Each of us have our own unique thinking combinations.The contradictory information I find on the subject of creative thinking may come of the highly individual nature of creativity. Another point to consider is the messiness that centers around the artistic and the creative. While it’s common to find them combined, they aren’t one and the same.
Artistic thinking and expression share impressions and evoke experiences. With the exception of story-telling and imagining – fiction and fantasizing – the artistic involves complex combinations of physical, spatial, visual and/or musical skills. Art may represent reality in form, or completely ignore the boundaries of reality all together. To imagine outside of the boundaries of what our senses can take in – or what has yet to be imagined – needs the artistic. To understand and define the newly discovered boundaries, needs the creative.
Listening to the enchanting music doesn’t add much understanding of how it came to be or create skill in composing or playing it. It’s meant to be experienced and, hopefully, enjoyed. Watching a lively mathematics video may encourage, but doesn’t replace, actually doing the the sums – and won’t give much of a clue on how to make a video, either. Artistic thinking inspires, but can’t take the place of, creative thinking.
Creative thinking heads straight for understanding reality. To grasp, as fully as possible, how it really is, how it really works, – and what can come of this understanding – is the goal. A few reach far in this pursuit, but we all think creatively – or are meant to. And the possibilities are essentially endless – it’s not likely we’ll run out of unexplored reality any time soon.
Now that you know what I mean by creative, how do we let it loose?
Most of us are up to our ears in a constant stream of information. We long ago developed ways to filter the incoming. This sifting happens below the threshold of awareness and we carry on our daily business without a second thought about it – maybe without even a first thought about it. Highly creative thinkers – innovators, inventors, investigators, designers, etc., – are reputed to have some kind of special gift or talent. In part, what really goes on is letting in more – or different – information through the filters than most do. This increases the number of possibilities to notice.
Whether or not you or I could be as all-fired innovative and inventive as some of the geniuses of history is unknown, but most of us can definitely let more of our creativity shine through.
One so-called talent ascribed to creative thinkers was described by DeBono as noticing what seems unrelated, or even impossible, but is related, possible, and can be explained reasonably. He called this kind of thinking lateral. How we’re accustomed to taking in information causes us to dismiss as unimportant, or over-look altogether, key information that would lead to clearer understanding of what’s possible. First Impression:
Now Stand Back:
Now really stand back – let more information in:
Creative ideas are snippets of think big. When a lateral idea pops into mind, it’s often accompanied by this question: Why didn’t I think of that before?!
Everyday thinking sifts out too much. Taking apart common ideas is a way to recognize conventional habits that interfere with more realistic thinking. Here’s one: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. The notion that not reaching goals is due to lack of effort gets a lot of airplay. If we push ourselves and it so happens that we meet the expectation, it’s a short jump to the conclusion that the correlation is proof that lack of effort is always the cause of failure. But lack of effort is only one possible cause of many. Quick acceptance of inaccurate interpretations doesn’t get us where we need to go – and this idea isn’t lost on creative thinkers:
Work smarter, not harder. Seems pretty obvious, but consider:
If you find a way to make life easier for yourself, they call it lazy. If you find a way to make life easier for others, they call it genius. -unknown
Trying to make headway with unconventional ideas is the bane of the creative thinker. And the intention to turn uncommon ideas into practical, useful, reality can be an long uphill trudge if backing is needed. Many start-ups bootstrap out of necessity, not just to maintain control of their ideas. This situation puts off many would-be creative entrepreneurs. Crowd-funding is a help, but creative support is in general, is shaky at best.
Another link in the chain: established expertise can be over-confident and go hard against ideas that challenge what’s accepted as the norm. On the one hand, not every new or different concept is well thought out – scepticism is healthy. But on the other, certainty that what’s new or different must be bunk, interferes with genuine creativity far too often. The antidote is it to remove bias from our own thinking. The happy side effect of this effort is clearer – and more creative – thinking. It also makes it easier to understand, and sometimes even communicate with, those who automatically reject innovative ideas.
Promotion of Free Creative Thinking Begins With Boosting Our Own
We tend to look at our progress as making our own path, but this is a linear view. Growth happens on many different levels and in many directions. The path analogy serves to symbolize what’s difficult to imagine, much less describe. Learning could look more like this:
Visualizing thoughts and ideas flowing in your mind – just allowing the picture to form itself, rather than constructing it – has a relaxing effect, and often brings fresh ideas to the surface.
Taking a Break is a Creative Action
Another creative resource is what’s called an ultradian rhythm – one of many natural biological cycles that recur within a twenty-four hour period. The particular rhythm I’m referring to is usually called daydreaming, and some studies report the frequency as every ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes, while other findings have it at every four hours, throughout the day.
Research is just now scratching the surface of the various less-than-fully-conscious states we experience. The emphasis has been on the opposite – full high awareness – and ways to maintain it. The daily peaks and valleys are associated with high and low dopamine levels. In the few people tested as they lapse into daydreaming, the brainwaves were found to be the same as first stage sleep.
That somewhat zoned-out, reverie-like states and unrecognized possibilities coming to mind go hand in hand has long been reported. Since this little shut down in consciousness happens whether we want it to or not, do what you can to make the best of it.
Keep a way to record handy while you kick back for the reboot and just let the mind off the hook to wander free. Your system is telling you it’s break time, anyway. What you may have looked at as inconvenient down-time is prime time for creativity.
And at the end of the day, be sure to have a note pad or recorder by the bed. As you wake up from a nights sleep – or nap – there are usually a few not-your-everyday kind of thoughts drifting around. Catch them first thing, before you get up – they fade fast. You’ll recall some dreams too, but these have been known to deliver unique insights from time to time, so you’ll increase your creative harvest.
Active learning feeds creative – and artistic – thinking, but remember:
You already have a huge store of knowledge that’s just waiting to re-combine and evolve into bigger thinking. Take advantage of your know-how and the natural, more creative cycles that happen during your day – and don’t be surprised as innovative thoughts begin to flow beyond the chains of set ideas