Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘creativity’ as the ability to produce or use original and unusual ideas. It need not be aesthetically pleasing or glamorous, as most people mistakenly associate being creative with being artistic.
Creativity is freewheeling imaginative thinking that leads to fresh insights and maybe revolutionary ideas or even comes up with useful products. It puts old ideas of familiar things together in a different way.
One can be creatively involved with any activity. A management consultant would define creativity as the ability to generate new business options. A creative tax consultant would come up with new ways to approach the tax returns, keeping well within the law and saving his client’s money.
Anyone can be creative
Most of us have probably wondered whether or not we can be creative, and many of us may not be sure how to develop and apply whatever imaginative abilities we possess. We must remind ourselves here that a creative person is made, not born.
Unlike artistic talent, creativity is a quality anyone can develop. Whenever we let our thoughts wander and muse, ‘What if …?’, we push our mind to travel beyond the accepted and familiar. Such daydreaming is the source of much of the creativity in our lives. When we come up with a better or easier way to do our job, we are being creative.
If our ancestors had not asked, “What if …?” they would not have turned stones into tools and cultivated food crops from wild plants. No growth would have occurred if everybody had continued doing things the way they were traditionally being done. It’s a bunch of creative people who have led us to the industrial revolution, the computer age, the exploration of space, and almost anything and everything that we see around us today.
How to cultivate creativity
Letting the imagination fly: The business world has recognized the value of creative thinking in its adoption of a technique called brainstorming. A group of workers who are familiar with the problem get together and toss off whatever ideas that pop into their heads, no matter how wild or irrational. Absolutely no critical comments or judgments are allowed until the brainstorming session is over. Once the session is over, it invariably leads to new innovations, new products or even new marketing techniques.
The operative word here is to let the imagination go ‘wild’, which is the most important and probably the only difficult step in becoming creative. This is because we have been taught exactly the opposite – to reign in our thoughts, think logically, focus on the subject and avoid thinking or doing things that don’t make sense.
And the best part is, brainstorming does not necessarily require a group; we can do it on our own by simply listing the ideas that appear in our head without thinking much, and by allowing our imagination to fly.
Switching off: Another very effective technique is to grapple with the problem for a while and then turn away from it completely. This turning away means switching off from the problem and relaxing by way of indulging in a hobby or reading a book or watching a movie or playing a game and so on. Invariably, the solution would pop up from the subconscious mind during the relaxed period.
Thinking in pictures: Visualization is yet another way to loosen up the creative streak. It entails thinking in pictures and not in words, using metaphors comparing one object or event to another and noting the unexpected similarities in dissimilar things. If the thoughts are not visual, they could be sensual – evocative to the ear or to the sense of touch or taste. For instance, the word ‘calm’ can evoke a variety of metaphors: blue waters of a placid lake, green foliage of a forest, a favorite piece of music, a touch of a pet, a favorite food or even the picture or sound of a loved one.
Being aware: Developing awareness of our surroundings is a great help in increasing our creativity. We must learn to react to color, form, texture and sound. Awareness of the changing color of leaves during various seasons, the sounds of birds, the stars in the sky, people on the road, the various colors and moods of the ocean and the sky – all these add to the visual dictionary in our head. Creativity comes from the heart, the head supplies the words.
Collecting information: It is important to remember that the techniques discussed above may not work unless there is a base of knowledge of the field or subject in which we would like to create, be it business, designing or writing. With a basic foundation of knowledge, our instincts work better. Then the only thing to be done would be to persistently pursue the problem from different angles, till we find a solution.
The basic formula to cultivate creativity is as follows: decide what you want to do, what your project or your problem is; be positive in your attitude; learn all you can about your subject, more than you think you’ll need; think, relax, and review your ideas; make changes, additions or deletions, until you come up with your best solution. This is being creative.
Simply put, creativity requires flexible thinking that we all possess, although we may not be aware of it. As with everything else, creativity is also ‘all in the mind’!
Sunita Pant Bansal hails from the Kumaon hills of the Himalayas, a region well-known for its crop of litterateurs. Her forte is decoding Hindu scriptures to show their relevance and application in today’s times. In her four decades of writing career, Sunita has authored hundreds of books for children and young adults on folk literature and mythology. For adults, her genres cover body, mind and soul.