Creativity is not a gift, it is a skill

Orange is a scribble. Blue is a drawing. Photo credit: Elizabeth Oveshkova

Everyone has a sparkle of creativity. However, a lot of people think that creativity is a gift, so not everyone can be creative. But it is a skill that can be developed, and people have to learn how to do this.

In 1968, George Land, who was a general systems scientist, conducted research on the creativity of 1,600 children from 3 to 5 years old. He used the same test he devised for NASA to help with the selection of the most innovative engineers. The experiment worked well, so it was repeated with the same group of children when they were 10 years old and then at the age of 15. Results of the test showed the score of the genius category of imagination: 5 years old – 98%, 10 years old – 30%, 15 years old – 12%.

Scientists stopped conducting this experiment because a lot of people were frustrated by the results. To see the potential changes in statistics, the same test was given to a group of adults at the age of 31. The results showed that only 2% of the experimental group was creative.

The number of creative minds shrunk substantially. This means that our creativity decline does not start when we are 40 or 50. It starts when we are old enough to go to school.

When children enter school, they start following specific instructions and looking for the right answers to questions. They work only on the ideas that will fill their needs to get a good grade. Later, when these children become adults, they learn how to be good workers and execute different tasks as robots.

Individuals who are used to following the rules of the system rarely have abilities of critical thinking, and that is hard for them to find solutions for nonstandard questions. On the other hand, people with creative mindsets are not afraid to take risks, go beyond the minimum requirement and explore new working concepts.

According to Nicholas Turiano, a professor of life span developmental psychology at West Virginia University, “Creative people may see stressors more as challenges that they can work to overcome rather than as stressful obstacles they can’t overcome.”

Beyond the positive impact of creativity on work capability, creative skills make people healthier. Turiano mentioned in one of his interviews, “Individuals high in creativity maintain the integrity of their neural networks even into old age.”

So what are some ways we can find this sparkle of creativity and light the fire of unusual ideas? First of all, the brain starts producing more ideas and images when it is bored.

The process of taking a shower helps people to get more creative thoughts. That happens because the sound of water works as white noise, and the brain starts entertaining itself with different ideas and concepts. However, in the modern world, we do not have a lot of time for our brains to get bored. Those who want to become more creative should change something in daily routines to make their brains work differently.

There are lots of variants on how to do this. Try a 15-minute walk without headphones and observe the world around you. Avoid spending time on your phone when you have lunch or while using the bathroom. Set the rule “no screens in the bed,” so you will not use the phone when you fall asleep or wake up. Even small windows of boredom can help your brain work more actively.

When we take away something from our lives, we may feel like something is missing. It is important to overcome such thoughts and continue to develop brain activity.

In order to improve creative skills, here are some brain workouts to launch your process.

Mind mapping

Photo credit: Elizabeth Oveshkova

Pick three, random, unrelated words, and write them down. Then set the timer for two minutes and start writing associations that come to mind when you see the specific word. Create branches from one word to another. After the first round, set the timer again and start looking for a couple of words that create new associations, so there will be even more words.

Free drawing

Grab a piece of paper and start drawing. Fill the paper with different patterns, figures, shapes and symbols. The main idea is to continue working without stopping.

The scribble game

Ask someone to scribble on paper, or just make a quick scribble yourself. Then use this scribble as a base for drawing. Look for the shapes that may remind you of something, and try to add details to create an image. Try to draw something more creative than just a snake or face.

Free writing

Start writing random ideas and thoughts that you have in your head. Write everything that comes to mind. The whole paper can reflect one topic, or every paragraph may have a different story. Do not think that someone will read or judge your paper.

Another important aspect of these activities is the place. You should start working in an unusual location. You may lie on the floor, sit on the table, sit on the stairs or lie under the bed. In weird or new working conditions, the brain starts working differently, so it will produce more ideas.

These activities should not take a lot of time, 10-20 minutes per day will be enough to see the progress even in a week. It is important to repeat creative exercises regularly, and it will be much easier to generate new concepts and ideas.

Try to change something in your daily routine, and you will see that your thinking can be different. American poet Maya Angelou said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”