Monday, December 19, 2011

How to be more Creative

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
-Thomas A. Edison
I find it difficult to be "creative". I enjoy "improving" upon something created by someone else but when faced with a blank canvas, I have no idea what to paint. With this blog it helps me to see an inspiring topic on the Internet which I can then research and comment upon. Once there's a topic, I can write pages on it.

Where do new ideas and new topics come from? The website MarcAndAngel has some ideas.

1. You need Knowledge. It's hard to be creative in a vacuum or in a state of ignorance. "most creative breakthroughs rest on the shoulders of everything that came before it."  Artists keep scrap books for ideas. Charles Darwin was stumped for years on what "caused" evolution; then while reading Malthus' work on Population and competition for resources, it dawned on him that "survival of the fittest" would explain why some animals prospered while others went extinct. Isaac Newton wrote that he could see further because he "stood on the shoulders of giants". Well today those giants would sue for unsanctioned (and unpaid) use of their ideas under Intellectual Property Rights laws.

2. You need Passion. "Enthusiasm is the lifeblood of creativity." It is hard to be creative when bored. Creativity takes time and lots of effort which you're more likely to do if it's for something you're passionate about.

3. Don't repeat the past. Build upon the past (topic #1) but don't be limited by it. "We must step outside of our comfort zone and attempt unfamiliar activities if we hope to achieve breakthroughs in our future." One graphic designer at said that he shuts down his company every 7 years for a year-long sabbatical. He lifts the company out of the rut it gets into by exposing everyone to new ideas and new experiences and a little fun that will inspire them for the next six years.

4. Don't fear failure. "If you hope to exercise your creativity, you must get over your fear of failure."
I hate editing my own work. I want it, expect it, to be perfect the first time I write it. There's no "passion" for me in deleting my own work. But quality work requires drafts, edits, complete rewrites, tossing out chapters, etc. With artists we remember the "perfect" paintings, like the Mona Lisa, and are unaware of the thousands of faces DaVinci sketched in his note books, and the many other portraits he did that are not remembered today. We forget that DaVinci was always experimenting and has some big failures (one majestic mural he did 'melted' when the new paint mixtures he used failed to set and dry properly)

5. Take a break. You won't be super creative when exhausted (though you might have a breakthrough while dreaming). Some of the biggest discoveries come from the subconscious when you take some time off from the problem.

6. Test your output on someone else. Isaac Newton kept his discoveries on gravity and planetary motion locked in a drawer for decades. He had no clue how rare his insight was until Kepler asked to see his results. On the other hand, some inventors think their invention or art is the best thing in the world and resist any feedback from friends before submitting it to the world as-is with flaws.

7. Don't fence me in. As an opposite to #6, don't let friends or critics tell you what you can NOT do. "They may suggest that your creative ideas are impractical and ridiculous because nobody really cares."  While constructive criticism is healthy, avoid negative criticism about what is impossible or unprofitable. They might be right but they might also be wrong and you'll be the one that shows the world something new.

Bottom Line

As Edison quipped in his famous quote, genius (e.g. invention, creativity) takes a lot perspiration. I'm amazed when I visit art museums around the world and keep seeing the "same" paintings. Just how many haystacks and water lilies did Matisse paint? How many bath scenes by Mary Cassatt? These artists did the same subject over and over again to practice their technique, to discover something new. They worked hard for the fame they achieved.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

8. Be able to tell the difference between constructive criticism and negative people.

December 19, 2011 at 6:16 PM  

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