Creativity, or “Where do you get your ideas?”

Wow – check out my hubris over here. There have been entire books written on the matter, university level courses that help people figure out how to be more creative, and more. I’m just hammering away at a keyboard over here and I’m suggesting that a lot of time and effort is spent over complicating the creative process.

There’s a weird sort of fad going around among people – you’re either creative or not. I think it has become just another way for people to organize themselves into cliques or whatever. If you’re creative, you can hang out with us creative types. We’ll be a tribe, or whatever marketing gurus are calling it nowadays.

That’s just not true though. Almost anyone can become creative. It is like a lot of things that we’ve been learning about people and their brains. Once upon a time, even as recently as when I was a kid, you were told “wow, you’re good at math” or your friend would say “my brain just isn’t wired for math” or something to that effect. There’s definitely people there who can naturally intuit one thing or another more quickly than others – but that’s not the whole story.

Very few people who are inherently talented at anything get anywhere without honing themselves. Creativity is the same way. If you work at it, you can get better at it. If we’re going to continue overusing that old metaphor – its like building muscle. You’ve got to work at it to get it better.

Studies have found that there is a honing aspect to any creative endeavor, and it involves multiple facets. One of the biggest things is honing knowledge in the right area. This is why every successful writer talks about the importance of reading. Prolifically if at all possible. You need to know how other people are writing, see the ways that they construct sentences and plot. Combined with that – you’ve got to keep trying to be better. It doesn’t really take the 10,000 hours that we’ve heard about, but it does take constant work and development of the meta-knowledge about your own process. There’s a high level of responsible self-critiquing that needs to be able to take place for you to continue to get better.

Feeding into all of this – go nuts in experimenting with the different popular things that people tell you work. Figure out if it is working in the morning or at night that gets your juices going. Do all that stuff. Just, don’t spend more time figuring it out instead of actually doing it. It is way too easy to get distracted by something like that which would prevent you from getting all those other things done.

Now go out there and get your work done.

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