On Creativity

How To Be Creative: 6 Secrets Backed By Research

We’d all like to be more creative, but how exactly do we make that happen? Here’s some advice gleaned from Scott Barry Kaufman, scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of the new book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind. The advice comes from Eric, the person behind the blog Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

The research behind studies like those cited here is often just as fascinating as the conclusions drawn from it. So be sure to read the whole article for insight into these six ways to stimulate your creativity:

(1) Be open to new experiences: It’s the most important thing to do. Just try new stuff. (What are you ordering for lunch today? Really? Don’t get that. You always get that.)

(2) Go for a walk: It can make you more creative and it’s exercise. Two birds, one stone, baby.

(3) Take a shower: If you’re not doing this one, I don’t want to hang out with you. Period.

(4) Take some “me” time: No, not me, you. So “you” time.

(5) Take “The Outsider’s Mindset”: Think like a kid. Stop taking your everyday work for granted. What about it would be odd to an outsider? There’s gold in thinking about that.

(6) Keep trying: Most of what the great geniuses produced was utter crap. Same is true for you. But nobody needs to know about your misses. Keep trying and just count the hits.

The Unfair Truth About How Creative People Really Succeed

For anyone starting out in a creative profession, Jeff Goins, author of The Art of Work, explains that the people they envy became successful because “They knew the right people. They were in the right place at the right time. They got lucky.” Success doesn’t result simply from talent, education, perseverance, and effort. You also have to know the right people:

Networks. Partnerships. Creative collaborations. This is where enduring work originates, and, incidentally, is how we get works like The Lord of the Rings and The White Album. Creativity is not a solitary invention but a collaborative creation. And communities create opportunities for creative work to succeed.

Goins explains how he developed his own network by overcoming his shyness enough to reach out “to influential bloggers and authors, people I had watched for years and wanted to know. I asked them to meet me for coffee. And here’s the crazy part: most of them said yes.”

Read the explanation of his three-step process for developing your own supportive network:

(1) Find a gatekeeper.
(2) Connect with other people within the network.
(3) Help as many people as possible.

Don’t just sit around and wait to become lucky:

Luck comes to us all. But those who recognize it are the ones who succeed. Every story of success is really a story of community, and the way you find yours is by reaching out and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves

Elizabeth Gilbert on the Link Between Creativity and Curiosity

Melissa Dahl interviews successful author Elizabeth Gilbert about Gilbert’s new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Whereas the common admonition is to follow one’s passion, Gilbert suggests that, instead, people follow their curiosity. Dahl says that Gilbert advises that “creativity flourishes best when it’s kept as your little pet project, not the thing you’re depending on to make your rent.”

At the beginning of the interview Gilbert says that she’s only mildly interested in the scientific research behind notions of creativity. After thinking about writing this book for 12 years, she finally put the research aside and “wrote about what I know empirically — all of this is so true to me and my experience”:

Not to dismiss all of the science — that’s all interesting and important stuff. I just don’t know if it’s going to take me where I want to be, and where I want to be is in what I call the big magic, which means suspending a lot of rational thought. I mean, listen — I have one foot with the fairies and one foot with the real world. I believe in evolution, I believe in vaccinations, I believe the world is round. I am here with everyone in the modern world. But I also think it’s a benefit to keep a piece of ourselves open to the creative process as something that’s a little mystical and magical.

For Gilbert, curiosity is what drives her to push beyond fear: “if you want to live a curiosity-driven life, you must commit to being vigilant about looking for what’s piquing your curiosity.” She further advises people to take it easy on themselves, to trust that there’s a reason why something is more interesting to them right now than is anything else.