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Tapping Your Potential Creativity

Updated on June 11, 2010

It is my firm belief that we all have a creative side, one that we do not even know exists, one that lies untapped until such time it is claimed. As a Literature teacher, I abhor tests and rely on discussions and creative papers to prove understanding of a work read. Since my students are not English majors, they have no interest in taking my class. Requirements of the college deem it necessary for them to complete a literary sequence for a well rounded undergraduate education. As such, they are rarely interested in reading or writing as a whole.

Part of their required assignments are to take a piece of literature we have studied and "move it forward" so to speak. They are to show understanding of character, plot, subject , or metaphor through synthesizing creatively in the form of a letter, a ghost chapter, or any other number of choices how they view the work. They also must include a separate second section that explains why they made the choices they did.

Each term I am met with several students who write to me that they do not possess a creative bone in their entire body and find the assignment to be difficult at best. Yet, once they open themselves up to the challenge, most of them agree it was not only the most enjoyable experience they had in writing a paper, they also realized they learned more than if they had either taken a silly test, or written one of those research style papers we have all written in college. In fact, once they write the first paper, they often find the second paper to be more fun than the first.

It seems foolish (for those of us who love to write) that others may find this kind of assignment challenging. Consider the fact however, that most of us not only want to be told how to write, we also need to be told how to write. We are not allowed the privilege to be different, we must conform to rigid academic expectations. We must not "enjoy" the process, we must labor over it, making the whole experience tedious and stressful. Because we are not allowed to think critically when we attend public school, many are afraid to find their own creative potential and shrink from not "being told" exactly what to do.

Professor Mihaly Csiksentmihayli wrote several books on not only Creativity, but also Flow and Finding Flow. A Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, Mihalyi spent years studying the process of Creativity in individuals. He cites five (5) steps one needs in order to tap their creative potential:

1. We need to be prepared to tap into our creative potential.Curiosity is essential. So often we live our lives without much thought, and if we do not become immersed in learning about and discussing interesting issues we do not become curious.

2. After preparing to be open to curiously question things, we next need to incubate these ideas, allowing them to reach into the unconscious mind, which may even include our dream states.

3. Once incubated, we then allow the insights to speak to us, sometimes coming to us in a "AHA" moment or epiphany . Because it is in-sight, we feel it from within, and need to quiet the still small voice.

4. Next, we may evaluate the information gleaned in the insight and decide if we will move forward or pursue the next stage of creativity.

5. Once value is positively decided, we then elaborate on the idea, and bring the final touch to the creative pursuit.

How can we prepare ourselves to be open to creative inspiration? Dr. Csiksentmihayli offers the following daily exercises to open our minds for the task. Should we rise to the challenge of reflecting in these ideas, we open ourselves up not only to living in the moment, but living happier lives in the long run.

He suggests:

  • We try to be surprised by something new every day. this could be as simple as trying a new route to work.
  • When something strikes a spark of interest, follow it. When you focus on something, it is quite surprising that you will see and hear it mentioned more often in your daily life.
  • Recognize that if you do anything well it becomes enjoyable and as your enjoyment increases, it no longer becomes a task, but a true pleasure.
  • To keep enjoying something, increase its complexity. Reinvent not only yourself, but the way you view something. Do not be content with merely getting by.
  • Make time for reflection and relaxation. This is VITAL. We send far too much time doing and not enough time being.
  • Look at problems as challenges and try to look at them from as many viewpoints as possible. Every single thing in the world has differing perspectives!
  • Produce as many ideas as possible. Keep a running list of things that you may reflect back on and utilize later when the time presents itself.
  • Try to produce unlikely ideas. Brainstorming with limitations stifles creativity. Let all ideas, silly as they may seem, remain an option in life.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Contemplation is part of the process.
Contemplation is part of the process.


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    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      Sure! Wish those professors would tell you why they are doing what they do! I always try to explain the reason behind why the students do things...ah well...everyone is different, but it makes more sense!!! :)

    • pinkhawk profile image

      pinkhawk 7 years ago from Pearl of the Orient I think creativity is one key to success in writing, this is useful!^.^ Now I understand why my professors do what they do during our English class/lesson esp. when it is literature part..thank you very much for sharing ma'am!^.^

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA not be intimidated because I teach...I am not one of those hard teachers! I make mistakes all the time!

      Sierra: you do have a wonderful imagination! Your writing is great!

      Ralwus! I should have had me for a teacher 45 years ago...LOL

    • profile image

      ralwus 7 years ago

      I should have had you for a teacher 45 years ago.

    • profile image

      Sierra Greer 7 years ago

      As a fiction writer, I so well understand the steps involved in creativity.

      It's amazing how many people will say to me, "Where do you get your imagination?"

      It's really quite simple: I let my characters do the work; I'm just the scribe!

      In essence, every person is made up of six selves; one, of which, is creativity.


    • suny51 profile image

      suny51 7 years ago

      Thats why I am afraid of writing on your pages,you are a literature teacher and I will sure fell short of passing marks,any ways no problems,check it out professor.

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      Thanks Green Teacher!!!

    • green tea-cher profile image

      green tea-cher 7 years ago

      Hi Aley! I so agree with your hub. We do not take enough time each day away from "the doing" for "the being". It is very difficult to be creative unless we take genuine quiet time each day to reflect and draw from our subconscious mind. I recall feeling very frustrated in public school when we were given an assignment to "describe in your own words ...." and the paper would be handed back covered in red ink in the teachers' words. So much for creativity. Very good hub. Thank-you.

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      Thanks....bowing humbly...

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 7 years ago from TEXAS

      I love this, all of it. The steps are not a formula so much as a "way". Creaitivity is certainly latent in all folks. Having a few steps to help locate that inner process is most halpful. The advice - being in the now, letting it "incubate", trying something different in everyday routines are all means to tap into it. And I'd add that some very creative folks are also quite analytical and even a little "regimented" in certain areas. The balance of right and left sidedness means each contributes and it can be very useful. Perhaps the creative side needs the time freed up by taking the same old boring road to work everyday and not having to deliberate about it. If, however, the creative isn't stirred already and "on tap" - breaking up the routine could be most helpful.

      I truly love this article, Aley! Wish everyone could read it. I'm surely going to vote, rate and recommend it!!

    • profile image

      MaryRenee 7 years ago

      Aley, thank you for posting this hub! it's awesome! I definetly agree that everyone has creativity, and unfortunately not everyone tries to use it. Execllent hub, Aley (as usual!!) :)

    • Petra Vlah profile image

      Petra Vlah 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Creativity is a process and it develops through practice; it should be encouraged, but it could not be forced.

      Some people will take the same road to work day after day and never even consider other possibilities (see my husband; an engineer – by vocation rather than just profession) while others are more creative about everything they do.

      In terms of creativity related to writing the differences between styles are many, but basic knowledge will never hurt anyone. I agree with your steps about developing a creative mind

    • Aley Martin profile image

      Alice Lee Martin 7 years ago from Sumner, Washington,USA

      FP..I have had several students from India who have enjoyed looking at life through this lens, it is the same thing here...creativity is not really encouraged...

      MA..perhaps some people need the calm to inspire epiphany, while others need more inspired excitement!!

      Thanks for coming by!

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 7 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      Rarified moments of calm while reflecting on what seems inconsistant. Rarely does the this thought ever strike me as some ephiphany but a sense of a need to MAKE it interesting and relatable...

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 7 years ago

      Unfortunately, the education system in India (at least when I was growing up) doesn't encourage much creativity - it lays more emphasis on reproducing things that someone else has decided is the right way to do it. This tends to make lazy people lazier, while the ones driven to succeed academically don't want to take the time to be creative lest it distracts them from their chosen path. Sad.