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Our culture has long viewed creativity in ways that don’t serve us. On one hand, we view it as frilly and unnecessary—something we do for fun in our free time. And on the other hand, we think of it as a tool to help us build careers, make more money, and establish a name for ourselves in the marketplace. Neither approach is helpful.
At its heart, creativity is neither an amusing play activity nor a tool. According to many psychologists, creativity is a form of human intelligence.
Creative intelligence—the ability to come up with new ideas—is one of three main types of intelligence, alongside the ability to get along in different contexts (practical) and the ability to evaluate information and solve problems (analytical).
All three modes of intelligence are important for success and well-being.
To creatively flourish and produce our best work, creativity requires the same thoughtfulness, time, and attention as other kinds of intelligence.
Although we live in a world that prizes instant gratification, deep creative work still requires focused attention.
If you have unfinished projects and unresolved things that are consuming your mental energy, you’ll need to clear those up before your creativity can flourish. If something is on your mind, take care of it before diving into new creative work.
You don’t necessarily need a physical room in your house, but you DO need some sort of physical space, even if it’s just a picnic table at the local city park.
Our best creative work is most likely to be intrinsically motivated, rather than motivated by extrinsic rewards like money.
When we’re intrinsically motivated, we do an activity because it’s inherently satisfying, not for an external result. In the case of creativity, we’re inspired to act for the fun or challenge involved rather than because of external pressures or rewards.
Your loves and passions are what inspire you to produce great things. Your passion is what keeps you going when you encounter resistance or difficult people, or experience setbacks or rejections. Valuing your heart’s longings will give you the courage to try out new directions and bravely explore new terrain. When your heart is moved and inspired, you’ll be a force to be reckoned with.
Our minds often get anxious when diving into new and unknown things, but research suggests that this is precisely when creativity has a chance to flourish.
For example, in several different studies involving video games, participants were more creative when the game was open-ended rather than defined. When tasks, projects, and visions are open-ended—when we allow ourselves to dream—we are free to explore, experiment, follow intuitive hunches, and learn from what presents itself.
Nurturing environments (and people) inspire the creative. Natural and beautiful environments “feed” the brain and support the production of new neurons, while ugly, unstimulating environments stop the brain’s generative process.
If you’re procrastinating, unmotivated, or generally “blah,” ask yourself this: When was the last time you surrounded yourself with beauty? The power of beauty is real. Dwelling in it will shift your mood and inspire you.
Your deep creativity is subversive. It doesn’t care what your mother thinks, what your friends believe, or the institutional norms of your career. Creative terrain lies OUTSIDE of the institution that you work for, the social system that you grew up in, or what’s currently trending on social media.
Many highly creative individuals spent time in their childhoods creating their “own worlds,” which the authors termed “paracosms.” In these made-up fantasy worlds, these future creative geniuses were free to create new languages, rules, and social systems.
The essential starting point of artistic consciousness is acknowledging that something is “more than I can possibly know.”
“Knowing” is not a creative state. It’s when we don’t know that we’re open to new information, ideas, and experiences in ways that we aren’t otherwise.
Our minds want to “know” so very badly. But let’s give ourselves permission to not know.
Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.
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