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Creativity Doesn’t Appear in a Flash Even for the Most Creative People

Creativity Doesn’t Appear in a Flash Even for the Most Creative People

People often talk about creativity and inspiration as if it is a thing totally distinct from them. That ideas generate themselves spontaneously, or as if it is a trait that some people are born without and can’t ever gain. These ideas are commonplace, but are totally untrue.

Some think creative works exist in a vacuum, and are, by their nature, totally original, and entirely the work of some lone visionary. This again is untrue. Nothing comes from nothing, and even some of the most creative people of all time were inspired by countless works, and everything they had ever done or seen. For example, William Shakespeare, almost all of his plays like Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet were inspired by other works, or were retellings of history. His stories have transformed our artistic landscape, and they wouldn’t have existed if he didn’t work on his creativity or inspiration.

In fact, creativity can be developed, it always is. It is useful to think of creativity like a skill, and like any skill, you can build on it, work on it, and increase it. In this way. Someone who thinks themselves as uncreative today may one day become a great creative.

These myths about creativity are damaging to our culture. It isn’t hard to imagine how these myths begin. As children, we are not taught to be creative, and those who are taught to do creative things, like painting or creative writing are taught in such a rigid way that true creativity can never blossom.

In an art class, children are taught how to draw, they may also be told to express themselves in art. Yet, as these classes tend to have set standards and aims, if their work doesn’t meet these vague standards, they may get a bad grade. This can easily lead someone to believe that they simply aren’t creative enough.

To counter the creativity myths, I have devised a framework for developing creativity. I have identified four levels of creativity that can be developed. Think of it as a ladder leading to great creative potential.

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The Four Levels That All Genuine Creatives Must Go Through

With this system, you’ll be able to measure your own increasing creative ability, and by doing so, becoming more creative would stop seeming like an abstract aim, but a concrete, and attainable goal. With this model of creativity, it becomes far easier to measure your creative improvement.

It is also a great idea to consider where you would like to improve creatively and use these levels of creativity as a way to help define your path to improve your skills. If you want to improve your writing skills for example, work your way up from the basics to more advanced techniques. Get a feel for everything and work your way up.

Level 1: By-Chance Creativity

This is the most common and base form of creative ability. On this level you are still very much able to produce great creative works and think creatively. But being not too knowledgeable about creativity or your own creative ability, it is difficult to replicate any creative success you have. This of course can be improved through developing your creative ability.

Level 2: Learned Creativity

On the second level, your understanding of creativity and your own creative potential has increased. On this level you will find you are able to relate more to great creatives, you are able to learn from their experiences as well as your own. You can replicate creative success as many times as you like, but there is a sense that your works rely on the works of others too much. That you are replicating them and their success.

    The above painting is by Picasso when he was 15. Picasso was a level 2 creative at the time he painted this. A great piece of work, but pretty unoriginal in style. Many people have painted pictures like this.

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    Level 3: Creativity Goes Wild

    Here the supports are severed. Level two gave you the ability to distill creativity from others, there you learned the rules. Here, with that understanding you get to break or ignore the rules according to your preferences.

    This is when you produce creative works you notice that you have a voice or style that is unique to you.

    Level 4: Redefining Creativity

    On this level you are operating at the highest level of creative ability. This is the level of people like Steve Jobs, Picasso, Alan Turing, and Vincent Van Gogh. These are people who know their own creative potential intricately, know all the rules, and as such are free to utterly re-invent them .

    People on this level work in ways that most people can’t match or imagine. They do a lot of experiments and make a lot of creative mistakes, but are able to learn from these mistakes for the betterment of their work.

      This is Weeping Woman by Picasso, here with his own distinct, and bold style, Picasso is operating at a high level of creativity. Picasso, having developed his creativity over his lifetime, has redefined the rules of the game. Nobody comes close.

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      Climbing the Four Levels of Creativity Ladder

      If you want to work through the 4 levels, no matter what your current creative ability is, it is important to work from the bottom. You can aim for reaching level 3 first, but start with the foundation. By doing so you will be able to better measure your success.

      From Level 1 to Level 2: Log Your Experiences and Knowledge

      Develop a library of experiences and important influences that you can draw from. Think about what inspires you and why and think deeply about it. Study the works of creative people you admire, and read deeply about them. By doing so you should be able to work out their techniques and replicate them.

      Make sure you get feedback for any creative works you produce. Pay attention to anything people say. Especially the more critical. Maintain a logbook throughout the process to measure your progress. Log everything.

      From Level 2 to Level 3: Learn the Rules And Break Them

      Exploit each and every opportunity to expand your knowledge. By doing so learn the rules of creativity and your trade.

      Once you feel you understand the rules, consider how they can be best implemented, see if you could change and adapt them to suit your goals and intentions. Don’t break the rules for the sake of breaking them. Eventually you’ll start to see beyond the ordinary ways of doing things.

      Find like-minded people, people who you can share ideas with. In retrospection and discussion your knowledge will increase further. Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been the man we celebrate today without the early collaboration of Steve Wozniak.

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      From Level 3 to Level 4: Experiment And Create New Rules

      Every time you see a piece of creative work, either your own or someone else’s, ask yourself this question “How was this done?” “How can it be improved?”

      Never stop looking for ways to increase your knowledge and understanding. If you are in a race and stop before finishing, others will overtake.

      Using all of your developed knowledge and skill, try to think of ways to use what you have learned to produce works, or be creative in ways nobody has before. Originality can only come from influence, this seems like a paradox, but it is true.

      Welcome failure. See your failures, and the failures of others as learning experiences. The great politician and Lawyer Robert Kennedy once said

      “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

      Creativity Doesn’t Come in a Flash, It’s a Journey

      Creativity is like life, it is a quest for constant self improvement. It is a quest that can only be undertaken though, with knowing the rules, then breaking them, then re-inventing the rules.

      Now you know what you need to do to boost your creativity. Follow the four levels of creativity, and work your way up to becoming a true creative person.

      Featured photo credit: Gabriel Barletta on Unsplash via unsplash.com

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      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on November 18, 2019

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

      Everyone of my team members has a bucketload of tasks that they need to deal with every working day. On top of that, most of their tasks are either creativity tasks or problem solving tasks.

      Despite having loads of tasks to handle, our team is able to stay creative and work towards our goals consistently.

      How do we manage that?

      I’m going to reveal to you how I helped my team get more things done in less time through the power of correct prioritization. A few minutes spent reading this article could literally save you thousands of hours over the long term. So, let’s get started with my method on how to prioritize:

      The Scales Method – a productivity method I created several years ago.

      How to Prioritize with the Scales Method

        One of our new editors came to me the other day and told me how she was struggling to keep up with the many tasks she needed to handle and the deadlines she constantly needed to stick to.

        At the end of each day, she felt like she had done a lot of things but often failed to come up with creative ideas and to get articles successfully published. From what she told me, it was obvious that she felt overwhelmed and was growing increasingly frustrated about failing to achieve her targets despite putting in extra hours most days.

        After she listened to my advice – and I introduced her to the Scales Method – she immediately experienced a dramatic rise in productivity, which looked like this:

        • She could produce three times more creative ideas for blog articles
        • She could publish all her articles on time
        • And she could finish all her work on time every day (no more overtime!)

        Curious to find out how she did it? Read on for the step-by-step guide:

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        1. Set Aside 10 Minutes for Planning

        When it comes to tackling productivity issues, it makes sense to plan before taking action. However, don’t become so involved in planning that you become trapped in it and never move beyond first base.

        My recommendation is to give yourself a specific time period for planning – but keep it short. Ideally, 10 or 15 minutes. This should be adequate to think about your plan.

        Use this time to:

        • Look at the big picture.
        • Think about the current goal and target that you need/want to achieve.
        • Lay out all the tasks you need to do.

        2. Align Your Tasks with Your Goal

        This is the core component that makes the Scales Method effective.

        It works like this:

        Take a look at all the tasks you’re doing, and review the importance of each of them. Specifically, measure a task’s importance by its cost and benefit.

        By cost, I am referring to the effort needed per task (including time, money and other resources). The benefit is how closely the task can contribute to your goal.

          To make this easier for you, I’ve listed below four combinations that will enable you to quickly and easily determine the priority of each of your tasks:

          Low Cost + High Benefit

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          Do these tasks first because they’re the simple ones to complete, yet help you get closer to your goal.

          Approving artwork created for a sales brochure would likely fit this category. You could easily decide on whether you liked the artwork/layout, but your decision to approve would trigger the production of the leaflet and the subsequent sales benefits of sending it out to potential customers.

          High Cost + High Benefit

          Break the high cost task down into smaller ones. In other words, break the big task into mini ones that take less than an hour to complete. And then re-evaluate these small tasks and set their correct priority level.

          Imagine if you were asked to write a product launch plan for a new diary-free protein powder supplement. Instead of trying to write the plan in one sitting – aim to write the different sections at different times (e.g., spend 30 minutes writing the introduction, one hour writing the body text, and 30 minutes writing the conclusion).

          Low Cost + Low Benefit

          This combination should be your lowest priority. Either give yourself 10-15 minutes to handle this task, or put these kind of tasks in between valuable tasks as a useful break.

          These are probably necessary tasks (e.g., routine tasks like checking emails) but they don’t contribute much towards reaching your desired goal. Keep them way down your priority list.

          High Cost + Low Benefit

          Review if these tasks are really necessary. Think of ways to reduce the cost if you decide that the completion of the task is required.

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          For instance, can any tools or systems help to speed up doing the task? In this category, you’re likely to find things like checking and updating sales contacts spreadsheets. This can be a fiddly and time-consuming thing to do without making mistakes. However, there are plenty of apps out there they can make this process instant and seamless.

          Now, coming back to the editor who I referred to earlier, let’s take a look at her typical daily task list:

            After listening to my advice, she broke down the High cost+ High benefit task into smaller ones. Her tasks then looked like this (in order of priority):

              And for the task about promoting articles to different platforms, after reviewing its benefits, we decided to focus on the most effective platform only – thereby significantly lowering the associated time cost.

              Bonus Tip: Tackling Tasks with Deadlines

              Once you’ve evaluated your tasks, you’ll know the importance of each of them. This will immediately give you a crystal-clear picture on which tasks would help you to achieve more (in terms of achieving your goals). Sometimes, however, you won’t be able to decide every task’s priority because there’ll be deadlines set by external parties such as managers and agencies.

              What to do in these cases?

              Well, I suggest that after considering the importance and values of your current tasks, align the list with the deadlines and adjust the priorities accordingly.

              For example, let’s dip into the editor’s world again.

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              Some of the articles she edited needed to be published by specific dates. The Scales Method allows for this, and in this case, her amended task list would look something like this:

                Hopefully, you can now see how easy it is to evaluate the importance of tasks and how to order them in lists of priority.

                The Scales Method Is Different from Anything Else You’ve Tried

                By adopting the Scales Method, you’ll begin to correctly prioritize your work, and most importantly – boost your productivity by up to 10 times!

                And unlike other methods that don’t really explain how to decide the importance of a task, my method will help you break down each of your tasks into two parts: cost and benefits. My method will also help you to take follow-up action based on different cost and benefits combinations.

                Start right now by spending 10 minutes to evaluate your common daily tasks and how they align with your goal(s). Once you have this information, it’ll be super-easy to put your tasks into a priority list. All that remains, is that you kick off your next working day by following your new list.

                Trust me, once you begin using the Scales Method – you’ll never want to go back to your old ways of working.

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                Featured photo credit: Vector Stock via vectorstock.com

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