Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Suggestions for Pursuing Creativity

by CWK

How might we be more creative? How might we produce more novel and valuable ideas? I've been reading and thinking about this lately. Here's what I learned:

1. Preparation for Inspiration.

"Chance favors only the prepared mind." --Louis Pasteur

"Fortune favors the bold" -- Terrence

Yes, creativity involves inspiration. It often seems to come upon us. Yet, history teaches us that inspiration usually befalls those with dedication. Yes, lightning rarely strikes, but if you go to a field with a kite -- who knows; it may just strike you.

2. Cultivation of Imagination.

Imagination is a skill. Sure, it is a skill some people have too much of, or rather indulge too much in. Yet, it is a valuable skill, and it shouldn't be derided as a lesser cognitive venture. The skill of imagination involves:

a) Seeing things (by taking the time to look) in new ways: "I never noticed..."
b) Recognizing patterns: "This always happens when..."
c) Making connections: "This is like this..."

3. Adventuresome Courage

This is the courage to defy the crowd, and the genius to stick to the defiance when you are right (e.g., Einstein). This is perseverance mixed with boldness

"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage which a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave people to win them." -- Emerson

4. Motivation.

"People will be most creative when they feel the challenge of the work itself."

Wise words. And Aristotle said it even better, "Pleasure in the work leads to perfection in the work." He was making the profound point that, if you love doing something, you will naturally do a good job on it.

 So, we need to love the ‘thing’ we are working on. If we want to be creative, we must focus on the intrinsic pleasure of the task as opposed to extrinsic pleasures (such as money).

5. A Creative Environment.

Novel ideas are often sparked by relationships. A new friend, or old friend, or random acquaintance helps us put something in perspective. There are seldom ‘lone geniuses.’ Thus, community is essential to creativity. 

I've heard that Moby Dick changed drastically because Melville moved next door to a literary type. This friendship changed the direction and tone of the novel. What might Moby Dick have been if not for their friendship. My guess is, we'd never have heard of Moby Dick. But, does anyone know the name of the friend that influenced Melville? I don't, but I'm sure thankful for that friendship. 

So, if you wanta be creative -- I say this sincerely -- quit trying to be creative by yourself. Go make some real friends.

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