How to Be Creative

how to be creativeCreativity is hard to measure and hard to generate. Society reveres the product of creative genius for centuries after that flash of inspiration first strikes. But no one really knows how to be creative.

Creativity Does Not Equal Intelligence

What’s funny is that at a certain point intelligence is unrelated to creativity. Not to say that you don’t need to be intelligent to be creative—you do. But at a certain point intelligence no longer matters. This is called the threshold hypothesis, put forward by Ellis Paul Torrance. If your IQ is above 120, you’re intelligent. What sets you apart is how well you can relate to other people and use your talents to make the world a better place.

Very little is known about what actually makes people creative. Artists would argue that it comes from the Muse. Yet others would say that certain substances help them in their creative process—alcohol, caffeine, weed, cocaine, even harder drugs. But ultimately, it comes down to what kind of person you are.

Factor in your intelligence, your profession, your habits and you will begin to see that maybe you’re meant to be more creative than others. Or maybe you’re not. Some professions require lesser creativity, an ability to follow rote processes to produce results. Others necessitate new ideas and ways of thinking on a daily basis.

Drugs + Alcohol = Good Ideas

One thing is for certain—the most creative people in our society are not afraid to break out of traditional modes of thinking. Unfortunately for many of them, substances are one of the easiest ways to do that. Steve Jobs did acid. Stephen King was an alcoholic. Kanye West smokes weed. Whatever.

Studies show that drugs and alcohol change the chemistry of the brain. They may eat away at certain parts of the hippocampus, causing memory damage and brain loss. But to compensate, many people who suffer from this show use of other parts of their brain instead. They wind up, quite literally, thinking differently than the rest of us do. They can more easily tap into their creativity by unconsciously using different parts of their brain.

I’m not saying that if you want to brainstorm you should go get drunk. I am saying that if you want to brainstorm, doing the same thing you do every day is not going to help.

Breaking Routine to Become Creative

What many of us have trouble with is breaking out of our routines. Not to say that routine is bad—for those trying to meet a deadline or a goal, routine is crucial to growth and development. As humans we crave it. But for those of us trying to germinate the idea for a novel or a painting, it can make life seem stale, and creativity can be tough to reach.

Humans need routine to survive. But it doesn’t necessarily encourage new ideas or ways of thinking. Breaking from routine does, however. The challenge to be creative comes in not falling back into a routine once it’s been broken, but continuing to change our daily processes in order to think different.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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