Creativity is neither a muscle in your brain nor a randomly bestowed gift. Rather, it’s a process of mental ignition that happens when what goes into your awareness and what comes out of your awareness bump into each other in new and delightful ways.
What goes IN comes from conversations, writings, and other people’s ideas. It’s the job of your listening skill, reading habit, reasoning ability, and curiosity to collect diverse input, because some of it works its way past your filters and distractions and makes it all the way into your experience.
What comes OUT are those same thoughts, words, and ideas – now processed through your experience and reconstituted as yours.
What you see and hear are the raw materials of creativity. How you remix those words and ideas becomes your creative mind. It’s the job of your expressive tools – your speech, writing, and artistic ability – to make existing thoughts and concepts original.
Some people put more trust in the ideas of others and their contribution is the same as others’ output. They can’t be bothered to turn incoming concepts over, under, or inside-out to find something new.
They simply re-employ existing ideas that work well enough as they are, figuring ‘why bother risking something new?’ These people may be called dependable, task-oriented, and competent – but not creative.
Others are fascinated to see what happens to ideas when processed through their own minds. They mix them with other ideas, dissect them to see what makes them wobble and how they might wobble differently, and flip them on their ears just to see what happens to an idea on its ear. A significant portion of those scrambled, reconstituted, discombobulated ideas become mental garbage, not allowed access to the outside world where reasonable minds may dismiss them. But some of those ideas slip out in a casual comment, a brainstorming moment, or an artistic stroke – and the ones that work become contributions!
People who fill human discourse with such ideas may be called crazy, unplugged, even unrealistic. But it doesn’t take very many crazy, unplugged, unrealistic ideas that actually work for the judgment makers to call those people creative!
Dependable people are needed to keep the world spinning, but creative people are needed to increase the spin and send us in new, exciting directions.
The trick is that dependable people learn to be reliable and competent from other dependable people. To be effectively creative, creatives start by learning what the dependables know, and then try new twists, unexplored possibilities, and off-the-road solutions to discover new dependabilities that improve the journey.
It isn’t what’s hanging around in your brain waiting to make you creative, it’s what you invite into your brain and offer to the world in a new format that ignites and reveals your creativity.
A juggler is creative by taking a concept learned from other jugglers and simultaneously creating multiple paths for flying objects. The first juggler who decided to try juggling with a moving chain saw took some different concepts and put them together in a new act – all the while employing vital safety lessons to keep the act dependable AND creative.
Pay attention to others, slice and dice their ideas, and stir unlikely mixtures. Wonder ‘what if…?’ more than you wonder ‘what will others think…?’ Push the probable over the line, then test the improbable with your thoughts, your art, and your life. That’s creativity.