Creativity is something most of us cannot get enough of, right? Because each day we are placed in situations requiring us to be inventive, imaginative, innovative. Whether a stay- at- home- mom, engineer, salesperson, mechanic, or a writer, we are immersed in situations which require imaginative responses. Angry customers, bored kids, touchy husbands and new characters all entail innovative techniques and imagination.
Despite massive research into the creative process and about creative people, we’ve not yet located the source of creativity. Nor have we determined how the creative process is stimulated. But there are three surprising features of the creative process which may be useful.
- Healthy skepticism
Perhaps like me you know the times when you know you are most productive. Logically then you schedule your most pressing challenges for those times when you are generally at your best. If possible.
But recent surveys have revealed that intuitive breakthroughs have occurred during times when people are tired, their minds the opposite of alert and focused. Rather, sluggish and just plain wiped out. Counter-intuitive, I know. If you ponder why this may be for a minute, you can come up with the same rationale as did the researchers. When we’re worn-out, we’re less prone to distractions. That foggy feeling can be a signal for the unconscious to reveal itself. A good thing because some of our imagination resides in our unconscious.
Healthy skepticism and experience need to be discussed together because I’m switching now to how we formulate opinions, make decisions and acquire knowledge. All rudimentary skills. But they have changed radically due to the massive amounts of information available to us .
We swim in an ocean of data, attitude and judgment. All prepared by others. Many of us are assaulted by them daily, perhaps hourly. You know this already but do you consider the profound influence of strangers on what, how and why you think and believe?
It was Friedrich Nietzsche who predicted the radical shift of discounting our own experience in favor of the expert. Remember him? Famous for quotes like this one: “God is dead. He choked to death on theology.” A favorite of mine many years ago.
Nietzsche classified knowledge into two categories: experienced based knowledge or “erfahrung” versus knowledge gained by reading, listening, watching or “wissen.” The philosopher predicted an increase in the worrisome trend he observed during the last half of the 19th century, (Nietzsche was dead by 1900). One where the value of experience based knowledge would be relegated as inferior to knowledge which was consumed, that is passively learned rather than experienced. One can only imagine his dismay if he were to time travel to the 21st century.
In summary, try these techniques to work out a conceptual muddle:
- Forget about it until you’re exhausted. Let your unconscious off the reservation to see what will surface.
- Develop a sense of healthy skepticism when reading, listening and watching.
- Ramp up your trust in yourself, in your own experience. If the opinions of others contradict what you know, don’t listen.