Tips on Developing Your Creativity
By Netta Canfi (from the-flying-animator.com)…
You can learn to improve your creativity. And I say “improve,” because all human beings are creative, even those who don’t think they are.
I’m what you’d call a “creative person” — an artist (animator/illustrator). I also teach the art to others, which is why I know that artistic skill has nothing to do with creativity itself!
There’s creativity in all aspects of our lives…
You can be creative with your taxes. You can be creative in your home design. You can be creative with writing code, cooking, finding the fastest route from here to there, cleaning your house, inventing a new machine, developing new medicine. You can also be creative with color, sound and storytelling.
Skill is the ability to do something well. Creativity is more about how you do it, and what you do with your skill.
I’ve seen people who are excellent technicians. They can draw very well, technically. But they never seem to have a good idea on what to draw.
I’ve also seen people with amazing, mind-blowing ideas who don’t know how to hold a pencil.
Types of Creativity
Probably the most common type of creativity is combining two or more subjects into something new. It’s very straightforward.
For example, you might have a passion for a certain country or region and decide to create an online business around it. Trouble is, it’s too broad (too competitive to win).
Narrow it down by combining this country/region with one of your other passions: art, food, sport, language, and so on.
The combination of two unrelated ideas can result in a single idea that is much stronger (and creatively exciting!) than the sum of its parts.
Here you take the “thing” and start removing pieces from it. It’s a very popular approach in industrial design. The iPhone with its single button is a prime example.
The Cirque du Soleil is another case in point. Their premise? What if we created a circus with no animals?
An online business example: I’m currently morphing my animation website, which has become too broad, to a tighter niche -i it’s going to be a strictly “tools of the trade” site. So, animation history, for example, will have to go. Remove till you get as slim-lined as possible.
You know how white light breaks into a rainbow — the prism (or the rain) scatters the light in a way that allows us to see the individual colors (wavelengths) that make it up.
Take your topic (whatever it is you want to brainstorm creatively) and pass it through a “prism.” Write down all the things your topic is made of. Then pass each sub-topic through the prism again.
As an example, animation is a very wide topic made up up character design, script, voice talent, many different animation techniques, dedicated software, famous animators, studios, production pipelines, famous films, festivals. I might then run “dedicated software” or “production pipelines” through my prism again.
Here’s a popular exercise for getting your juices flowing. A basic example is “Rain”…
- Before – clouds
- During – Umbrella
- After – puddles.
Say you passion is Clocks. What’s the past, present, and future of clocks?
- Before: Grandfather clocks, vintage clocks, collector items, ancient timing devices, sundials, Stonehenge, clocks as a maritime navigation aid.
- During: Current trends in wrist watches, best flying watches, diving watches, decorative clocks, DIY wall decoration, huge wall time pieces.
- After: cellphone clock widgets, atomic clocks, time travel, best time travel movies.
Write as many as you can. You’ll be surprised where it takes you.
Take a Walk
If you’re stuck, go for a walk. Why does this work?
In taking a walk you stimulate your senses. Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and tasting all bring up thoughts and memories.
Also, for all the left-brained people out there, I’m happy to tell you that studies have shown that activity in one part of the brain can stimulate less active parts in another part.
More to the point, activities such as driving a car or playing tennis and basketball, that involve solving spatial problems and mental calculations, take a lot of brain power. So, in order to get more CPU, as it were, the brain fires up its less-used parts to help.
Bottom line: when you fire up your left brain, it pulls with it your right brain, and vice versa. Men have reported being able to figure out verbal problems after going for a drive. Women talk their way to solving spatial problems.
Nothing new here. Go for a walk!!
99 Ideas for…
Take a bunch of sheets of paper, enter numbers from 1 to 99, and start writing down ideas about whatever you need ideas for. You must come up with 99 ideas.
It might take a day or three. Keep adding ideas until you have 99. Here’s what will happen…
- The first 20 or so will be the trivial, boring solutions.
- The next 20 or 30 will be stuff you’ve seen elsewhere, combinations of existing solutions, and generally regurgitated stuff.
- It’s around the 50s and 60s that you’ll start coming up with truly original stuff of your own.
Keep at it! The more ideas you manage to come up with, the more likely you are to come up with something unique.
What to do when you feel the well has dried? Go and fill it up!
How? Do something else! (See Take a Walk, above.)
The Link Theory
The link theory goes like this: You start with just about anything. and you let your mind go. Coffee mug – IKEA – Sweden – king on a bicycle – bike lanes – modern city planning – traffic – late – sleep…
Go on until you feel warmed up.
How is this going to help you find a business idea? It will get your mind going.
Many people talk about how hard it is to do the thinking. I believe that thinking is a lot like other activities we do. Just like with physical exercise, your brain needs to warm up.
A broad knowledge of multiple, unrelated topics helps.
If your world is narrow, for whatever reason, it’s up to you to broaden your horizons. Try browsing Google News, and see what catches your attention. Try doing something new. Eat something you’ve never tried before. Listen to a type of music you’ve never heard before. If you only read Sci-Fi, try reading The Thorn Birds (my mother’s advice to me at 15. Changed my life, really — well, book-wise, anyway!).
My drawing teacher said that “art is reaction.”
I think a lot of creative activity is about reaction — to the times, to what happens in your world, to what’s popular, to new experiences, to life.
The Beatles were both the result and the cause of a major change in music. Their music made them so popular they had to run away to India to get some peace, and that’s where George Harrison met the sitar, and wrote a song with it, which in turn caused other things.
Some things survive without context, others don’t. The same goes for online businesses. It’s the difference between evergreen content and time-sensitive blogging, for example.
About the Evolution of Ideas
I see in my students a lot of frustration when they can’t come up with a brilliant idea straight of the bat. In my experience, that kind of “brain wave” is extremely rare. Even after you find a good idea, it still takes time to mature. Ideas need time to grow.
Now, I like to compare projects to a fetus in the womb…
It’s always whole, complete. It takes time to mature, and will change shape until it’s ready to come out.
During pregnancy, it’s not as if you make the head first, then at the third week you finish the torso, the fifth week you do the right arm, followed by the left, and so on, until at week 40 you finish the toe nails on the left foot, and the baby is ready to come out. You don’t have to be a doctor to know it doesn’t work that way!
The fetus is whole, all the time. It’s whole when it’s just 8 cells. It’s whole when it looks like toad-spawn, complete with a tail.
It’s always complete, for the stage that it’s in. Just like your business. Let it evolve, and don’t worry when it changes shape.
The Muses in Greek mythology had specific duties. They were not vague, intangible ideas. They had clear responsibilities in facilitating the creative process.
According to Pausanias in the later 2nd century AD, there were three original Muses: Aoide (“song” or “voice”), Melete (“practice” or “contemplation”), and Mneme (“memory”). Together, these three form the complete picture of the preconditions of poetic art in cult practice. –Wikipedia
Inspiration really is 90% perspiration.
As Stephen King put it, in his wonderful book On Writing, his muse (a guy with a cigar and little wings) needs to know where he, the writer, is going to be every day from 9 till 3, so that the muse can find him. It may sound wrong to you, but I promise, that’s just how it works.
Practice your creativity. It will come.
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