There’s a notion that creativity is something we’re born with. Some people have it and some people don’t. Every day we hear people saying “I’m not the creative type,” and in the office world there’s still a divide between creatives and non-creatives. Creativity is a process, not an aptitude.
We love to put people into boxes from the start. Boys play with cars and like the colour blue, while girls go for dolls and prefer pink. To debunk this, let’s look at us humans. We’re born as creative beings: we sing, write, dance, cook, build, design, solve problems, and the way we embrace the unknown has been an important factor in our evolution.
We create by remixing
We have this romantic notion that creative ideas are born out of the blue, but in fact they’re remixed and evolved versions of ideas that we’ve been exposed to over the course of our lives. We mimic, transform and combine ideas to give them new life. We have an unconscious thought process that takes something we’ve experienced and turns it into something new.
The process of creating something begins with intense excitement and energy about the new thing or idea we have in our heads. But the next steps quickly bring us to despair. How do I do this? How will I solve this puzzle? What’s needed here? You have to make the decision to just do it, to approach the challenge head first. Being creative means you’re willing to take risks and embrace the failure and uncertainty that comes with them. Doing something new is seldom the path of least resistance, so be prepared to fail. Don’t get married to your ideas, but be prepared to let go. If someone criticises your idea, it doesn’t mean they’re criticising you. It’s all part of the creative process.
"Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up." - Alfred to Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.
Getting past the blank page and reaching insight and results is easier if you sketch, take notes, go outside, wander, give yourself time to think and breathe. This incubation stage is important, taking distance from the task on hand and returning to it later on with even more creative ideas.
Creativity isn’t worth anything if ideas are not realised, so doing the actual work is one of the most important phases in the process. It’s the time to transform ideas into a presentable form. Ideas are fragile, so it’s important to craft the message you want to get across with care. Too many great ideas are never realised because they’re packaged or presented the wrong way.
So if everyone is creative, why do some claim to be more creative than others? Well, creativity is like a muscle, you have to train to get better. Push actively for new solutions, apply design thinking methodology to problems, draw, do mind maps, whatever is your medium. I’ve been reading Tom and David Kelley’s Creative Confidence and the main point of the book is that everybody is creative, you just have to find it in you. Once you grasp that you are creative, a whole new world opens up to you. So the next time you see someone working on something with Microsoft Excel, you might be surprised to find out what it can do in creative hands.