Many people think you can’t learn to be more creative. “You’ve either got it or you don’t.” This attitude does a great disservice to everyone. Everyone is creative. So why are some people more creative than others? There are all kinds of reasons. Two reasons stand out above all the others – attitude and skill. In both cases, practice makes perfect. The creative principles and strategies applied in a wide variety of fields can all help you become more creative. You can learn to be more creative. As Micheal Michalko says, “The artist, after all, is not a special kind of person; every person is a special kind of artist.”
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Be Open to New Opportunities to Learn
Receptivity is an essential quality necessary for creative success. There are many kinds of receptivity and many ways to become more receptive. Versatility increases the number of opportunities available to you. Practice makes success more likely.
While you can prepare for success and increase the chances that success will happen, you can’t force a breakthrough. Breakthroughs are often unexpected and come in unexpected forms.
Highly creative people are open to new opportunities. They understand that being open minded means being open to different opportunities to learn.
Don’t pass up opportunities to learn. Be open to new opportunities. And realize, they may come from unexpected sources at unexpected times.
Rule Your Tools, Don’t Let Your Tools Rule You
“When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Beware of tools driving your process. Relying on the same tools is predictable and can be efficient; but it can also be limiting. Be aware that introducing new tools into your process can be creatively stimulating. The challenge is to know when to rely on the tried and true and when to try something new. To further your growth and still be productive in your chosen areas of concern you need to do both. Major corporations allocate resources to research and development. You should too. Make an action plan to consistently try new things, making sure that you don’t allot so much time to exploration that you become scattered and end up not producing work or producing nothing but novelty. You’ll see benefits from your time spent if you select experiments that have a higher likelihood of success and are aligned with your personal goals. Make a list of possibilities. Rank them. And get started with the highest priority you’ve identified.
Make a Bucket List
Currently in theaters there’s a movie entitled The Bucket List. A bucket list is a list of all the things you’d like to do before you die. Have you ever made a “bucket list”?
How many people do? Those who do, usually do it far to late. It’s not macabre; it’s actually enjoyable and extremely useful.
How many people actually follow through and do one or more items on the list? There are several things you can do to make the list more useful. 1 – Prioritize it. Find the most important things on the list. Find the things you can accomplish readily and with the least amount of effort. 2 – Make a plan. List the steps necessary to accomplish specific items. (You might do this for all of the items, but just doing it for the most important and easiest will get you started.) 3 – Act on it. 4 – Repeat the process.
How does this apply to creativity? You can make a bucket list with a specific theme – your creative life.
So what’s stopping you? After all, it’s your life. Take an active hand in living it your way.
Passive and Active States Are Equally Important
The origin of ideas is one of the great mysteries of the mind. Though they can identify many of the processes involved, classic patterns, and mechanisms for triggering them, modern psychology and even the great spiritual traditions cannot fully explain them. It’s said that Mozart and Shakespeare wrote their masterpieces fully formed without editing. Their art was in them already. All they had to do was listen. And write. This was as much a mystery to them as it is to us.
If mystery isn’t present your process isn’t inspired – a living breathing thing. Mystery opens the way for discovery, insight, and breakthroughs.
So, how do you develop what you can’t define? Celebrate it. Cultivating curiosity will help you become ready for discovery.
Attention reveals. Non-judgementally, be aware of your process as it unfolds. You may even want to make note of essential components and processes as you become aware of them. Become aware of and develop your awareness of your creative process. Make a lifelong study of this profound mystery that you are a part of.
“Being” receptive may not seem like “doing” anything but there are times when the most important part of your creative process.
Identify the Core
“If you had to eliminate all of your images save one, which one image would you keep?” This is a question I frequently ask my students and myself. It’s not something I recommend you actually do, but answering the question, hard as it is, is always very revealing. Identifying one image that most embodies your vision helps clarify your visual identity. List the strengths of this image. It’s likely these strengths will be present in a majority of your work. These core strengths often provide a foundation you can rely upon and develop further to make your work even stronger. These qualities can also be used to identify your particular passions and concerns. After you identify the image, ask yourself why you chose it. Did you choose an image because it fits other people’s criteria of success? Did you choose an image that has a particular relevance to your personal history? Did you choose an image that evokes a powerful emotion? Did you choose an image that symbolically represents something important to you? Strike up a dialog with your work. You’ll get to know your work and yourself even better.
Education never stops. Every one of us learns every day. Don’t wait for understanding to come to you. Learn even more by actively seek out opportunities to expand your knowledge. Target your search into areas that are most likely to be productive and personally relevant. You’ll find that you’ll not only be able to accomplish more and improve the quality of your work, you’ll also find that new ideas will come to you along the way.
Spend Time With Other Creative People
Seek community with other creative people. You can gain extremely valuable insights into the creative process by spending time with and carefully observing other creative people practicing in any discipline.
Enjoy this process! Simply observe. Your time is better spent observing. Secondarily, you may also observe yourself and note what you tend to react to and how you tend to react.
Resist the temptation to be analytical or critical. Time evaluating the information you collect is best spent later, when you no longer have access to such an information rich environment and when you’ve had a little time to gain some distance and perspective, letting things sink in.
Without putting others on the spot, it’s useful to ask appropriate questions of others. You’ll learn even more. It’s likely that you’ll both learn from what you exchange.
Identify Your Tendencies
We all have habits. Some habits are good. Some habits are bad. We tend to solve problems in certain ways, even though many ways are available to us. While many are conventional, our habits seem natural to us. To get a clearer perspective make a list; writing down your observations reveals many ‘hidden’ connections. While you’re looking from the inside out, other people looking from the outside in may be able to make observations that are useful to you – seek feedback. Update your list when new observations come to mind. Date your observations so that when you revisit your list you can note the changes that time brings. Knowing your tendencies will help you get into your groove quicker and stay out of ruts more consistently. Highly creative people identify their habits, explore other possibilities, and then choose the method that is likely to be most effective for the situation.
… if it’s not a box if it continually leads to successful results
… it’s a box if it doesn’t lead to successful results or you want new results
It’s important to seek feedback about your work. Doing this provides both confirmation and insight, stimulating growth. It’s important to consider who you seek feed back from as each viewer will have something unique to offer.
Seek feedback from people who know you; they will understand personal dimensions of your work others won’t be privy to. Seek feedback from those who don’t know you; they won’t make assumptions based on your personal past or allowances based on friendship. Seek feedback from professionals; they have a first hand experience of an artist’s working concerns and craft. Seek feedback from people without expertise in your field; they are less likely to be swayed by current concerns within a discipline and tend to weigh content over craft. Seek feedback from people who appreciate the type of art you create; they will understand the history and concerns of the media you practice. Seek feedback from people who appreciate art generally; they will be more broadly concerned with expression and may be better able to weigh the general accessibility of the work. Understanding the biases and prejudices each audience may have is important when weighing feedback.
Consider all aspects of the presentation of your work before presenting it. How you present your work will have a strong influence on the type of feedback you receive.
Remember, no matter what kind of feedback you get or who you get it from, you are the ultimate authority on your work. Feedback is only useful if you use it. And you alone determine what to use and what not to, what you take to heart and what you don’t,