Cultivate Ordinary Creativity

July 17, 2014 by  

Years ago, my wonderful sculpture teacher confided, “I used to think that people were either creative, or not. Now, I believe that everyone can be more creative.”  IMG_0938If you don’t think of yourself as creative (of creative enough), I hope her comment encourages you.

In another conversation, after she had been rather brutally honest about a piece I was working on, saying, “Linda, this is boring, but I can tell you how to improve it,” we got into a discussion about critiques and how to teach people (I was still teaching grad students at Northwestern at that time). She laughed at her remark to me and said, “I wouldn’t have said it that way to everybody. I don’t teach sculpture, I teach people.”

I’ve thought about that remark a great deal in the years since. It was, and remains, wise.  Learning is very personal, growth is idiosyncratic, and Im sure that my take-away from those classes was radically different from the experiences of others.

When we want to grow or change, it is smartest to do it in ways that feel right to us. We have a better chance of success. With that in mind, here are some ways to increase your creativity. Pick the ideas that make sense to you.

Add something new to your ordinary way of doing things, such as: new hair or make-up, take a different path when walking or driving, eat in a new place, watch an entirely different type of movie, or change your rooms around.

Behaviors only work if your attitude is complementary. Here are attitudes to cultivate if you want to increase your creativity:  Open-mindedness, curiosity, adaptability, and playfulness. Mix solitude with sociability, don’t dismiss ideas too quickly, get in touch with little used aspects of your personality, and allow yourself to consider new solutions to your everyday problems.

Creativity and Noise

August 15, 2013 by  

Researchers at  the U. of Illinois have proposed a process that describes how noise affects creativity.   I’m always dreamstimefree_452899 empty speakinginterested in learning more about creativity so this study seemed worth reading.   Since noise affects writers, artists, students and other creative people,  I am summarizing the research conclusions.

1. Noise distracts people but the degree of distraction induced by various noise levels will affect creativity differently.

2. A high level of noise may cause a great deal of distraction, causing individuals to process information to a lesser extent and therefore to exhibit lower creativity.

3. A moderate (vs. low) level of noise/distraction leads to ‘disfluency’ (difficulty processing), which induces a higher construal level so people engage in abstract thinking.  Hmmm, interesting.

4. Therefore, a moderate distraction, which induces processing difficulty, enhances creativity by prompting abstract thinking.  There is evidence that relates abstract thinking to greater creativity.  Smith (1995) suggests that when people are thinking abstractly, they are less likely to fixate, and thus more creative, than those who are thinking concretely.

If you want to have the right level of noise, you can download Coffitivity – it is free.  I haven’t tried it so this is not an endorsement.

Source: Journal of Consumer Research,  Vol. 39, No. 4, December 2012. Is Noise Always Bad? Exploring the Effects of Ambient Noise on Creative Cognition. Ravi Mehta, Rui (Juliet) Zhu, and Amar Cheema

The Process of Creativity

July 27, 2013 by  

Professor Robert Weisberg has written much about the process of creativity. Here are a few of his thoughts that intrigue A round bulb glowing against an out of focus background. Mono sepia tonedme.

1. Works of art do not spring “full blown” into the head but evolve as the creator attempts to deal with problems left unsolved by earlier versions of the same attempt. Look at earlier sketches, musical compositions or notes from talented people to see many examples of this part of the process.

2. Creativity may happen in the following way: People are introduced to the ideas of others (encounter and engage), then the person duplicates, learns before creating on one’s own. Alexander Calder actually created mobiles as a child. He began with wire, went to mechanics, made toys, abstract drawing, and wound up again at mobiles.

3. In order to remain creative, we must tolerate anxiety, tolerate not being good enough at new things, tolerate not finishing things to our satisfaction, and perhaps even abandoning old attempts. We need direction in how to begin, then we can go further, copy, imitate until we can produce novel products, whether in the garden, music, psychology, relationships, art,etc.

This reminds me of the importance of mentors and how grateful we are when someone takes notice of us (parent, teacher, coach) and allows us, maybe even encourages us, to safely develop – lean on them, steal from them, paraphrase their interventions in the sessions we conducted during the week, and finally integrate and take off on our own.

If you are interested in becoming a better writer, check out this bestselling book.

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Give Your Mind A Rest

March 25, 2013 by  

Psychologists at the Universities of Kansas and Utah came up with a not-very-surprising conclusion.  They found that when people took a break from theirdead tree silhouete electronic devices by going hiking in the wilderness for 4-6 days, their scores on creativity tests increased.  I totally believe these findings, but I doubt that it was just about the hikers leaving their cell phones and computers behind (which seems to be the researchers” conclusions).  I suspect that it was nourishing to leave their lives behind, ditch all the stimulation, step away from the clock for a little while and use other parts of the brain – i.e.,  see beautiful mountains, walk until you are tired, eat simply, and have unscheduled time.  People were in novel environments, they had different stimuli, their minds were less cluttered.  I would love to know more details about what happens to our minds during these periods that increase creativity.

Source: PLoS One, Dec 12

If you can’t go hiking, take a break and read Object of Obsession

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Break The Creativity Block

September 3, 2012 by  

Do you want to be more creative but sometimes you hit the wall too quickly and your ideas stop flowing? Read about this study first and I’ll follow it up with some tips to help break through the block.Total Betfair Football Trading – 10 Systems Package

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Many psychologists, including me, have believed that the unconscious plays a role in creativity and when the mind is at rest (as long as you have done sufficient work before you rest your mind), new ideas or solutions will become available.

To test this idea, a very recent creativity study gave subjects two minutes and asked them to list as many novel uses as they could for an everyday object (in this case, it was a chair but it could be a pencil, hair dryer or other common object). This is a common, fun exercise for anyone – you don’t need to be participating in a research study to try it. Usually, creative people come up with more novel uses than less creative types.

In Gallate et al (2012) study, these subjects were then given a math test to occupy their conscious minds. After that busy activity, the participants were told to do the creativity test again. Half of the subjects had been previously warned that they would repeat the creativity test; half were surprised. Those who were surprised by the second test of creativity didn’t improve very much. Those who had been warned came up with more than twice as many novel ideas the second time.

The conclusion: one group had time to allow their unconscious to work on the problem; therefore they created more ideas.

This study suggests that unconscious processing is important while ideas are in formation. For the members of the group who knew they’d be doing the task again, their unconscious processes were busily was working away in the background thinking up more solutions as they performed other tasks.

Here are some ways to use this information to enhance your creativity:

  1. Simply taking a break from your project is NOT the answer. When will you return? It helps your mind to know that you will return to your problem.
  2. Prepare yourself to return to your problem by looking at various solutions/ideas for your project or problem. This preps your self-conscious.
  3. Plan – You can build project breaks into your schedule. Make them short, 1/2 hour, not a day.

For creative writers who want more ideas about character development, please check out my book, The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits

About Creativity – Did You Know?

August 24, 2012 by  

Creative people produce more bad work than others. Why? Historiometrican (this means that he reviews large quantities of historical data to determine his conclusions) Dean Keith Simonton found that

creative people are generally more productive so the

Elimina Las Estrías – Nuevo Nicho En Español!

y accumulate a larger body of work (good and eh) than others.

Creativity Explained (maybe)

August 24, 2012 by  

Over the years, different schools of psychology have attempted to explain the origins of creativity. Here is a thumbnail sketch of the different views. viagra generic

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1. Psychoanalytic

Freud wrote that creativity was a result of sublimation (redirecting) of sexual/libidinal energy into artistic pursuits. His ideas are still influential but, even if you buy the basic idea of sublimation, this idea doesn’t hold very well because: A.) uncreative people also sublimate energy and don’t become artists; B.) the concept cannot differentiate between the good artist and the ineffective one. However, he drew attention to the individual personality, motivation, and directing one’s energy.

2. Behaviorist

Behaviorists care less about the unconscious and more about behavior. They agree with psychoanalytic thinkers that individuals engage in creative activity to secure material gain (satisfaction, esteem, cash, etc), whether directly or sublimated. The number one behaviorist, B. F. Skinner saw creativity in terms of positive reinforcement (fame, cash). More recently, behavioral psychologists have come to talk about creativity in terms of intrinsic motivation.

3. Intrinsic motivation

Theresa Amabile called attention to creative solutions that occur more easily during play or pleasure than in “judged” situations where the scope is narrowed. She says that absence of evaluation leads to creative solutions. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes flow, that state where people feel fully alive and involved, and says that people will go back to attain that state again and again, willing to endure discomfort or pain. This helps explain why people tolerate frustration in pursuit of their art/science/sport.

I find the Behavioral explanations lacking – we all know people (and we may be those people) who do not get quick and easy positive reinforcement and stick with our art, sport, belief. I’ve got to vote with the Psychoanalytic and Intrinsic Motivation folks on this one.

What Is Creativity?

August 3, 2012 by  

I enjoy reading and writing about creativity but nothing is as much fun as being involved in some creative project, whether it is writing a new book, planning a vacation, or choosing the paint color for my dining room.

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People have always had conflicting ideas about creativity – what is it?

Two common prevailing views of creativity are:

1. The magic view – Creativity springs complete from the unconscious; only special people are creative, the process cannot be explained.


2. Nothing is truly creative because nothing is new view – Creativity is simply generalizing old responses to new situations or it is accidental. This means that no products are really new and novel ideas/outcomes are produced by accident.

I go with something in the middle of the two ideas (which seem rather extreme) I don’t buy either the notion of unexplained genius or nothing is new. I don’t believe that creativity is as mysterious as a visitation but it is not trivial, either.

We can all add creativity to our lives. How?

Try responding to a situation in a novel way rather than simply repeating your old ways. Whether it is a response to a person or to a situation, do something unlike the ways you have used in the past. What is the saying that seems to be all the rage

these days? “Do the things you have always done and get the results you have always gotten !”


Posted on August 3, 2012

4 Easy Ways To Increase Everyday Creativity

May 21, 2012 by  

Creativity can be an aspect of your daily  life.  The magazine, Psychology Today  had a useful article on everyday creativity. I”m tossing their ideas in with my own to offer 4 easy ways to enhance creativity.

1. You have to believe that you have creative power.  This is different than artistic ability (painting, playing the piano, etc). This of creative power as a means of approaching problems with a different mind set.

2. Don”t worry about making mistakes (you will make them whether you worry or not). Be willing to be playful and experiment.

3. Explore the less-used sides of your personality. Not rhythmic?  Then take a dance class. Live by the clock? Take a day with no plan and see how

your mind directs you.

4. Practice being less judgmental of your own ideas. Let them live for awhile and see what they morph into before you let the critic run loose.

Posted on May 21, 2012

Creativity at Midlife

April 23, 2012 by  

Midlife can be a very creative time for two reasons. First, at this stage, people are often ready for a change and have lived long enough, accumulated varied experiences, have a bit of wisdom and can make some interesting choices. Second, they are sick of being told who they are and what to do so they are very ready to express themselves with confidence (or desperation).

You don’t have to be an artist to be creative. Creative pursuits can be the way you live your life, cook your food, relate to others, or make choices that are motivated by a strong internal voice.  Think about who you are and what sustains you.  Then you can take a step in that direction – a small step. Try it out and evaluate.



Posted on April 23, 2012

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