Creativity is a simple word, but it holds much mystique and complexity. Scientists have studied the aspects of creativity in humans for decades, and they still can’t pin down what exactly makes that special spark in our heads.
It’s far more than just a distinction between left- and right-brain functions. It is believed that creativity is the result of an astronomical number of cognitive processes and neural transmissions. Creative personalities in individuals are hard to identify for psychologists, mostly due to their complicated, paradoxical nature and tendency to avoid habits and routines.
So there’s a reason why many people don’t “know” themselves – it’s because their creative side is more complex than their non-creative side. But messy minds can hold many unique traits that can offer some tell-tale signs of creativity.
With that in mind, what exactly makes a person “creative”, and how can you go about becoming a more creative person? Keep reading to learn more about the best methods for cultivating creativity.
Observe the world around you
Life is constantly moving around you – why not take note of it? The world around us is a fascinating place, and it’s a guarantee that all famous writers, filmmakers, and visionaries have gained inspiration from just sitting back and watching.
If you don’t have the sharpest memory (and that’s a majority of us), carry a notebook with you the next time you go people-watching. Record anything you see that interests you or makes you think. A notebook is a great tool that will help your inspiration blossom.
What would life be like if you weren’t curious? Well, you’d probably act much like a robot, taking in information and never questioning its validity. You’d remain in one place, never stepping outside unthinkable boundaries.
Allow psychologist Todd Kashdan to explain why creative people need curiosity:
…it appears to be a fundamental motive in facilitating industry and creativity. Writers, artists, inventors, scientists, and others engaged in the creative process often refer to curiosity to describe the compelling psychological need to work at their craft.
The world at face value never satisfies creative people. They have to know why and how it works the way it does. Anywhere you go, questions will follow, and you can strive to find the answers.
Open yourself to new experiences
With curiosity comes the desire for experience. When you expose yourself to new experiences, you gain new sensations, outlooks, and states of mind. As we move through certain events, we explore the cognitive and behavioral aspects of the world, which we can refer back to as a source for creative inspiration.
Experiences don’t just inspire, though. Among many possibilities, they can teach us new things or change our viewpoints on certain subjects. Get out there – it’s the strongest indicator of creative achievement.
In his book Spent, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller says,
Those less open than you seem boring, dull, conventional, and conformist, whereas the more open seem eccentric, bizarre, disruptive, threatening, or even psychotic.
Stop being boring — get out there and start disrupting.
Be a risk-taker
It’s one thing to take on new experiences, but some of those may not be risky. Where’s the fun in that? Creativity is not about being shy. You have to be willing to do some risky things for that creative rush. Make your imaginative bets a reality!
Take some time to be alone
Throwing yourself out there into the world is an amazing thing. But sometimes you need to ground yourself and spend time with your thoughts.
It’s okay to be alone — in fact, solitude is often the best scenario to produce your best work. You have minimal distractions, and you have uninterrupted access to your inner monologue. If you’re always out and about, it’ll be harder to find your creative voice. Plus, let’s face it – we all need our space.
Daydreaming is a solid way to harness your inner thoughts, especially when you’re spending time alone. Don’t let your grade school teacher’s scolding fool you – daydreaming is certainly not counted among the things that are a waste of your time.
Scott Barry Kaufman, NYU psychology professor, wrote in Scientific American that daydreaming offers many personal rewards:
These rewards include self-awareness, creative incubation, improvisation and evaluation, memory consolidation, autobiographical planning, goal driven thought, future planning, retrieval of deeply personal memories, reflective consideration of the meaning of events and experiences, simulating the perspective of another person, evaluating the implications of self and others’ emotional reactions, moral reasoning, and reflective compassion… From this personal perspective, it is much easier to understand why people are drawn to mind wandering and willing to invest nearly 50 percent of their waking hours engaged in it.
It’s hard for a person to not be creative – in fact, it’s nearly impossible. We all have that spark in us somewhere – we just need the right time, place, and mindset. The items in this list can’t even begin to describe all the things that can cause someone to be labeled “creative”.
You’re a complicated person, and everything that happens in your everyday life can help foster creativity. Richard Restak, author of Think Smart, says,
Just as you can learn techniques to improve your memory, you can learn techniques to be more creative.
So it’s okay to let your mind wander every once in a while. Get out in the world and enrich yourself in new experiences, but also give yourself some time to unwind in solitude. Don’t be afraid to ask big questions that are floating around in your head, and pay attention to the world around you. Creativity is everywhere — it’s up to you to find it and harness your creative power.