To start with, the definition of “creativity” is a tricky one in many cases – who or what really is creative? When and why? On top of that, those of us who want or need to work creatively are often facing another challenge: how can I become creative?
Well, some will call it unfortunate, but you cannot force or guarantee creativity and neither can you learn it as such. Apart from the need of a basic intelligence, creativity is nothing that comes easier to people with a higher (or lower) IQ than others. On the good side, there are certain steps you can make that will improve your chances to be creative when you want to be creative.
How can I allow creativity?
British comedian and ex Monty-Python John Cleese gave an impressive lecture in 1991 on the subject how to achieve more creativity, where he explained the 5 essential conditions that do make it more likely that you will be creative: “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.”
5 steps that you can arrange to make your life more creative:
- Time (again! but differently to 2.!)
Firstly, we can identify two different moods or modes in which we live: the open mode and the closed mode. In everyday life, most of us will usually be in the closed mode: we lead busy lives, have lots to do, we are unrestful or even stressed. We try to function well, and go pragmaticly about our business. In this mode, we may well be productive and get lots done, but we cannot be creative.
In the open mode however, we are relaxed, less pragmatic, we do not feel under pressure; we are playful and we play not for any immediate practical purpose. Creativity can only happen in this open mode and the 5 points above can enable us to switch between the open and closed modes:
1. space: “You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.” We need to create an oasis, in which we can have play- or pondering time without being distracted by disturbances.
2. time: “It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.” We must set clear start and end times beforehand. It is advisable to have more shorter periods of 75 -90 minutes each during which we want to be in the open mode rather than fewer but longer ones.
3. time: “Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision, leaving decisions that require original solutions to be made as late as possible but of course within deadlines. Our subconscious mind will help us find creative solutions – if only we allow it to, for example by giving ourselves the famous night “to sleep over” things.
4. confidence: “Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.” We must learn that in creative periods there is no wrong as every mistake we make can actually bring us closer to the best solution.
5. humor: “The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”
“We need to be in the open mode when pondering a problem – but once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the closed mode to implement it. Because once we’ve made a decision, we are efficient only if we go through with it decisively, undistracted by doubts about its correctness.”
“To be at our most efficient, we need to be able to switch backwards and forward between the two modes. But – here’s the problem – we too often get stuck in the closed mode. Under the pressures which are all too familiar to us, we tend to maintain tunnel vision at times when we really need to step back and contemplate the wider view.”
“This is particularly true, for example, of politicians. The main complaint about them from their nonpolitical colleagues is that they’ve become so addicted to the adrenaline that they get from reacting to events on an hour-by-hour basis that they almost completely lose the desire or the ability to ponder problems in the open mode.”
“This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If just you keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.”