CULTIVATE YOUR CREATIVITY

In many ways, cultivating creativity is like cultivating plants in a garden. What is needed is the right environment to release the potential that inherently exists. The potential for creativity is present in all human beings! In this article we explore why creativity matters and how you can nurture yours.

Creativity can take endless forms. However, there are two agreed-upon elements that must be present: novelty, which is something unlike what has been seen or known before and usefulness. Does the second surprise you?

The proverbial ‘better mousetrap’ is generated from creativity and is clearly useful. But if you create an original piece of art, use an unexpected item as a tool, or even come up with a clever joke and this is enjoyed by you and by others, that enjoyment serves just as useful a purpose at that moment.

There is a powerful ripple-effect benefit as well. Research shows that creativity is linked to well-being and successful adaptation to life. Engaging in creative pursuits has been found to help with stress, depression, and pain. It helps us process emotions, stimulates reward centers in the brain, and improves mindfulness-which is being fully present in the moment(1).

So how can you pump up the creativity in your life?

The good news is that creativity can be “trained”(2). Let’s take a look at some tried and true strategies:

1. Begin with what gets you excited.

Nothing can hamper fledgling efforts to be creative like having to do it in the context of something you aren’t really interested in or may even actively dislike. Instead, think about and explore activities and areas that you find yourself being pulled toward. Once you begin putting yourself in a creative frame of mind, you will find yourself applying this to other areas, even those you might not have thought you would!

Some of us know what our current area(s) of interest are; it could be cooking, gardening, sewing, writing, building furniture, and any multitude of areas. If you do, you’re already poised to boost your creativity. If you do not, that’s absolutely okay. Take some quiet time and ask yourself what you would like to be more involved in creatively.

Now select an area and again think about what you would like to do with it. Do you want to design a new garden, write a short-story, make an original seasonal wreath for your front door? Once you’ve decided, spend some time thinking about how to get there. That’s the ‘process’ and that’s the next strategy.

2. Focus on the process, not the product.

Adults do have a tendency to think about the end result of an activity, but to really cultivate creativity means allowing and encouraging yourself during the process. If you have an hour and a project isn’t finished, being okay with that is important. If you want to play an instrument so you can compose your own music, giving yourself leeway to practice until you reach your goal is important.

Equally important is to suspend judgment about the choices you are making. Colors don’t always have to match, a poem doesn’t have to perfectly rhyme, the pattern of beads on home-made jewelry doesn’t have to be symmetrical for these to all be beautiful and valued. With that in mind, if you can, avoid buying pre-made kits, adult coloring books, and the like. While they “look” like fun, they actually hamper creativity because they are almost always designed to culminate in a certain outcome. Rather, if you like the idea, buy some of the materials separately by visiting your local arts & crafts store in person or online.

3. Employ critical thinking.

A fascinating phenomenon in being creative is the necessary role of both divergent and convergent thinking(3). Divergent thinking involves coming up with lots of ideas or solutions without worrying too much if they will work. This is often referred to as ‘brainstorming’. Then convergent thinking is needed to critically evaluate, usually by trying out those ideas or solutions, until the one that is desired is found.

Let’s say you would like to write a short story. You make a list of possible plots, characters, settings, and perhaps even various endings, without too much regard for if they will be suitable. That’s divergent thinking. As you begin exploring these, you will begin to discard some, keep others, switch some out, change their details, etc. until the final set and outline of your story is to your liking. That’s convergent thinking. When both types of thinking are employed, the chance for your true creativity to emerge is greatly enhanced.

Closing Thoughts

Sowing the seeds of your creativity in a garden where the soil is well-prepared, fledgling efforts are protected, and the harvest enjoyed will reap benefits for you, and for others around you…and there will be much joy and fun along the way!

Recommended Resources

BOOKS

APPS

Sources

1. Hopper, E. (September, 2015). The link between creativity and happiness. Oakland, CA: HealthPsych.

2. Scott, G., Leritz, L. E., & Mumford, M. D. (2004). The effectiveness of creativity training: A quantitative review. Creativity Research Journal, 16(4), 361-388.

3. Sternberg, R. J. (2006). The nature of creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 18(1), 87-98.

About the Author:

Lilla Dale McManis, MEd, PhD, is an educational psychologist who specializes in learning and cognition. She uses her training and experience to promote optimal outcomes through translating research into meaningful practice.