Creativity can seem innate, but like many things, it is actually a delicate balance of nature and nurture. In other words, creative thinking can be enhanced by external forces, and isn’t necessarily reliant on “good genes” or natural ability.
Luckily, new research points the way to a variety of mental and environmental approaches that can help us improve our creative output:
1. Restrict yourself
Famously, Dr. Seuss wrote Green Eggs & Ham after betting that he couldn’t produce a story using less than 50 words. The research shows Seuss was on to something. Most people naturally take the path of “least resistance” and build off of older or existing concepts when brainstorming, which can lead to less creative ideas.
In order to put the brain in overdrive, you can mimic Dr. Seuss and place restrictions on yourself while creating, which will prevent you from falling back on past successes. If you usually write 1000-word short stories, try to create a story in under 500 words. Only use a small handful of chords in your song or colors in your design. The limiting nature of the task can bring out your most creative side.
2. Re-conceptualize the problem
Researchers have noted that creative people tend to re-conceptualize problems more often before starting a creative task. As Einstein once said “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Instead of looking at the end goal of a creative project (i.e. “I need to create a memorable painting”), it’s better to re-visualize the problem from other, more meaningful, angles before starting (“What sort of painting would evoke the feeling of loneliness that we all feel after a break-up?”).
Oftentimes, the best approach is to picture the intended audience of your next creative project. What inspires them? What are they sick of hearing about? What are the problems they face but are rarely able to talk about?
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