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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 March 30, 2020

      What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

      What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

      If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

      So, what to do in free time?

      Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

      Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

      1. Reading Files

      Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

      Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

      2. Clear out Inbox

      Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

      If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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      3. Phone Calls

      Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

      Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

      4. Make Money

      This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

      If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

      5. File

      No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

      But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

      Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

      6. Network

      Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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      7. Clear out Feeds

      If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

      8. Goal Time

      Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

      If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

      Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

      9. Update Finances

      Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

      Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

      10. Brainstorm Ideas

      Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

      11. Clear off Desk

      Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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      Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

      12. Exercise

      Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

      13. Take a Walk

      This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

      It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

      14. Follow up

      Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

      When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

      15. Meditate

      You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

      Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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      16. Research

      This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

      If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

      17. Outline

      Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

      18. Get Prepped

      Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

      You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

      19. Be Early

      Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

      Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

      20. Log

      If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

      Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

      More Inspirations on What To Do During Free Time

      Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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