Creativity

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Robert Ringer Comments (34)

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Creativity is a trait we all admire. Original thoughts and ideas are valued highly in the marketplace. But most people believe that creativity is an inborn trait and is beyond their reach. They’re right about the former, but wrong about the latter.

It goes without saying that some people are more naturally creative than others, but the same can be said of any human trait. A person with a high IQ might breeze through school with a “B” average, but a person with an average IQ can become an “A” student if he’s willing to invest enough time and effort in his studies.

The same is true of athletes. There are great athletes in every major sport who never rise above mediocrity, while guys like Larry Bird (who was slow and had almost no jumping ability) and Emmett Smith (who was small and not particularly fast) became legends.

And so it is with creativity. What it all gets down to is price paying. If you want to become more creative, you have to be willing to put forth the effort necessary to do the things that lead to increased creativity.

One of the most encouraging facts about the human brain that researchers have discovered is that intelligence is not a prerequisite to creativity. IQ tests focus on convergent thinking, which views a problem as having only one solution. There is no creativity involved in this process.

To be creative, you have to think divergently, which entails considering many solutions. And that, in turn, requires you to disregard conventional wisdom and consider far-ranging possibilities.

Studies have demonstrated that the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for convergent thinking, while the right hemisphere is the home of divergent thinking. Thus, a person with severe left-brain damage can still be creative.

Anyone who has ever watched young children at play knows that they tend to be very creative. However, their creativity becomes suppressed by a school system that values conformity and specific answers to specific questions.

Further conformity is demanded, or at least encouraged, on job applications and in the workplace. The cerebral risk-taker who dares to go against conventional wisdom does so at his own peril. If his unconventional idea is adopted and proves to be a winner, he may very well be on his way to the presidency of the company. But if he’s wrong, he may be looking for a new job.

Of course, those who are self-employed don’t have to worry about getting fired, but they do have to worry about going broke. Thus, one of the prerequisites for creativity is having a well-endowed lower anatomy.

Knowledge is another factor that is critical to creative thinking, in at least two ways. First, because the left brain is the cerebral filing cabinet for specific knowledge, it keeps the creative right brain from running wild. We’ve all known people who come up with an idea a minute, but most of their ideas either fail or never get off the ground. Usually, it’s a result of their lacking enough specific knowledge in their brain to silence their creative right brain and tell it to move on to the next idea.

Second, and even more important, if your left brain is overflowing with knowledge, your right brain has access to the material it needs to be creative. Good ideas and concepts are only as good as the knowledge upon which they are based.

What comes into play here is the Schlock Blocker, which states: For every hour spent watching schlock TV, the left brain is deprived of an hour’s worth of valuable knowledge that could be gained by reading a serious book.

But it gets even trickier. There is convincing evidence that too much specialized knowledge can actually inhibit creativity. Viktor Frankl alluded to this problem when he described an expert as a person who no longer sees the forest of truth for the trees of facts.

When it comes to the arts, in particular, too much knowledge can be detrimental to creativity. Researchers have discovered that people who experience severe left-brain damage become less inhibited and more creative in such skills as drawing and painting.

This is because the left brain organizes our social skills and tends to repress “eccentricity” and nonconformity. There is a strong suspicion that Vincent van Gogh’s wackiness was a result of left-hemisphere brain damage, which in turn gave him the freedom to be totally uninhibited in his right-brain artwork.

Today, Hollywood is overflowing with artistically creative people who talk as though they’ve had group left-brain lobotomies. If one gives them the benefit of the doubt and assumes they are well-meaning, one is also forced to conclude that their incoherent babbling about such topics as politics, world peace, and the environment stems from a lack of knowledge. But this lack of knowledge does not get in the way of their artistic creativity.

Finally, it’s much easier to be creative when you’re not under pressure. That’s why it’s a good idea to get away from your office periodically and relax. Some of my best ideas have come to me while cruising at thirty-five thousand feet — no telephone, no e-mails, no projects piling up around me. Vacations, the theater, attending conferences, and just going for long walks all serve the same purpose.

Above all, develop the habit of grabbing hold of random, creative thoughts and quickly getting them down on paper. Nothing frustrates me more than realizing that a great idea I came up with yesterday is gone because I was so certain I’d remember it that I didn’t take the time to write it down.

To discourage this lazy habit, I keep pads and pens everywhere — throughout the house, in my car, and next to my bed. Be rigidly self-disciplined when it comes to writing down your ideas, especially those that are the most extreme or that you’re positive you’ll remember — because you probably won’t.

It’s also a good idea to always be ready to put your DVR into action, because you never know when some great tidbit is going to make its way in between the standard schlock programming and appear on your television screen — provided you watch the right channels, of course.

Lastly, and most important, I believe that creativity flows from action. Action stimulates your brain cells and gets your creative juices flowing. What happens when you take action is that the atoms in your brain increase the speed of their vibrations, which causes your “mental paradigm” to expand. And when that occurs, you begin to see new ideas, new concepts, and new possibilities that you may not have previously considered.

That’s why you can’t afford to wait until you become motivated to take action. Instead, you have to employ your free will and force yourself to take action. And when you do, motivation is almost sure to follow. In other words, don’t make the mistake of waiting for something to happen; make it happen!

Remember, to be successful in business, the three most important areas you have to focus on are strategizing, innovating, and marketing. And since all three require creative thinking, it’s imperative to your success that you constantly hone this remarkable human trait.

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

34 responses to “Creativity”

  1. Robert rdiamondesq says:

    Interesting article. Thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts!

  2. Chotaharti says:

    Excellent! Just the validation I needed first thing this morning … thank you. Action is the key to creativity in my experience, whether you feel like it or not.

  3. Cadence says:

    I'm still kind of thrown off and trying to get realigned after the reference to anatomical endowment.

  4. Yes exactly. What does this sentence mean — within the context? "Thus, one of the prerequisites for creativity is having a well-endowed lower anatomy."

  5. larajf says:

    I used to try to capture ideas on my iphone using dragon dictation but it lost something in the process. I'd see spelling mistakes and want to fix them, so I couldn't capture the real gist of the idea. Writing it physically on paper helps a ton. Then I'll put it into Evernote.

  6. Carol says:

    I take it to mean you've got to have "balls". Not being crude…just telling it like it is. If you are going to be in business for yourself, it really helps to have them!

    • Paul Herring says:

      We used to call such "courage", "guts" and "determination". Now we seem to prefer a crude expression for everything we do. What's lacking in clarity with the words used formerly?

      • Jay says:

        Who gives a damn. Just listen to his message instead of trying to take the conversation off sideways on a note of pointless pedanticism.

  7. "There is convincing evidence that too much specialized knowledge can actually inhibit creativity."

    It all depends on the subject matter and how many specialties one has mastered. Having specialized knowledge in multiple fields can actually enhance creativity. Ben Franklin was a quintessential example of a human sponge who absorbed highly specialized knowledge from multiple fields. Without such he could have never invented, created and governed.

    On the other hand, specialized knowledge, depending on the subject, can, as well, inhibit seeing the big picture, but only if one remains compartmentalized. Breaking free from religious, political, academic and cultural constraints is the first step in creating a truly unique mind. And make no mistake; a creative mind is self-made. And it's our job to create ourself. Nothing inhibits a creative, enlightened, self-made man more than adherence to religious dogma and believing too much in fairy tales.

    Political compartmentalization is another anathema to awareness, conceptualization and adaptation. The three aforementioned traits form the basis for a muse, and are the Holy Trinity of creativity . For example, a genuine muse wouldn't be caught dead among any group of coreligionists — especially those who invoke a four-thousand-year-old divine "title" as a basis for justifiable aggression. And a creative genius wouldn't be caught wasting time with collectivist politicians, monetary Keynesians, phony capitalists and/or the hoi polloi.

    Actually, the hoi polloi are distracted, deluded, amused and insulated by television, sporting events and political and religious theater. Their minds have been rendered useless. No creativity. No intellectual capacity. No beauty. Witless. Without morals. Unable and unwilling to think for themselves; therefore of no inspirational value whatsoever to the classical, liberal thinker. Edward R. Murrow actually predicted how mindless and uncreative the masses would become as they stopped reading books and tuned into watching TV. Today, most Christians haven't even completely read their own "holy scriptures". And they rely on the shallow interpretations of others. I remember a time when books (including the Bible and the dictionary) were read in the living-room on a nightly basis; i remember when meaningful intercourse (conversation) could be enjoyed with those who were educated in a one-room schoolhouse.

    Today, not even a worthwhile conversation can be had with a bread-and-circus zombie, viz., an American; let alone a creative collaboration. It's astonishing just how "dumbed-down", warlike and government-dependent the public has become. Drop more bombs, print more money and expand credit have become the default answer. Will Americans ever become "creative" once again?

    Ron Paul's latest book, "Swords into Plowshares", would be a good place for some of you so called "peace lovers" to seek out some new ideas and rethink your support of statist Zionism. You! The self-righteous Zionist, who believe the Jews have divine title, are no better than the pogromists. Both groups would de well to read Ron's books. There is no creativity to be found in a nuclear weapon. Why not, for a change, create something useful by finding a creative use for your sword?

    • Pat says:

      I see a bit of oversimplification in your message. I agree multiple fields of knowledge enhances creativity. But much of the rest of it is word spinning.

      I get my MOTIVATION to be creative from my religious faith. I create to share God's beauty with others, people who cannot go where I go or do what I do. It also causes me to think outside the box, because without my faith, I would be subject to the tyrannizing propaganda of government. I do agree that too many Christians rely on the shallow interpretation of others. I am not a promoter of false religion. The faith I hold is based on solid fact and empirical evidence. We all have faith. Bottom line, we trust our senses.

      As for fairy tales, all false religion is fairy tales, but so is a lot of science.

      Where Ron Paul and others go astray is in not recognizing that some people are just plain evil. You cannot reason with them. They will kill you unless you kill them first. It is a sad reality that we live in a fallen and vicious world, and there are times when all the choices open to you are evil. In that case, choose the least evil and ask for forgiveness for having chosen evil.

      God gave title of Israel to the Israelis. I never cease to be amazed at how CONSTRAINED they are in dealing with the internal violence that permeates their lives. "Zionism" is a good buzzword, but it has nothing to do with what I just said.

  8. Richard Perry says:

    I continue to follow your writing since the Tortoise days — your ideas are correct and worth following.

  9. Ernie Zelinski says:

    Some other inspirational thoughts about creativity:

    "The great creative individual . . . is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be."
    — John Stuart Mill

    "The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them."
    — Mark Twain

    "Creativity comes by breaking the rules, by saying you're in love with the anarchist."
    — Anita Roddick

    "Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth."
    — Bernice Fitz-Gibbon

    "Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity."
    — Christopher Morley

    "Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity."
    — Dr. E. Land (inventor of the Polaroid Camera)

    "Why do we admire the true achievers and innovators of this world such as Steve Jobs? Because they appeal to our own creative souls, to our own desire to make a difference for humanity and to leave the Universe a better place when we depart than it was when we got here."
    — from "Life's Secret Handbook"

    "The good ideas are all hammered out in agony by individuals, not spewed out by groups."
    — Charles Bower

    "When you do work that matters, the crowd will call you a fool. If you do something remarkable, something new and something important, not everyone will understand it (at first). Your work is for someone, not everyone. Unless you're surrounded only by someones, you will almost certainly encounter everyone. And when you do, they will jeer. That's how you'll know you migh be onto something."
    — Seth Godin

  10. When I was a college teacher of Literature and Creative Writing, I knew many Art Majors. I saw their work and decided that Art pretty much ceased to exist on campuses. Some would say it, Art, had only changed. Yes, but not for the better! "Throwing pots" and building paper mache this and that's is not MY idea of Art. Progress is often Regress, seems to me.

  11. Bill Zimmerly says:

    "Above all, develop the habit of grabbing hold of random, creative thoughts and quickly getting them down on paper. Nothing frustrates me more than realizing that a great idea I came up with yesterday is gone because I was so certain I’d remember it that I didn’t take the time to write it down."

    I agree 100% with this, but instead of paper, I prefer the "Voice Memo" functionality of my Samsung Gear S watch. I just poke a button and tell the watch my idea! I can replay the ideas that have accumulated when the day ends. –> http://blog.clove.co.uk/2013/11/01/samsung-galaxy

  12. oscarwildeweenr says:

    A subject near & dear to me.

    Creativity is play. Children are cited. Yes. they play. Careful of the emphasis tho. cognizant, too, that this way of speaking/writing, is a too shorthand. And that what’s “self-servingly” (but only seemingly) shorted shoulda’ been longed: you lose. & because sooo many – too many – love losing, the whole house is in jeopardy. & I don’t mean deplorable vegas, atlantic city, red man reservations, either.

    Kids are compelled to play. They don’t will it. when they play, they are play. They don’t do play. It flows through them. they are instruments. Joyful noise – whether others can hear it, or not – ensues.

    Creativity is curiosity. What is it (any/all “its” under consideration). What will it, or might it, be? What can it be? What’s around the bend, over that rise, down in that basin? Got to know, be — driven & compelled by unbeknownst causes…creativity-curiosity-play, all these are effects, manifestations, reverberations…randomly factory-tuned strings.

    • oscarwildeweenr says:

      A long-running conversation with someone I’ve never met reminded me of a title. I took the hint. because curiosity fills the cat. Just finished “the gold bug variations.”* But even before I finished four more of Richard powers’ novels arrived. That’s also a hint, for any/all curious kids reading this. the Austrian moses, this thread, is right – about those for whom the shoe fits: don’t limit your reading to stone tablets. Read widely. Read anything. Read everything. play with it. if you’re a reader. And a player. Thing is, playful readers already do that. not because they were advised. Not by other people, anyway. Advice is irrelevant. buyers & sellers of it just have those affinity cards in their wallets, is all.

      * ”no question. it’s an interesting time to be alive,” ressler said, tapping the sheet of paper as his documentary proof. “we have attained ancient wishes, the plan to dig all the way down, to the bottom, like little children in the backyard shooting for china. In twenty years, we’ve put together a comprehensive, physical explanation of life. only, at every way station on the way down, the destination slips one landing deeper. Heredity is not only chromosomes. Then, not only genes, not only nucleotides. My generation found it was not only chemistry, not only physics. Seems life might not be only anything.” He traced three rays with his fingers, verifying that UCG coded for serine. “no question. an intellectual achievement: those of us understandably prejudiced toward seeing life from chicken level, realizing that chickens are just the egg’s way of perpetuating the egg.”

      Louis Jordan & his tympany five https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGs6TDeXo8E

      The “b” side https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5F8Sk557e8

      18:40’ish, if you can’t watch it all https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTFKVnRkn-I

    • oscarwildeweenr says:

      A long-running conversation with someone I’ve never met reminded me of a title. I took the hint. because curiosity fills the cat. Just finished “the gold bug variations.”* But even before I finished four more of Richard powers’ novels arrived. That’s also a hint, for any/all curious kids reading this. the Austrian moses, this thread, is right – about those for whom the shoe fits: don’t limit your reading to stone tablets. Read widely. Read anything. Read everything. play with it. if you’re a reader. And a player. Thing is, playful readers already do that. not because they were advised. Not by other people, anyway. Advice is irrelevant. buyers & sellers of it just have those affinity cards in their wallets, is all.

      * ”no question. it’s an interesting time to be alive,” ressler said, tapping the sheet of paper as his documentary proof. “we have attained ancient wishes, the plan to dig all the way down, to the bottom, like little children in the backyard shooting for china. In twenty years, we’ve put together a comprehensive, physical explanation of life. only, at every way station on the way down, the destination slips one landing deeper. Heredity is not only chromosomes. Then, not only genes, not only nucleotides. My generation found it was not only chemistry, not only physics. Seems life might not be only anything.” He traced three rays with his fingers, verifying that UCG coded for serine. “no question. an intellectual achievement: those of us understandably prejudiced toward seeing life from chicken level, realizing that chickens are just the egg’s way of perpetuating the egg.”

      Louis Jordan & his tympany five https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGs6TDeXo8E

      The “b” side https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5F8Sk557e8

      18:40’ish, if you can’t watch it all https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTFKVnRkn-I

  13. Stefani says:

    Whenever you are "stuck" for a solution or idea, remember that we live in an endlessly bountiful universe. All you need do is to clear your mind and allow the solution a place to land. Sometimes it may take a bit of time but this has never failed me in 50 years.

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  17. Steve Locke says:

    Creativity is a great gift.

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