Creativity is a skill that can be learned, refined, and improved. It’s not something you either have or don’t have – it’s like any other skill in life: The more you practice it, the better you get at it. The key to creativity is figuring out what works for you- finding your own process and then mastering it. And if that sounds easy, think again. It takes practice and patience to develop this important skill – so get started!
The Debate About Skills and Talents
Creativity is hard to pin down.
Roughly speaking, the debate about whether creativity is inherent in everyone or an acquired ability – instilled or innate – can be divided between artists and scientists.
Artists have long held that creativity is an ability possessed by only a few, an undeniable truth that they’re innately gifted.
Scientists and business people countered that creativity was a learned skill, a product of the environment, and the right opportunities at the right time.
This dispute has been going on for centuries, and only recently has science been able to find evidence for both sides.
It turns out to be a false argument because neither side is wrong.
Both sides have different definitions of the issue at hand: creative skill.
Creativity is Open to All
In order to find our inner creativity at different stages, we can acquire a set of skills and practices that allow us to open up to the muse.
Everyone can improve their skills in these things. Everyone can develop these skills. These skills and practices can certainly be learned and developed.
Expressing creativity also means acquiring skills and practicing a lot.
You cannot become a great artist, musician, or writer after reading a few books; you’ve to practice and perfect your skills.
The same is true for good writing.
You can’t write well after reading a few books; you’ve to read and write a lot. If you want to become a great writer, read great writers and learn from them.
That’s how the writing ‘creativity skill’ is developed!
By becoming a creative thinker!
Related: What Does It Mean to Be Creative
What is Creativity?
Inventing a new idea requires a certain kind of mental activity.
You’ve to be able to recognize esthetic patterns, make connections between things that seem to have nothing to do with each other, and put seemingly disparate elements together to form a whole.
This is creative thinking.
It takes a certain amount of effort to develop the ability to conjure a creative idea, but it also takes the kind of mental problem-solving ability that’s contagious.
The creative process of a person is as creative as his or her work. The process is creative fodder. It’s like a garden that you water and tend. It bears fruit and then you harvest it.
This fruit is then called “talent”!
We could define it like this:
Creativity is an innate quality of every human being, which, when expressed through experimentation and practice, is called talent by others.
It can be learned in the sense that one can develop and cultivate the ability to use this innate quality if given the right tools and the right encouragement and guidance.
Related: Why Creative Process Matters
A Soft or a Hard Skill
In the workplace, a soft skill has to do with character skills or traits that are often interpersonal in nature – while a hard skill refers to skills that can be taught and measured.
Hard skills and soft skills can overlap and often influence each other. A soft skill, such as the ability to demonstrate empathy, can be just as important as a hard skill, such as the ability to solve a quadratic equation.
Although creativity is considered a soft skill, it’s become one of the most sought-after skills in recent years. Employers now rate creativity as one of the most important skills.
It’s also not a given that creativity is a soft skill. In a world where competition is getting tougher, creativity is becoming more and more important.
Creativity isn’t nice or fluffy or friendly or cute or endearing.
It’s a force of nature and a necessary part of life, business, art, science, invention, entertainment, and invention. Creative work involves defining a creative problem – this is work not confined to the traditional creative industries.
A Cognitive Ability
One of the most important characteristics of creativity is flexibility.
When you’re flexible, you’re able to adapt to changing circumstances. You embrace new opportunities and are prepared for the unexpected. You find it easy to juggle multiple tasks, and you’re able to handle whatever comes your way.
Creativity is often a process that produces solutions to problems. It’s the act of having new ideas that are applicable. It’s thinking about something in a new way – a cognitive process that involves working memory.
So it’s both a cognitive and non-cognitive skill because it’s a method of developing non-cognitive and cognitive skills. It helps people learn to collaborate, work through challenges, and think critically about what they’re doing.
Creativity as a Strength
When thinking about whether creativity is a strength and to what extent you possess it, you might think about the following qualities because they’re all part of creativity:
The point is that creativity is a strength you possess in every aspect of your life, from your place in the world to your relationships with friends and family to your career and life path.
First, we need to be careful not to confuse creativity with artistic ability.
The ability to paint or draw isn’t a prerequisite for creativity or creative potential.
We can be creative writers, designers, programmers, administrators, or problem solvers, which has little to do with the ability to create a painting or sculpture.
Of course, applying creativity to artistic skills often produces great results.
An essential component of artistic creativity is self-expression. I’d say that this skill can certainly be learned and refined.
The more you practice self-expression, the better you become at it.
It’s also worth noting that creativity was primarily associated with artists and “artistic creative genius” when the term “creativity” was first used in the English language in 1875. The idea was that artists possessed natural creativity skills inaccessible to the rest of us.
Although our understanding of creative thought has come on a long way since then, the world of art can deliver some wonderful insights:
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle
Related: Where Does Creativity Come From
Creative Thinking and Innovation
Creative thinking and innovation differ from a broader concept of creativity in that they’re associated with a specific intention. Often with some kind of lateral thinking process involved.
Creative thinking skill is about developing new ideas, insights, and perspectives by recombining existing ideas.
It involves connecting dots that weren’t previously connected, seeing things from a very different perspective than that which has been traditionally accepted or seeing things that others cannot see.
Innovation is the creation of a new or significantly improved product or service that doesn’t yet exist. It’s the implementation of a new idea that’s beneficial to business, government, or society.
Without creativity, there’s no innovation, because if new ideas or perspectives aren’t developed, there’s no possibility of those ideas or perspectives becoming something tangible.
This is of particular interest in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) professions, as these professions have a major impact on our world today and in the future.
A particularly compelling piece of evidence is Sir Ken Robinson’s widely acclaimed TED talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”
TED is at the heart of STEM culture.
Creativity Can Be Measured … Sort Of
Attempts to scientifically assess and measure creativity didn’t begin until the 1950s, although psychometric testing has been conducted and reported since at least the 1880s.
Of particular note are the Torrance tests, which tested divergent thinking using tests such as the circle test, in which subjects were asked to fill in 20 circles with interesting drawings.
In 2013, someone launched a Kickstarter campaign to “accurately measure creativity.”
Today, a quick search of the scientific literature reveals all sorts of approaches to making tangible something that always feels elusive: a person’s level of creativity.
This is done through various kinds of tests, such as those that measure divergent thinking as opposed to convergent thinking, or those that measure the extent to which we can be creative under constraints, or those that measure the frequency and strength of innovative ideas.
However, an academic paper from this year (2021) states:
“The accuracy of the results of creativity measures has long been questioned by researchers, making accurate creativity measures an urgent topic for exploration. The divergent thinking test, for example, is a central component of creativity research, but its traditional scoring systems face well-documented problems. Insight tests can represent individual creativity levels, but their validity has yet to be confirmed. Creative achievement tests aren’t always legitimately used, which can lead to discrepancies in commonly used methods, and consensual assessment procedures can cause rater effects.”
Much like the nature of consciousness, accurately measuring creativity seems to be a scientific grail quest!
Related: How to Measure Creativity
A Basket of Creative Skills
Some of the skills associated with creativity are:
- Making connections
- Asking questions
And many more!
How to Develop Creativity
The first thing I’d say is that it’s very important to foster self-confidence and creative self-awareness.
This means recognizing that creativity is a positive quality, that it’s a strength to be valued, not a weakness to be ashamed of.
It also means having the courage and being willing to take risks. Being creative means being willing to fail. And sometimes to fail quite a bit.
Related: Why Creativity Is Important
It’s important to understand the value of developing creativity:
- Creativity leads to innovation and implementation, and innovation and implementation lead to change. And change leads to progress.
With this in mind, here are some concrete ways that can help in fostering creativity:
Free Up Time
It’s very important that you have the space and time to be creative.
- Lock yourself in for a few hours
- Turn off your phone
- Minimize or turn off your internet connection
- Only think about yourself and your creativity during the times you need to be creative
- Focus only on the present, not the past or the future
- Practice mindfulness
- Practice not judging yourself at the end of the session
- Breathe deeply
- Imagine that you’re in a place that fully supports you (your bedroom, the beach, the forest)
- Tell your mind that it’s okay to play, experiment, and think creatively.
- Value different ideas and diversity.
- Tell your mind that it’s okay to fail.
- Tell your mind that it’s okay not to be creative
- Tell your mind that it’s okay if you don’t end up coming up with anything particularly original
- Tell yourself that it’s also okay if you don’t do anything at all
- Understand and acquire relevant technologies and automations that can take the burden of repetitive tasks off your shoulders.
Use a Physical Notebook or Sketchpad
Although I’ve all sorts of devices and apps, I always make sure to use a physical notebook, both for work and for leisure.
- It’s a very different experience than typing things out.
- I find myself writing, sketching, sometimes doodling, thinking, creating to-do lists, having ideas and then putting them aside, and generally “thinking out loud.”
- When you’re writing and drawing, you’re using both hemispheres of your brain, and your brain needs to be warmed up and given the opportunity to think creatively.
- It’s also a good exercise to get into the habit of note-taking and doodling.
Read Every Day
Even if it’s just a page or two, it’s important to read to stimulate your brain and exercise your creativity.
- This will help you look at life from new perspectives and see things you don’t normally see.
- Reading a book is a personal experience “for you”.
- It forces you to use your imagination.
- It helps you to think outside the box.
- It helps you to be more open-minded.
- It’s a very good way to improve your focus and concentration.
- It’s a very good way to increase your vocabulary.
- It’s a very good way to develop your attention to detail.
- It helps you understand what’s happening around you and see new things.
- It’s a good way to learn new things.
- It’s a good way to change your way of thinking or your mood.
- It’s a good way to read about things you’ve never read before.
- It’s a good way to confirm or challenge your worldview.
Brainstorming and Mind Mapping
I put them together because they’re really very similar. I personally use mind mapping at almost every stage of my creative writing process. It’s a very valuable workplace skill.
- Both are exercises in free writing, i.e. writing quickly without regard to spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.
- It’s all about getting your thoughts going.
- We don’t tend to freewrite often.
- We’re often too anxious to make mistakes, or too anxious to create something perfect, or too anxious to create nothing at all.
- Freewriting is an exercise in letting go of those things and just writing.
- Practice free writing as often as you can.
Listen to Music
Music is a wonderful way to get your creative mind going.
- It can greatly stimulate the imagination.
- Music is a great way to warm up your body and mind and get creative.
- It can put you in a certain mood: energetic, sad, romantic, etc.
- Music can put you in a certain mood: angry, happy, melancholic, etc.
- It can put you in a certain frame of mind: creative, energetic, sleepy, philosophical, etc.
- Music can help you get into the right mood for your work.
- Sometimes when I’m struggling with a problem and need to work creatively, I listen to certain music. Right now, as I write this article, I’m listening to a Boccherini string quintet from the wonderful Master and Commander soundtrack. Why? Because it puts me in a good and creative mood!
Why Bother Developing Creative Skills
Developing creative skills is not just a personal quest. Our world faces a series of really tough challenges in which, I suspect, people who can devise a creative solution to a problem, and come up with original ideas, will be among the foremost leaders in many different fields of activity.
“Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives … most things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity … [and] when we exercise it, we feel that we live our lives more fully. [and] when we engage in it, we feel that we live more fully than we do in the rest of our lives.”Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the author of ‘Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention’