(WARNING: Probably the Longest Post I’ve Ever Done)
… Certainly not the title of this blog post! Yuck. I’ve seen more creative titles in the Twilight saga than that—okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but I like to be hard on myself, you know? It makes me strive for greatness. I want people to say, “She’s going to do GREAT things, this one! Great things,” as they twirl their dapper-ass moustaches and adjust their monocles. Mm-hmm, yes, quite. Though could this perfectionism be holding back my creativity? Wow! What a perfect segue into the topic of this week’s blog post: creativity and how it is defined verses what it actually is. I’m taking a class taught by William Heywood on this subject because: one, I think this is a fascinating topic in Psychology, and two, (like many of you reading this) I am an artist who relies heavily on creativity.
When most people think of creativity, their minds immediately jump to the arts:
drawing, painting, writing, acting, musicing (that’s a word—spellcheck will tell you otherwise, but don’t listen to it), and the like, but what if I were to tell you that creativity applies to everyone and everything, not just the arts? Learning to be open to possibilities like this change in perspective is part of creativity—this last point applies to everyone, like myself who didn’t already know this about creativity. If you did, you are a bloody brilliant person, so congrats to you! But I digress, openness is important to creativity, just like living in the moment, being imaginative, and most importantly being open to failure in the pursuit of a creative idea. You see, what most people think of as creativity is actually closer to the definition of imagination, which is defined as, “the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses,” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). That last part is key: “external objects not present to the senses.” What separates creativity from imagination is the act of doing something with an imaginative idea. Creativity involves solving problems in order to achieve your end goal. This is why it requires you to actually do something with your idea. For example, say you have an original character unlike any made in any book ever, but haven’t put him/her on the page yet; this would be an example of your imagination. However, if you wrote a story about said character, deciding the perfect setting, plot line, and goal for him/her, then sitting down and writing this newfangled vagabondage of a story, you would be using your creativity because you solved the problems in the way of you attaining your creative goal. In essence, coming up with a bunch of new ideas is great and imaginative, but unless you do something with those ideas, you will not become truly creative.
The characteristics of a creative person, according to Professor Heywood, are as follows: flexibility, complexity, energy, openness, original, elaboration, motivation, moderate risk taking, curiosity, awareness of your creativeness, independent, and last but not least, humorous. Hoo-boy, that looks like a lot, but they’re all pretty simple concepts. Flexibility refers to your ability to deal with ambiguity, being able to take life as it comes, fully expecting things to be uncertain and open to change. Look at all of the strides we have taken in biology as an example: you know how 50 years ago researchers said, “Baka! You think you can open up DNA and screw around with it?! Impossible!” Well, with time we were able to make that impossible dream a reality. Now we can screw with our genetic makeup all we want. Yeah, Mr. White! Yeah, Science!
Complexity, on the other hand, refers to our ability to create order from disorder and to not be overwhelmed in our lives. When you accept the uncertainty in this world, it’s sometimes difficult to take control of your life again, but with organization and a specific goal in mind, anything is possible. This is a skill that I have yet to learn, but my good friend is making me an absolutely gorgeous planner that will hopefully help me in that department. Friends, find your own Raveena’s. They are simply the best.
Speaking of which, having the energy to get all of this planning and goal achieving done is a must. Being a night owl (as evinced by the fact that I should be asleep right now but couldn’t help writing this article), I know it seems hypocritical of me to give advice on sleep, but please trust me. Your brain will be the most creative when it has enough energy to exert on coming up with new ideas. And on top of that, sleep is the perfect opportunity to let your imagination run free! You might be horrified by some of the things your subconscious plays on the projection screen that is your brain, but just sit back and watch with your bag of judgement-free psychoanalysis-corn.
That brings me to the next characteristic: being open—open to new ideas, open to new people, open to learning and doing new things. If you never try anything new, you won’t be able to achieve one of the most important aspects of being creative: originality. I mean, that’s the whole definition of originality, right? Doing something new. Didn’t need the dictionary for that one. And hey, look! Killed two explanations with one paragraph. Take that, writing!
Now, elaboration goes back to what I was talking about before when I said that creativity is doing something with your imagination. It means that you take an idea and you elaborate on it, and one of the most common ways of doing so is through storytelling. But a writer does not simply sit down and vomit up a stream of symbols that all pool together into a composed narrative, as all you writers no doubt can attest to. It takes motivation, but it’s hard to get motivated if you aren’t already. Nobody can motivate you but you, unless your form of motivation involves being beaten over the head until you finish something—which I will admit would be effective, but maybe slightly less enjoyable than, say, setting some goals and planning to meet them at your own pace. But hey, who am I to judge?
One of the leading causes of demotivation and procrastination is fear of taking risks, more specifically, fear of failure. I admit that I’ve fallen prey to this fear more times than I can count. When I sit down to draw something, I often have to convince myself that I shouldn’t worry about whether or not something will look “good”. I just have to remember that every time you take a risk, you could fail, but you learn more from failures than successes. I like to take every creative project I make and turn it into an opportunity to learn. Of course, I’m not perfect and I seldom follow my own sage-status advice, but that’s a challenge for another day. For now, I’ll focus on nourishing my desire to learn.
That brings me to the next characteristic: curiosity. Remember when you were a kid and you were so open to everything because you wanted to absorb as much information as possible? Well, in order to be creative, you need to regain that childlike sense of curiosity. Question everything! Challenge what you already assume to be true about the world. My drawing II professor said something very appropriate to this point just the other day: “Drawing is like exploring a theory: you go into it with all of these preconceived notions that you soon discover are not as true as you thought they were, and hopefully after you’re done, you’ve learned something new.” In addition to questioning the world you thought you knew, refrain from judging anything before finding the truth. Try not to be judgmental of other people before getting to know them, or try not to judge something new without giving it a shot. For example, I read the whole Twilight saga with the preconceived notion that it was a laughable series. Reading it only gave me more reason to scoff and be a snarky-as-Snicket lemon. You see, I refrained from judging until I gave it a chance! Don’t ask me why I’m in a Twilight-bashing mood today. I don’t quite understand it myself. But basically, the more judgmental you are, the more closed-off you become to the world and all of its mysteries. So don’t do that. Be a kid again! Everyone wants that chance anyway, right?
Next, be aware of your creativity. Watch yourself passively as you go about your day, and find the times when you are most creative and account for those when you’re planning your goals. Find things that inspire you to pick up a pen, pencil, quill, obo, or whatever else you use to express yourself.
Next, and probably one of the hardest, is don’t be one of the sheople. Be independent of the masses. Be yourself! This goes hand in hand with originality, but even more so with being aware of your creativity. Most people go through their days not being aware of anything and living their lives in a zombie-like state of monotony. I confess that I have done the same. Professor Heywood claims that mindfulness meditation for 20 minutes a day will not only help to improve your focus, but also to make you more aware of yourself and others. I can’t attest to the success of this personally because I find it very hard to sit down and focus on anything for an extended amount of time, but I’ll have to give it a try and let you know how it goes! For now, I’ll just advise you to try your hardest to live in the present moment and don’t zone out for the rest of your life. If you do, you could miss valuable creative ideas!
Finally, and this one is my favorite, creative people are humorous. They laugh at the cosmic joke, meaning that they understand that we do everything in this world, every goal, every aspiration, every romantic pursuit, every everything, only to die. We work so hard to do so much knowing that we’ll be gone one day. If you find this as funny as I do, congrats! You’re a sick bastard! Nah, I’m just kidding. Kind of. But seriously, live life with a sense of humor. It’ll not only make you more creative, but it’ll make all of those little trivialities more bearable.
So I’ll wrap this up quickly because I know your poor eyes have to be exhausted from scanning and processing all of these letters. I know mine are. So, dream big, don’t knock anything until you try it, be open, and accept whatever your brain decides to throw at you. Then once you have an idea, DO SOMETHING WITH IT. And if you follow the advice that I’ve adapted from Professor Heywood’s lectures, you can nurture your creativity. Keep creating, readers!