Tapping Your Potential Creativity
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.
- 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.