I mostly let debates about creativity wash over me, because these days this is one bit of learning where I’d rather be doing the thing, than discussing how it works. I mainly want to know how it happens for me. Creativity is pretty much impossible to define anyway, and it’s very difficult to predict which people will achieve it. Who can say where the genius of Van Gogh or Einstein came from? Who can tell you how to get a Harry Potter on the page? So I reckon my best bet to figure all this out is by trying to be creative myself, or aiming to inspire creativity in other people, rather than spending time debating how it might or might not work. That way I can think about how it happens to me, when and if it does. How do I learn to do it? What conditions do I need to have in place? Maybe metacognition will help me work this out, and also how other people could get there as well. And having thought long and hard, here are some things that seem to offer a path to creativity for me.
Something to Think About
If you’re going to be creative, you need experience, information, knowledge, whatever you want to call it. It’s not so much about memorising stuff, as about imbibing ideas and sensory responses until you’re full, and then letting them bounce around in your head.
Something to Think With
Next you need a form for your thoughts. That form can be anything – it can be plants, or paints, or cardboard boxes, or a guitar, or equations, or all of them simultaneously. It’s great fun to mix up forms – often the breakthroughs lie in weird combinations.
Top of your Game
Technique is a funny old thing. The better I can do something, the more I can ignore the process of doing it. I was a dancer before I became a writer, and my best creative moments could happen when I was able to forget about technique and focus on expressing the idea.
A Room with a View
It’s strange how places and spaces can help you harness your creativity. The artist’s studio. The view from a bridge. The shadows thrown by cork oaks in the late afternoon sunshine. Creative inspiration often strikes when you’re in nature. The world is wonderful like that.
International Mud Day
It’s going to be messy. It’s going to be muddy. You just have to accept that. Experimenting is part of the deal. You have to throw away 99% of what you come up with. And then you have to work tirelessly to make the 1% worth keeping.
Tie your Leg to the Desk
The most annoying yet amazing thing about creativity is that the more you do it, the better you get at it. I once wrote a blog about how this works, and I honestly don’t think I can better it, so I’ll shut up already about that.
Skin in the Game
You can talk about creativity all you want, but if you’re not actually being creative, I reckon you need to do that first. Get some skin in the game, see how scary it feels in reality, then wonder how on earth it is that kids find it so easy, but adults don’t. (See below.)
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
The reason more people are not creative is not because they lack knowledge, but because they’re scared of what other people will say if they are. (See above.) I have a great (if rude) motto for such occasions: I think you’re mistaking me for someone who gives a shit.
The most important thing to remember about creativity is that it is open to everyone. Anyone can be creative, in any form. It’s not something that is confined to a small elite. Creativity is fun, and life affirming, and a great way to express yourself. I reckon more people should do more of it, rather than less. Most of us will be rubbish at being creative at first, but no one got any better at it by talking about it. We have to DO IT. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But right now. Most especially if we’re children. Because all creativity really is, is an attitude of mind. And there ain’t no one who can tell you how to have that.