Key to Success
The Creative Soul
I remember applying for a job once to teach the general population about better parenting. The interview went along as I had expected. I was asked about my training, my work experience, and then I was asked how I would market the program. As I sought to quickly gather my thoughts to respond, the interviewer smiled and handed me three blank sheets of paper. “Here is some paper. Develop a marketing outline and then draw up a brochure. We’ll be back.” Never has a blank piece of paper – the semblance of nothing – seemed so threatening.
Albert Einstein felt the key to his success was imagination: “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Most writers know the terror of facing a blank piece of paper but so do others in the artistic community, whether it is a blank canvas, a blank piece of sheet music, an empty stage, or a simple block of stone or clay. Is it possible to teach ourselves how to be creative or is it simply something we are born with, that thing that keeps our mental state from staying focused on the mundane?
Research shows that children encouraged by their parents to participate in pretend games and role playing tend to have higher levels of fantasy as adults. Are they the only ones who can become great artists? Is it possible to train creativity or encourage a creative imagination? The answer to those questions depends on what you are calling creativity but basically, the answer is yes.
Research seems to imply that our environment can boost creativity and, like many old adages say, hard work can also pay off in becoming more creative. Behavior is also contagious and when we engage with creative content or watch someone else be highly creative, it can rub off on us and we ourselves increase our own creativity.
Research has shown that there are two phases to creative thinking – divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to think of a wide variety of options or ideas, all connected to a main problem or topic. Such thinking is supported by intuitive thinking, a fast, automatic mental response to a problem or dilemma. Convergent thinking then helps us evaluate those ideas or options for their usefulness, feasibility, etc. This involves analytical thinking, a deliberate, focused thought process which ultimately and hopefully allows us to select the correct option or idea to employ.
We all use creativity every day in solving routine problems. For instance, you are making a vegetable soup out of left-overs and suddenly your sibling drops in to surprise everyone. You can add some broth or water to the soup to have more servings. This is a creative response. OR you get all dressed up for a fall day in a nice button-down cardigan, shirt, and slacks when someone on your commute bumps into you, spilling your coffee on your shirt. You stop by the restroom on the way to your office and remove your shirt, buttoning up the cardigan and wearing it as a sweater top instead of just a jacket. This is another creative solution.
Not all creative imagination needs to compose an opera or paint the ceiling of a grand cathedral. Research indicates that the first thing we can do in becoming a grand master of creative output is to immerse ourselves in creative experiences. Exposure to the arts and putting out some effort are important first steps to creative success. Sadly, it is less about having a muse and more about putting in the effort. Famed scientist Louis Pasteur knew the answer when he said “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”
We have spoken about this before but I think it bears repeating. Anyone can be an artist. Not everyone can be a Michelangelo or Andrew Lloyd Webber but we all have the potential to be an artist. The process is vital in becoming creative and should be emphasized rather than just concentrating on the end result – the goal of a masterpiece. The journey you travel in becoming creative is far more important – the play, the practice, the exposure; these are all the keys to successful creativity and enjoying the creative life.