Would it surprise you to hear that creativity is not a personality trait but something you can learn?
If you don’t think of yourself as a creative person, this way of thinking may even be shocking. But it’s exactly the opinion held by growing numbers of educators in the 21st century.
You don’t have to be in formal education to begin the process of becoming more creative. The following techniques and practices are a great place to start, and will help you change not only the way you view creativity, but also the way you see yourself.
No, you’re not hallucinating: among its many other benefits, regular meditation practice will help you become more creative. But although every kind of meditation has its benefits, not all of them deliver the same powerful boost to your creativity.
If you’re especially into cultivating your creative powers, opt for open monitoring meditation, where you’ll spend time noticing your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations without passing judgement on them.
A much-overlooked component of creativity is the act of getting thoughts and visions down on paper before they evaporate. And some of them—usually the most promising—evaporate very quickly indeed. So make a habit of always carrying paper and a pen, and of whipping them out whenever an idea occurs to you.
Incidentally, it’s best to use squared or unlined paper, because the presence of lines automatically constrains your expression and therefore your thinking. You won’t be able to judge the value of your idea until you’ve had the chance to develop it, so don’t discriminate.
Treat the process as being like panning for gold. Write everything down in a long stream of consciousness as it comes to you, and sift through it later for those potentially priceless nuggets.
I’m a great advocate of thinking on paper: if you don’t get your ideas out there in a visible form, your thoughts won’t progress and you’ll end up covering the same ground again and again. That’s not thinking, it’s rumination, and it’s the enemy of creativity.
One of the best techniques for creatively developing your ideas and by- passing the temptation to ruminate is mind mapping. Developed by British thinker and educator Tony Buzan, mind mapping enables you to visualize (and realize) connections between concepts.
It works with your brain’s architecture to help you develop your ideas beyond their logical conclusion. The basics are easy to grasp, they’re lots of fun to make, and you can create them on paper or with the powerful iMindMap software.
Six Thinking Hats
If breathtaking creativity is at the summit of the mountain you want to climb, breaking habitual thinking patterns is base camp. It’s always hard to find ways of breaking habits, which is why Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ is such a powerful technique.
It uses the idea of a colored hat to represent a particular way of thinking. Once you understand what each hat stands for— for example the red hat signifies intuition or gut feelings–you’ll be able to flick a mental switch and view any issue from a variety of completely different perspectives.
The beauty of Six Thinking Hats is its built-in structure, which makes it easy for you to use by yourself or when you’re in a team situation. By going through the process of donning each hat in turn you’ll generate new ideas and rise above your usual way of looking at problems and challenges. With practice, Six Thinking Hats will lead you on a pathway to ever greater heights of creative thinking.
One of the most original and surprising views on creativity holds that we don’t only think with our brains, we think with our bodies, too. Researchers in the emerging field of Embodied Cognition suspect that the bodily movements we make when processing information influence how we’re able to manipulate this information.
So when you’re working on projects and ideas, the worst thing you can do is stay still all day: aid your creativity (and your health) by getting out of your chair and moving around at regular intervals. Creativity is one of the most highly regarded attributes of our age.
Enlightened thinkers have long realized that it’s not an all-or-nothing component of personality, but is more like a muscle which can be developed and strengthened. By listening to their message and practicing these simple techniques, you can prove that creativity isn’t the exclusive property of artists, writers and mathematicians, but the birthright of us all.