to creativity, our main problem is that most of us are looking in the wrong place. But don’t be discouraged. This misdirection is not necessarily your fault. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of seven of the most common misconceptions we fall prey to and how to use them.

You are too original

Oh, to be original. There is something liberating to feel like “first.”

Unfortunately, with a population of over seven billion worldwide, is it even possible to have a thought that didn’t exist before? Probably no. Don’t be discouraged: in terms of creativity, originality is greatly overestimated. Our own Adam Pasch thinks the same :

When you feel like you can’t come up with a truly original idea, it’s not the end of the world.

Chances are, you’re just being honest with yourself.

Accept what you know, steal what works best, and combine that with other great ideas to make something that, while not necessarily original, can be new and interesting.

In other words, creativity doesn’t come from something new or unknown. More often than not, creativity starts with what you already understand and mixes it up in a new angle or combines it with a fresh source.

The word combines there vital meaning. Drawing on the creative genius of Picasso and “iconic designer Paula Scher,” Maria Popova of Brain Pickings explains :

Both of these stories capture what we all understand on a deep intuitive level, but our creative ego does not seem to want to accept: and this is the idea that creativity is combinatorial, that nothing is completely original, that everything is built on what came before, and that we create by taking existing elements of inspiration, knowledge, skills and ideas that we collect over the course of our lives, and combining them into incredible new creations.

The point is, don’t start your creative journey on an unlabeled map. Start with the people, places and ideas that inspire you, and never be afraid to steal.

You are too lonely

Loneliness is another counterintuitive mistake that many of us fall prey to. We often see creativity as a solitary, independent pursuit. We envision ourselves as 1965 Bob Dylan, throwing the spotlight, sneaking into a tiny hut in Woodstock, New York, and coming out with a fully formed Like a Rolling Stone.

According to director Kirby Ferguson, a much more common reality is not at all the case. In truth, we are completely dependent on each other for almost everything . As Ferguson said, “Our creativity comes from the outside, not from the inside.” This means that creating your creative process in a collaborative manner is essential.

Surprisingly, collaboration was important even for some of the most notorious loners in history. As Joshua Wolf Schenck told NPR :

One of the most exciting stories for me is Emily Dickinson, who we think is completely isolated, alone in her room, refusing to leave her father’s house, which is what actually happened.

But she was extremely passionate about people, and not because of the usual mutual concessions, which we perceive as cooperation – two people are sitting in a room – but because she wrote letters and actually wrote her poems to specific people.

She sent hundreds of poems to people who were critical of her in life. And poetry itself was full of passion for relationships – it was electrified.

And Emily is not alone (pun intended). True creative genius rarely comes from “me”; it almost always comes from “we”. The timing of famous couples such as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Walter Isaacson’s book Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Computer Geeks Created the Digital Revolution brings us to our senses:

Most of the innovations in the digital age have been done jointly. Many interesting people were involved, some brilliant and some even geniuses. It’s … a story about how they collaborated and why their ability to work in a team made them even more creative.

Whichever method you choose, the next time you’re suffering from a mindless drought, reach out, ask for advice, seek a different opinion, and rely on your relationship to succeed.

You are too distracted

In his TEDxTalk talk, Nick Skillikorn distinguishes between the two initial stages of creativity that the brain needs to achieve “inspiration.” The first is preparation, which he describes as “assimilating knowledge, experience, understanding and context, and understanding a specific task requiring an idea.” While distraction becomes key later on, creativity must start with concentration.

To rid ourselves of distractions, research from Leiden University suggests that thinking about one problem stimulates creativity through ” divergent thinking .” Not only does meditation reduce stress levels, but practicing mindfulness can reduce cognitive rigidity : the inability to adapt to new stimuli, problems, or tasks. The goal of both meditation and mindfulness is to create cognitive flexibility that leads to overflow or “stay in the zone.”

You cannot expect great ideas to come true on a whim. Creativity takes work, and sometimes the best way to get creative is to take a long, hard look at what’s holding you back.

Instead of waiting for an idea to magically emerge, be disciplined. Set aside time to prepare in your schedule, immerse yourself in research, do the hard work, and jot down your thoughts on paper. Only after your brain is packed will new ideas start flowing.

You’re too focused

Ironically, our best ideas often come at the weirdest times, whether it’s waking up at 3 a.m., hitting during a workout, or looking for inspiration in the shower .

Why? Because once you’ve got your brains out of preparation, he’ll start working behind the scenes to bridge the gap between problems and solutions without even realizing it.

This is what Skillicorn calls the “incubation” stage: “the time it takes for your mind to form new connections.” Being “too focused” means getting trapped in trying to stimulate creativity. Instead, embrace the “incubation period” distraction.

Researchers at Northwestern University recently concluded that creativity can indeed be a distraction . They called the results of their study “the first physiological evidence that creativity in the real world may be associated with a reduced ability to filter” irrelevant “sensory information.” Daria Zabelina, lead author of the study, explains that “some people suffer more from the daily bombardment of sensory information or have more leaky sensory filters”:

“Negative” sensory control, the tendency to filter out “irrelevant” sensory information, occurs early and involuntarily in brain processing and can help people integrate out-of-focus ideas, leading to creativity in the real world.

This means that periodic checks are vital to the creative process. It’s hard to underestimate the creativity value of distraction, boredom, and procrastination , and if you’ve been focusing too long it might be time to take a break.

You are too in love

Once we grab onto a creative idea, it’s natural to fall in love with it. While faith in your creative children is critical in the early stages of development, this romance could turn out to be a disaster later on. In Sir Arthur Qwilleran-Coach ‘s famous Cambridge Lectures On the Art of Writing, he expounds this cruel imperative :

Whenever you feel the urge to produce an exceptionally good writing, obey it – with all your heart – and remove it before sending your manuscript to print. Kill your loved ones.

The lesson here is clear: falling in love with your ideas, protecting them and unwillingness to give them up does not increase creativity, but suppresses it .

During the production ofThe Road, Nick Cave gave this edited nugget to the LA Times :

[For] a song that can be five to six verses long, I write 20 verses, and then ruble, ruble, ruble, ruble. It has always been that way. I can’t let go of something until it dries up, so I have to edit. I am always editing. I find editing very exciting.

Getting distracted from something can lead to unusual things, be it music, writing, or film. What happens in the movies is unusual.

Of course, you can always force a beautiful piece of the puzzle to fit where it doesn’t actually fit, and that might make you feel better for a while, but that kind of compulsion will end up causing you more work and grief. Instead, set the piece – that is, the idea you love so much – aside and either wait for the right moment to use it, or embody it in its entirety.

As my favorite creative writing professor told me in college, “You only know that something is really good when you start cutting and it hurts.”

You are too perfect

For many years my wife has been doing crossword puzzles. In fact, “made” is too easy a word. She devoured them. The only reason she got the local newspaper was because it contained The New York Times’ daily crossword puzzle. Ashamed of me for telling you this, it actually took her two years of slavery before she finished her first Sunday edition.

What was holding her back?

Perfectionism. “I looked at these solved puzzles and got frustrated that I couldn’t ‘solve’ them all at once. I felt that this is something I should just be able to do. I would start each one with a creative flurry. But every mistake or empty square looked at me with accusation. It was only when I gave up on my own expectations – my need to do things right and do it perfectly – that I finally made a breakthrough. ” From that moment on, words flowed.

What is true for her is true for you. Don’t expect you to sit down and be the next Steve Jobs, Claude Monet, or Will Shortz. Most of us need to develop our creativity, use our strengths, and learn to work with our weaknesses.

In the face of perfectionism, let yourself be sucked. At Creativity Inc. Pixar PresidentEd Catmell describes it this way:

All our films suck at first.

I know this is a rough estimate, but I choose this formulation because its mild expression cannot convey how bad the first versions really are. I am not trying to be humble or humble.

Pixar’s films aren’t great at first, and our job is to make them go from suck to naughty, as I said.

Forget the old adage, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” This makes no sense. Anything worth doing is worth doing badly, especially if you want to get creative.

You are too aimless

Creativity has long been meant for those with “time and money.” We represent great history makers, especially those with an artistic bias, as light, ethereal creatures floating aimlessly through life, unattached to the demands and constraints that the rest of us have to face.

As a result, we present creativity itself to be the result of Prowling: giving our minds and life to the free flow of the Universe, or some aphorism like this.

This makes no sense. Best of all, Steve Jobs put it: “Real artists go to the ship.”

While incubation time is important to the creative process, specific goals are its overarching blood. Masaaki Hasegawa, author of Yes Progressive – Acceleration in Creativity, summarizes the importance of goals:

Goals allow you to understand what you have and what you need by connecting all the dots inside and out to achieve those goals.

If you don’t have specific goals, goals, or directions for which you would use your creativity, it would be pointless to be creative. Whether you are in business, art, politics, or sports, you will be creative if you have specific goals.

However, once we get rid of the idea that creativity requires aimlessness, the next challenge we face is – as Hasegawa emphasizes – setting “specific” goals.

So, to make this as practical as possible, let me wrap up with an interactive four-step Harvard Business Review tool . Go ahead and start applying the lesson now. Who knows, you might even be able to end your creative drought and get back on track.


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