Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

4 ways to inject more creativity into your craft (and life)

Sometimes you have to take the road less traveled.

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash
  • Creativity is not a magical force, but a discipline that's hard-won through patience and fortitude.
  • Breaking free from your comfort zone is often required to live a more creative life.
  • These four suggestions from psychologists and neuroscientists provide insights into injecting more creativity into your craft.

Creativity requires a high degree of patience and the emotional willingness to fail. The status quo exists for a reason: everyone can partake, while it doesn't challenge norms or exceed expectations. Stretching yourself out, regardless of discipline or craft, means putting yourself on the line. Fortunately, there are steps that can help live a more creative life.

Below are four examples offered by neuroscientists and psychologists to inject more creativity into whatever it is that you're doing. A mindset switch, the ability to turn things over and look from different angles, is often required. While imagination is necessary, so is discipline, self-control, study, and the fortitude needed to drift far from your comfort zone.

Nothing groundbreaking is achieved by sticking with what's comfortable. A path must be forged before others follow you through the dark forest. These four suggestions might just provide a guiding light.

Creativity Is The Most Logical Process There Is

Anticipate the future

For as much talk as there is about portending the future, we often default to convenience. For example, despite broad awareness of privacy issues on Facebook, the site remains the go-to portal for advertisers, with $16.6 billion in revenue generated in 2018.

Hence, a longstanding biological contradiction: we want innovation yet we'll default to the status quo. To inspire creativity, however, we need to look at where trends are heading, not where they are. There's always historical precedent to draw from; trends are not created in a vacuum. This is why studying history is so pertinent for creativity. By understanding what previously led to what, you can stare at the current landscape to predict what's next.

As neuroscientist Antonio Damasio writes in The Strange Order of Things, recalled images are the "essential for the construction of narratives," which in turn foster the imagination, what he terms "the playground for creativity." What we commit to memory is more about predicting the future than being simply a repository of experiences. There would be little biological utility in recalling the past for no further usage. As memory research has shown, the same neurological circuits used to remember also predict.

As Damasio writes, "It is reasonable to say that we live part of our lives in the anticipated future rather than in the present." Forecasting is not confined to science fiction. It can be stitched together for any creative purposes, provided the mind that envisions it is willing to risk the wager of prediction.

Mimicry and Play

In various traditions, students are required to mimic their teachers until the day comes when they "graduate" and become teachers. The point of mimicry is to understand the foundation until they comprehend the tradition from the inside out. Only then can they be creative with the lessons and evolve the tradition. Creativity without foundation is impossible.

As Oliver Sacks writes in The River of Consciousness, all humans and many animals mimic their forebears; that's how they learn the rules of the game. One of the most important aspects of mimicry is play, which he calls "at once repetitive and imitative and, equally, exploratory and innovative." Play is pleasurable and instructive, as it teaches boundaries and anchors children with knowledge. This lesson is not limited to children, but applicable to adults of any age.

Imitation requires patience, a quality in short supply in the digital age. Yet the benefits are enormous. Mastery of a craft is unlikely unless a requisite amount of time is devoted to it, which requires apprenticeship. When the student becomes the teacher—context is relative, as good teachers are always students in some capacity—the knowledge becomes unconscious, woven into the fabric of being.

As Sacks notes regarding his own discipline, his personality and neuroses are transcended when writing creatively, which he concludes, "It is at once not me and the innermost part of me, certainly the best part of me."

Photo by Nicholas Jeffries on Unsplash

Mind Wandering is Key

All of our minds wander; it's a large part of what they do. Yet the Age of Distraction has killed this wonderful feature. Instead of sitting around letting thoughts roam freely, we stare into a screen as a means of fending off boredom. Boredom, though, can be a wonderful—some, such as professor emeritus of psychology, Michael Corballis, would say necessary—aspect of being human.

In his book, The Wandering Mind, Corballis agues that mind wandering, the brain's default mode network, is fuel for the creative imagination. By allowing your mind to wander, you open the door to randomness and novelty, both essential for breaking through the status quo and discovering new pathways forward. Corballis explains this beautifully through animal migration, which until relatively recently was an essential aspect of human navigation:

"Moving animals are disposed to wander through space. Sometimes they do so in goal-directed fashion, taking the well-trodden route to the watering hole, or the traffic-snarled road to work. But sometimes they just roam, exploring new territories, or perhaps wondering as they wander what's around the next bend. This too can lead to evolutionary change."

Inject Ambiguity

In her book, Mind in Motion, Stanford emeritus professor of psychology, Barbara Tversky, discusses a study she conducted with two expert and seven novice architects. Based on sketches of a museum on a hillside, she observed that novice observations relied on perceptual relations while the experts dealt with functional relations.

The key: experts see relationships between design elements even though they're not explicitly represented, while novices generally work only with what is presented on paper (or, as is popular in this cohort, cocktail napkins).

"Ambiguity turns out to be key to creative thinking because it allows, even encourages, reinterpretations," she writes. By looking at the general landmarks, creative experts can then infer a variety of possibilities.

This trait is not limited to architects or even visual artists; Tversky mentions chess, engineering, and music, though the field is limitless. Detail is important in every craft, but when the foundation is more broadly presented this allows the creative expert to insert numerous possibilities. The only limitation, as with all creative thinking, is your imagination.

--

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
Keep reading Show less

Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

Keep reading Show less

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

A homeless man faces Wall Street

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
Keep reading Show less

Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health

Finding a balance between job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle is not easy.

Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health
Videos
  • When most of your life is spent doing one thing, it matters if that thing is unfulfilling or if it makes you unhappy. According to research, most people are not thrilled with their jobs. However, there are ways to find purpose in your work and to reduce the negative impact that the daily grind has on your mental health.
  • "The evidence is that about 70 percent of people are not engaged in what they do all day long, and about 18 percent of people are repulsed," London Business School professor Dan Cable says, calling the current state of work unhappiness an epidemic. In this video, he and other big thinkers consider what it means to find meaning in your work, discuss the parts of the brain that fuel creativity, and share strategies for reassessing your relationship to your job.
  • Author James Citrin offers a career triangle model that sees work as a balance of three forces: job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle. While it is possible to have all three, Citrin says that they are not always possible at the same time, especially not early on in your career.
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast