‘Creativity is not something you’re born with!’
I’ll prove that anyone can become artistic! No excuses, stop saying you weren’t born with that rare gift. It’s a lie you’ve told yourself and it’s stopping your transformation.
Creativity like any other skill flows from the same biological process every other human possesses. We can enhance skill through a process of training and development. We then build neural networks which ultimately speed up our connection to that talent. The success of humankind even rests on this ability as its survival factor. We are evolved to think creatively and grow new skills to help us adapt to the changes in our environment.
Part of the magic of creativity is being able to invent ideas out of seeming thin air. But how do we develop our minds to spark that engine and produce such inventiveness?
‘Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’… or so the saying goes, so surely there’s something important about that 99%. What is it about creativity we’ve all missed out on?
‘Skill is the insulation that wraps neural circuits and grows according to certain signals!’
Okay, so how does that small piece of biology help us understand how to be more creative? Well, hopefully, this revelation helps you view creativity just like any other skill.
Creative aptitude isn’t something preordained, we all have to learn it, to have it. You can be creative if you put your mind to it and believe it. In fact, you must be creative in order to get better at it. Creativity like any other skill is something you gain through exercising it. Think of it as a well-defined six-pack… is this something babies are born with? No of course not, they’re chubby little sprogs, but eventually, if they train it they will attain it.
This realisation should shatter your self-imposed shackles of creative inadequacy. Now you’re on-board just imagine if there was a formula to exercise, extract and explode your creativity. In fact, imagine if there was a code to being creative. I can imagine some of you believe this is bullshit:
‘Creatives are just born completely differently to the rest of us…’ Not true actually!
This typical generalisation leads to very damaging assumptions. It may have stopped you from becoming the next Ravi Shankar (maybe not). But trust me, I’ve had this type of discussion before, usually with some dilapidated artistic wannabe. They all say talent is something you either have or don’t have. But that’s the bullshit. Creativity is a wider-ranging craft that anyone can learn and the more you commit the better you’ll be at it.
More precisely, creative ability is something you develop from birth. It’s not genes, or disposition it’s about building those enhanced neural connections to enhance the speed and capacity of that trained talent. This isn’t even that groundbreaking! I’m just tired of people thinking like dinosaurs… Here’s some proof about skill insulation and creativity.
Many scientific studies since the 20th century have proved that skills are reinforced through the growth of something called myelin. You can think of it as the plastic exterior of an electrical cable. Eric Anderson’s 10,000 hours of mastery study links their growth to elite industry professionals, many of whom are at the top of their creative industry. So 10,000 hours is the amount of time you need to focus in order to become a master…?
Well saying ‘practice makes perfect’ is really an oversimplification
In fact, we should realise it’s more than just mindless repetition that crafts a true talent. You also need to build a ‘deep practise‘ which is a word used by Daniel Coyle in The Talent Code. His book studies various global hotspots of talent and examines how against their limiting environments, maestros have been spawning out of the woodwork ever since. Throughout our history creative powerhouses, all used this idea. How was this possible? How are they able to replicate, produce stars and build up such a legacy?
Coyle goes back to the Renaissance Era in Florence. All these Michelangelo’s started by studying under a master craftsman who was part of a larger pioneering guild of merchants. This held up a magnifying glass to their work and gave them that creative focus. So how was this key to their success and did it enrich their creative practice longterm?
Those early craftsmen trained hard at their skills and worked in a unique kind of way. There was a method to their creative madness. In order to understand it we need to rethink what successful deep practise can have on enhancing creativity. Creativity is a process just like any other. The more you train at it, the better it’s going to get. It’s simply has nothing to do with DNA, birthright or any other mystically entangled concept.
‘Who is this guy that’s figured out a 7 step process to make me a greater artist..?’
Okay, so for a minute, just imagine if there was a regimen that broke down that 99% perspiration and provided logic to your creative spark. Some way that could guarantee to make you feel more creative and get significantly better along the way. Imagine if you were able to produce a mindset based methodology that actually conduces better creativity. Maybe in a convenient 7 step process perhaps? Go on I.M.A.G.I.N.E. it…
I.nitiate M.otivate A.ctivate G.oals I.nspire N.urture E.xplore
STEP 1: SEE IT!
“If we want authenticity, we have to initiate it. Self-discovery takes us to the wildest places on earth” ~ Travis Rice
In order for your creativity to blow up, you need a strong vision. The first step is to establish your creative curiosity. It has to be a mental itch you want to scratch day after day for years until you get to eureka. Before you even start work you’ll need to identify what you desire to achieve. Try asking yourself the following three deeper questions:
- What truly fascinates me?
- Where do I want it to end up?
- How will I discover it?
The more you try to clearly visualise these three questions, the right path will materialise. You’re 99% more likely to achieve something if you can see it in front of you even if figuratively. Turn it into something physical which reminds you. Then use the prompt and meditate on it 15 minutes before you crack on. Regularly refocus on your vision. Otherwise, you’ll lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve. You need to see it!
If you’re stuck there are many techniques to initiate this profound level of thinking. Start by laying it all out using something like the Japanese concept of Ikigai. Fill out those 4 circles and convert the exercise into something like a vision board. Then continue to make future amendments in order to keep the fire lit. Ignite your passion.
STEP 2: MAKE IT!
“If you fail to make a plan you are planning on failing’ ~ Benjamin Franklin
Most people suck at making things happen. Mainly because they choose to skip a plan and dive straight in. Eventually, their enthusiasm burns out and they quit. But being a creative master is way too complicated a challenge to randomly decide where to start.
Every mission starts with a plan. The same applies to your creative venture. An understanding of where you are now and how to navigate towards the objective is vital to developing that mastery. Without that guide, you’ll just get lost. Think strategically!
Having that end in mind is crucial in motivating you to put in the right type of effort. Think about it a second, there needs to be a clear motive in order to provide a reason for you to do something. In other words, you need the right type of carrot dangling in front of you to make the reward desirable enough when the journey gets tough. Go make it!
You’ve got to be precise and not vague. Work out the steps you’ll need to complete, what order they need to be in and crucially make it accountable. Either to a person or a time frame but make it something that’s not yourself. Winners are held accountable!
Master planning is an art form in and of itself. One practical approach to making a successful accountability plan is to use the SMART target Model: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely. Be honest and make sure you truly desire what you are planning. Break it down into chunks. Then stay progressive by taking small steps continuously towards climbing the mountain ahead and keep disciplined!
STEP 3: DO IT!
“Either you vegetate and look out a window, or activate and try to effect change.” ~ Christopher Reeve
Change isn’t ultimately something you can only ponder. You’ve got to rise up and take the challenge! Like the athlete who knows that each lap gets them closer to their goal. Activation is all about applying the method of deep practise, twice, for 25 minutes daily.
We tell ourselves we’re too busy. Generally, we do lead pretty busy lives but everybody can make time and space. Literally go somewhere and actually make a space. Have a studio, desk, workshop or something that you associate with that activity. Therefore whenever you enter that physical space you are entering the zone. Think of it as your creative refuge. A place for the mind to rest from everyday mundanity, escape and explore the task at hand. When practising, focus on the work in smaller chunks, slow it down and it’s important to actually feel it yourself making improvement. Do it!
In the overcrowded favelas of Brazil, those aspiring football stars created futsal. It’s a small size ‘soccer in a room’ idea spawned from having limited resources. But nothing was going to stop them becoming No. 1 in the world. This became their elite training ground. So make a space, add a routine and enter your deep practise zone.
When deep practising it shouldn’t feel easy. If you are doing it right it should feel like your struggling as that’s what it takes to grow myelin (building those cells). It’s more the idea of finding a weakness and practising until solving that creative misdemeanour. Dive into your deep practise and break out of your comfort zone!
STEP 4: REACH IT
“A goal isn’t always meant to be reached; it often serves simply as something to aim at.” ~ Bruce Lee
Why are goals so important? Is it even that obvious? What even is a goal? Goals are vital because they give you a sense of pride and perspective about your creative attainment. In order to keep pushing, you need to be able to acknowledge accomplishment and reflect on what you are achieving. It goes both ways; goals provide new motivation and motivation comes from the desire to achieve a new goal. You follow that enthusiasm.
Generally speaking, people mix goals up with their dreams. But a dream isn’t necessarily even a real aspiration; whereas a goal should be definable, tangible and achievable. Dreams are your vision and are something you should aim really high at. In many ways, it doesn’t matter if you don’t always reach them. Your goals, on the other hand, are that low hanging fruit. You achieve goals through steps 2 and 3. i.e. motive + action = goals.
A goal is that milestone achievement along the path to realising part of your vision. It is not the end of point but a landmark along the journey to your vision. So start small with your goals and they’ll accumulate into reaching towards your dreams. Goals take months, visions take lifetimes. Follow the enthusiasm from goals to reach your dreams.
Ultimately goals are personal. The best idea is to make a range of challenges e.g. #30daychallenge. Try to aim lower then gradually build and achieve more. Reach it!
STEP 5: FEEL IT!
Creativity is Intelligence having fun ~ Albert Einstein
How do I feel more inspired? You might find it strange that we haven’t explored general techniques to enhance creativity so far. This is mainly because I don’t believe there are any specific ways to be more creative. Although there is one that is surprisingly boring…
Yes, that’s right, boredom is the remedy to being more creative. It sounds strange but it’s only when your brain has literally nothing else to do that it switches towards seeking creative activities. It’s a lurch state between a) usefully preoccupied with tasks and b) totally immersed with an imaginative state of mind. Our minds crave stimulation that’s why we hate the concept of boredom and love playing with our phones. Yet boredom provides us with the blank slate to trigger a more inspired headspace. Creativity is the fun our brain seeks out of boredom. Fantasy is the gift of that emptiness. Feel it!
So how are you able to harness the power of daydreaming to your creative advantage? Well, the key is to switch off and unplug. How will you feel inspired if you’re mentally full? If you’re swamped, stressed, anxious or exhausted this will inhibit any tendency towards creativity. Identify your distractions and remember they’re the enemy of your creative flow.
Learn to channel your idleness. One of the greatest eureka discoveries happened whilst bored in the bathtub! Be like Archimedes, mindful of those distraction-free periods. Seek out the fun in boredom! Maybe it’s necessary to think about digital detox to promote better boredom. Remember that creativity is a hyper absorbing activity where the time goes by quickly. Harness that tempo!
STEP 6: FEED IT!
“I feel that my fans have cultivated my talent and they continue to nurture me.” ~ Lady Gaga
How do you know if you’re growing in the right way? The thing about building a creative lifestyle is that it takes time to transform your ideas into reality. It’s such a huge undertaking and the only way to make progress is through persistence. No magic formula will replace the amount of hard work you do. That’s the simple answer.
Sometimes we get demoralised when we feel barely halfway up the mountain. It’s easy to give up even for a brief moment and turn back around. But slow and steady wins the race. Activating your craft day after day is what onlookers don’t see that makes the real difference. They only choose to see the tip of the iceberg and not the stages before your success. It can feel like a thankless journey so you have to be gracious and show gratitude towards yourself and others. Perception of self is hugely important as it’s one of the largest indicators of whether your creative development will be a success.
It’s easy to be tough or unsympathetic to your own aspirations. But it takes an average oak tree roughly 300 years to grow, then live and then die. It’s on the strongest, hardest, heaviest woods, which takes its time to grow and needs feeding from the other oak trees in order to live for up to 1,000 years. We all need a steady amount of ego feeding!
Don’t be your own worst enemy. It’s important to surround yourself with the right network of people who support and believe in you. Give generously, and one day you will be rewarded. Help others, don’t be self-critical and be your greatest ally!
STEP 7: FIND IT!
“You can’t find the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” ~ Steve Jobs
How do you know where to go next? It’s important to consider that even the best-laid plans often go awry. Learning to adapt and overcome drastic changes to your plan is often the final hurdle that many creatives fall short on. Life is a constant game of problem-solving. In fact, it’s highly likely you’ll keep coming up against the same issues again and again. You’re not necessarily doing anything wrong, by encountering them, they just come back. All of us are failing, struggling and falling short in that constant uphill creative battle towards excellence.
You need to learn to embrace the feeling of change. The very nature of creativity is change. It’s looking forward to new outcomes and possibilities that could exist. It is breaking away from the mould. Too much change can be unsettling but being too settled is just as limiting to your creativity. It’s important to re-explore your process and even start again at step 1 again to re-initiate that change!
If there’s something you don’t like, opt to change it. Research by a co-author of Freakonomics suggests that people who got heads on a coin toss experiment – regarding making a life-changing decision – were 25% more likely to stick with it. After a 6 months survey of all who took part in the experiment, that 25 % who had stuck to the change felt significantly happier than those who had played it safe and not opted to change.
When exploring there are a few things to bear in mind. Be confident, keen, collaborate, network, make mistakes, learn, discover, share and have fun! You will have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, karma, this method. Keep up the faith in what you’re doing, never quit. Remember doubt, uncertainty, failure are all part of the journey. In fact, they are the necessary evil to encourage you towards finding necessary change.
Being more creative could actually secure you more work in the future. As A.I. slowly starts to increase, many human jobs will become redundant. The one thing we can do to differentiate ourselves is to get creative. In the U.K. half a million Brits make a living from the arts industry and its risen 81% in only 15 years. This figure is only going to increase. Productivity in the arts and culture industry between 2009 and 2016 was greater than that of the economy as a whole, with gross value added per worker at £62,000 for arts and culture, compared to £46,800 for the wider UK economy. The £10.8bn it adds to the economy is more than the agriculture sector.
It’s huge so become part of it! Aspire, Create, Transform. A.C.T.