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What It Means to Be Creative: Answers to Know

What does it mean to be creative?

Creativity means the ability to come up with new ideas. Creative people find unique and innovative ways to solve problems, while non-creative people take a more conventional approach to problem-solving. However, being creative is not just about creative thinking skills. It’s also about doing things in a new, original way.

Defining Creativity

Defining what creativity means is a difficult task. The field of creativity is broad and varied, encompassing a number of concepts and definitions – many of them very philosophical in nature.

Some psychologists believe that everything we think or do is creative. Others see creativity as an exceptional talent or ability that not everyone possesses equally. Still others see creative energy as something related to intelligence, or as something that can be fostered in children through education.

Artistic vs General Creativity

The term creativity is used very frequently, both in the various professions and in the artistic field.

I think it is right to distinguish between artistic creativity and “professional” creativity – which in no way means denigrating artists.

Artistic creativity – music, dance, painting, sculpture, etc. – usually refers to a particular style, while those who work in professional fields are more concerned with “innovation” and “new ideas.”

Often it is about creating new esthetic objects or expressing feelings and ideas through art.

General creativity refers to creativity in all non-artistic areas or in all non-artistic activities – or artistic activities that do not have a visual element. It refers to the ability to develop new ideas or think about things in new ways.

It’s about a person’s ability to see things from a new perspective and think outside the box. It’s about being able to say, “I have an idea,” and then implement it.

Professional creativity usually refers to solving problems, developing new ideas, products, services, etc. In a business context, this is usually referred to as “innovation”.

New and Unique Ideas

Modern psychologists define creativity as the process of developing new and unique ideas. It is the process of producing something that is original, novel, and useful.

It is the result of using imagination, reason, and accumulated experience, which often fuel each other.

Creative people find unique and innovative ways to discover an original idea or solve problems, while non-creative people take a more conventional approach to problem-solving. This difference in approach is the main differentiator between creative and non-creative people.

The Skills Associated With Creativity

Creativity refers to skills such as problem-solving, divergent thinking, lateral thinking, conceptualization, and idea generation. Divergent thinking refers to the ability to find a wide range of solutions to a problem by looking at the problem from different perspectives.

Conceptualization is the ability to see how the parts of a concept fit together to form a whole. For example, a conceptually creative person can see how the elements of a lecture, a book, and a research paper can be combined to form a course.

Ideation refers to the ability to generate ideas. Creative people have a higher rate of ideation than non-creative people.

The Repurposing of Existing Ideas and Knowledge

When most people think of creativity, they think of an idea. Creative people may be good at coming up with ideas, but they are often equally good at using their existing knowledge in innovative ways.

The ability to use existing information in a new way requires creativity. Creative people are often successful because they find new and innovative ways to apply existing knowledge to create a new thing or discover a creative idea.

The Transforming of Conceptual Information Into Tangible Products

Creative people often have what psychologists call high field independence. Field independence refers to a person’s ability to see a situation objectively. Creative people are better able to see concepts as concepts rather than as concrete objects.

This unique view of the world enables creative people to transform abstract ideas or concepts into new and original ideas and concepts.

The downside may be that the resulting creative “products” are less useful in the real world because sophisticated, independent thinking is less connected to external stimuli and more connected to the “inner world!”

The Creative Process

The creative process is often divided into three phases:

  • Preparation
  • Incubation
  • Production.

Preparation is the phase in which a creative gathers information, tools, and materials needed to complete a creative project. Not all creative projects require preparation, but creatives often use this phase to gather the resources they will need in later phases.

The second phase, the incubation phase, is a period during which a creative person works without being aware of it. This phase is often equated with a sleep or rest phase, but there is no evidence that it is related to sleep or rest. Some psychologists use the term incubation to refer to the unconscious process that occurs during this phase.

For writers, for example, creative writing involves multiple drafts = often written in free form – as a way to incubate the story and plot of a novel.

In the final phase, production, the creative person assembles his or her prepared material into a final product – what we could cal a creative solution.

This is the phase of the creative process in which ideas and concepts that emerged in the preparation and incubation phases are transformed into something concrete. This can be a painting, a book, a song, or a piece of furniture. In this phase, creative people can transform conceptual ideas into concrete products.

The Interplay of Imagination and Creativity

Imagination and creativity are inseparable. They have a close relationship, and the invention of new ideas is often due to the process of imagination. The imagination is most active during the incubation phase.

Imagination is the process by which mental images are created. It enables people to see things that do not exist.

However, imagination is not the same as creativity. The difference between imagination and creativity is how the mind interprets and uses these images. People use their imagination to create images, but creative people use their imagination to create new ideas.

Imaginative thinking is not just about the ability to picture something in your head. It’s also about the ability to combine ideas. Creative people are often imaginative because they are able to combine their experiences with other ideas in a new and original way.

When a person imagines something, he or she is often at his or her most creative. The reason for this is that the act of imagining allows him or her to see things in a new and fresh way.

A creative thinker can use imagination to visualize and see old or new things in a new way. This ability to see things in a new way is vital to the creative process.

Characteristics of Creative People

There are a number of characteristics that creative people exhibit – or that people exhibit when they behave creatively:


Creativity is about taking risks. It often involves taking new and unexplored paths – both literally and figuratively.

Creative people can achieve things of immeasurable value, but they can also fail and fall flat on their faces.

Creative people often have to deal with the effects of failure as well as those of success. But they are willing to go beyond accepted limits, explore new horizons and take risks.

Creative people are often willing to take risks when faced with challenges. When a creative person challenges the status quo and tries something new and original, he or she is taking a risk.

Creative people also show a willingness to take risks when faced with great challenges. Some of these risks may seem illogical to others, but they are necessary to be creative.

Part of risk-taking is what I call “doubt avoidance” – if you allow too much doubt, you can not move forward and you will not be creative. Creative people often have to fight their own doubts, which is one reason they often seem very confident.


It’s hard to take risks when you have a closed mind.

Creative people are often very open-minded. They are willing to explore new ideas, and they are willing to discard old ideas when they are no longer useful.

Creative professionals are willing to try new things, even if they are not sure how they will turn out. This is often an important part of the creative process. It’s hard to come up with something new if you are not willing to try something new.

Creative people are often open to new ideas. They are open to exploring the uncertainty of new ideas and the potential of those ideas.


Creative people are curious. They are constantly on the lookout for new and interesting things – both in the real world and in their own imaginations.

Creative people tend to have an inquiring attitude toward the world by nature, and they enjoy exploring new things.

Creative people also tend to be more curious than non-creative people. This is because they are usually more open-minded and willing to experiment with new ideas.


Part of the curiosity that creative people display is linked to a desire to spend a lot of time reflecting. These periods of reflection allow creative people to think about what they have seen, heard, and felt.

They allow creative people to process the information they have gathered and allow creative people to make connections between new information and existing knowledge.

When faced with a problem, creative people spend more time thinking about the problem than coming up with a solution. This may seem counterproductive, but it allows creative people to be more open to new ideas. This allows thoughts to wander, which is often an important part of the creative process.

Creative people also often spend time thinking about the results of their own creative process. They also spend time thinking about other people’s creative processes. They think about what went right and what went wrong.

This reflection enables creative people to improve their creative process and come up with something even more novel and interesting.

Reflection is an essential part of the creative process. It is one of the most important tools available to creative people.


Creative people are often flexible and open to change. They may be willing to look at things from a different perspective or with a different approach. Creative people may also show a high degree of flexibility in their rate of learning. Creative people can pick up new skills much faster than their peers who have limited receptivity.

Creative people show a high degree of flexibility in decision-making and challenge their ideas and values. Creative people can also be flexible in their work and change their approach when faced with a new task or challenge.

The Ability to Use Past Experiences as Resources

Creativity often involves combining ideas and information from different sources to develop an entirely new idea. Many creative people are able to take parts of past experiences and use them in new ways.

This ability to use past experiences as resources is a key characteristic of creative people.


The classic idea of the eureka moment always negates what was usually a long and hard process to arrive at a final idea. The idea that creativity is something that comes to you is one that many people have, but it is not necessarily true.

Creative people often spend a lot of time on their projects, experimenting and trying to come up with something original and interesting.

Of course, not all creative products are products that a creative person has worked on for a long time. Many creative products, such as a piece of music or a movement, can be created quickly.

But creative people are often willing to invest a lot of time in their projects and develop their creative skills – their craftsmanship – even if the final product is not one that took a lot of effort to develop.

That’s because creative people often enjoy the process of creating, not just the final product.

Observing Outside the Box

Creative people are often said to “think outside the box.” However, I believe it is also true that creative people observe outside the box – that is, they are willing to look outside the normal realms for inspiration. When creative people observe the real world, they may notice things that other people do not.

Creative people are often motivated by novelty and are therefore willing to explore things that others may overlook. They are able to find novel solutions to problems because they look for those solutions from a different perspective.

Creative people can build up a wealth of information from their observations of the world around them, which they can then use to come up with new ideas and solutions to problems.

A great example of this is Stanley Kubrick – one important film he wanted to make was the definitive film about Napoleon Bonaparte. Kubrick talked to a specialist in Napoleonic history for many years and compiled a huge collection of index cards in a sea chest about the minutiae of life at the time – right down to the way French officers greeted each other at the time.

Focus on Creative Activity

Creative people pay attention to their need to be creative. This can lead them to spend a lot of time on creative activities.

Creative people may spend a lot of time on their craft skills.

When they are done working, they may play an instrument, write music, or read a book.


Play is an essential part of being creative because creativity requires imagination.

Creative people are more likely to be playful than non-creative people.

Creative people play with ideas as they think. They play with different solutions, trying one alternative and then another. They may use games, toys, and other imaginative tools to support their thinking (a classic example is the use of Lego by business people exploring new solutions).

Making Connections

Creative people are usually very good at making connections between two seemingly incompatible things.

Some types of connections are:

  • Connections between their own experience and the experience of other people.
  • Connections between different ideas.
  • Connections between bodies of knowledge from different disciplines.

These connections can be very obvious, or they can be more subtle.

Creative people often have knowledge and ideas across disciplines. So when they see two different ideas, they can find a way to connect them.

Connections consist of both similarities and differences between things – and how they manifest.

The Difference Between Creative People and Experts

Professionals and experts often use creativity to solve problems.

However, creative people tend to be more abstract in their thought processes. They are more concerned with looking at a problem from multiple perspectives and finding new solutions to a problem. Experts and professionals, on the other hand, use a more concrete and functional thought process.

This is not to say that they are two different groups – it works more like a spectrum, where some people use more logical and analytical approaches to problem-solving, while others use more abstract and creative approaches.

Creative Thinking

There are a number of things people can do to think more creatively.

Often, it’s about taking time to step back from the problem and look at it from a different perspective. Creative people know that if they keep thinking about the same problem over and over again, they will probably find the same solution over and over again. To find a different solution, they need to adopt a new way of thinking.

A number of cognitive processes can help people find more creative solutions to problems. For example, when someone is trying to solve a problem, they can force themselves to think about it differently by putting the problem in a different context.

For example, if someone is trying to find a solution to a business problem, he or she can try to think of the solution as a piece of music or art.

Becoming a Creative Professional

The first thing is to understand that you don’t need to be a so-called ‘creative genius.’ I worked as a documentary feature film director for the best part of twenty years and although I would certainly describe myself as a creative professional, I would never attribute the lofty title of creative genius to myself!

A creative career can be wonderful, providing that you choose carefully the more business-minded folk with whom you will almost certainly have to associate. It’s a trademark of creative people that they are more naive when it comes to the cycle of money, contracts, etc than those who are more focused on exploiting the creative work!

Artistic work is hard to value; therefore a high degree of self-confidence will be required in order to survive a creative industry. There will be plenty of people around to do down your work – don’t add yourself to that list!

A creative mind always relished a big idea, therefore don’t be afraid of those when they come. Instead, relish the creative potential of the idea, and infuse it with a creative agency by turning it into a creative project that has originality, inspiration, and the answer to an important question contained within.

Be a friend of emotion – learn to listen to it, and use that listening as a technique inside every creative endeavor. Remember that it’s not just about creative thinking and the creative brain.

True creativity is about trusting yourself as a creative individual, and always seeking a creative way through life, work, and play.