I was recently contacted by a former student and asked about my thoughts on creativity. It’s interesting as I felt she was one of the more creative students that I have taught and I even mentioned this to her in class at one point.
There were particular things that I saw, that I’ve seen in other creatives that I’ve known. The main thing was the ability to expand her thought process in an algebraic way… meaning she would latch onto a concept and it would lead to a new thing, then another, then another. To me this may be one of the most important things to recognize if you are tasked with any creative problem. It can also be one of the most daunting and difficult things to try and contain.
She mentioned that she felt that problem solving was synonymous with creativity and I have long believed this concept. In fact, I don’t think of myself so much as an artist as I do a person who uses creativity to solve visual problems.
While working with her I noticed a few more things that seemed to be hindering her. First, she seemed overwhelmed by all the directions of her thoughts. Anyone who has embraced the idea that they are creative struggle with this problem. I’ve struggled with it for my entire life, but learned in college to reign in my wandering mind. There must be some compartmentalization of the thoughts and ideas. I use lots of notebooks and iPhone apps to take notes and sketches. This is being written in Evernote so I can add & edit anywhere. The act of “expulsion” of the ideas helps me clear out the clutter, so to speak.
Next was her struggle with decision making. I believe that anything really good that you create does not just pop out of you… it develops. When instructing my students and I task them with creating concepts for something I always ask them to show me 3 or 4 options. Even if you have the concept in your head, pushing yourself further always leads to something good… even if that discovery is something which seems small and insignificant. I like to say, “If asked to do 3 or 4 concepts I always do 5 and inevitably it’s the 6th one that works!” I’ve digressed a bit… All that is fine, but if you cannot DECIDE which one solves your problem or is the most visually pleasing, it does not matter. So CHOOSE. You’re the designer, pick the one you like best. Remember this when choosing; there is not really a right or wrong answer as it relates to solving your own creative problems.
Finally the thing that I saw which excited me the most was her willingness to experiment and explore. If you are open to new things and able to absorb what you find and add it to your arsenal for creative problems, then you’ll be able to solve any problem. Personally I think this is where being coined a “genius” can be limiting… but that is my next post.