This might be the million-dollar question together with the hen and the egg. But, where does creativity comes from? And how can we make sure we create as much of it as possible if we know where it comes from? I asked myself this question and decided dive deeper into it and this is what I came up with.
We all know that creativity comes from inside us, from our brain somewhere. But exactly where in our brain is still being discussed by scientists. Some say our right side, some say the left. But what is probably true is that it’s located somewhere in our prefrontal cortex. You can read more here on the debate of what side of our brain creativity comes from.
So, what is creativity then? Is it your ability to draw a pony, write a captivating short story or to come up with a clever pee ad for IKEA? Perhaps is it the way you are solving a space issue in the company office or managing you tight schedule like a game of Tetris? Can it be how you are creating strategies to beat your friends in video games?
The thing is that all of the above is correct. A lot of the things we do, conscious or unconscious, is creativity. Probably a lot more than we realize ourselves. But creativity is definitely problem solving, the ability to tell a story or to visually describe a message or a feeling. From the way you dress to the color choices of your illustration. We have now established what creativity is or can be (at least to some degree). What the things, ideas and solutions are, that comes out of your head.
So, how does creativity appear inside our head?
Insert creativity here
A lot of the great minds of our time used exercise to stay creative, such as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, but also Ludwig van Beethoven. So, does creativity comes from a healthy body that is resulting to more blood (blood flow) to our brain? Because when we are exercising, we are receiving a mental boost, according to countless studies, by the extra blood marinating our prefrontal cortex. Scientists at Stanford University showed that people who had been active just before a creativity test performed 60%(!) better. Exercise also makes our brain younger and even adding mass.
In Shawn Achor’s amazing TED talk, he says that: “If you can raise somebody’s level of positivity in the present, then their brain experiences what we now call a happiness advantage, which is your brain at positive performs significantly better than at negative, neutral or stressed. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise. In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31% more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed. You’re 37% better at sales. Doctors are 19 percent faster, more accurate at coming up with the correct diagnosis when positive instead of negative, neutral or stressed.”
So, is it a healthy body and mind that makes us creative?
Perhaps. But what about all the times you have thought of something brilliant in your head, but had no clue on how to make it reality? This often happened to us as a kid. Our mind is unsullied by too much external influence from our life and society. As kids our minds where running wild with an infinite amount of ideas and visions, but we had no clue of have to make it reality. As we acquire different skills in life and from different education, we learn more and more, and we become more enlightened and knowledgeable. Suddenly, we know how to put together 2+2 to create our version of 4 or the solution that leads to 4.
So, is knowledge creativity? That with knowledge of our craft, we become creative?
Perhaps. To really master something, you need to spend 10 000 hours of deliberate training. But studies show that this can also restrain us. What is called cognitive barricade, happens when we only focus on one thing, such as a certain specialization of your craft. It makes us less adaptable to changes. You may become really, really great at what you do, such as golf or fashion photography. But if you only do golf or fashion, you will perform lesser in other fields or problem solving that is crossing borders to other fields. Studies have also shown that if we instead make sure we broaden our perspectives and seek inspiration and knowledge of other fields, subjects and mediums, we tend to be more adaptable and also more creative. As we can draw inspiration and ideas from, sometimes unexpected sources, and apply them to the work or problem we are currently facing.
So, does the 10 000-hour rule makes you a master, but a broader perspective makes you more creative?
Perhaps. But what about all the tools we can use as creatives? Does a better tool make us more creative? A bigger and better computer and screen? The latest camera and lens with the fastest aperture? The latest 8K cinema camera? Well, this question is being dissected, discussed and argued over to infinity, everywhere. Hands down, the tools don’t make us more or less creative, but they help us achieve the things our creativity comes up with, in a more or less efficient and painless/painful way. Just as knowledge make the ideas into reality. What a new tool can do is raise your mood. On the other hand, when you feel excited for the new camera or computer, and according to Shawn Achor it will raise your brains performance.
So, will new gear and tools make us more creative?
Perhaps. But what about having fun and play around with our craft? Where we can create, explore and just enjoy the moment without the pressure of a desired or special outcome? Where we create for the fun sake of it, just like when we started out all those years ago. To feel the hunger to create new things because we loved what we were doing and enjoyed the moment. We all know what our own, personal projects, whatever they might be, are so important to gain creative energy, the chance to explore new ideas, visions or techniques without the pressure of a client, money and reputation.
So, will personal projects make us more creative?
All roads lead to Rome
I don’t think there is one thing that makes us more creative. I think it’s a mixture or combination of many things, together. I believe that one single thing might boost our performance or creativity for a short time, but when everything is adding up together, that’s when the magic happens.
When we have a somewhat healthy body and mind to have the best performance our body can give us, when we have enough knowledge to know how to put our ideas together or be knowledgeable enough to innovate. When we open ourselves up enough to external influences and ideas to make our work even more jaw-dropping and unexpected. When we have the right tools to make our creative process and work a joy.
That’s when the magic we call creativity happen. Make sure you treasure it and care for it every day, as creativity is a habit and a muscle that needs regular exercise – just like you!