How do we spark creativity? That’s a question that I’m so curious about. Is creativity a skill that we can develop or a trait that we are either born with? I like to think it’s a skill like all skills. For example, shooting a basketball is a skill some people have an easier time with than others. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work on that skill. We can become better and better over time. When I think back to my college basketball days, I would train for hours a day in order to become the sharp shooter I was. What have I done to exercise my creativity?
For one, training creativity isn’t something we really think about. There is far more grey area than there is as opposed for shooting a basketball. For example, if I want to become a better shooter, I know exactly what drills to do to do just that. I know very clearly what shots I want to improve the most and I make those my focal point going into the workout. I have a clear plan that gets me from where I am currently at to where I want to be. Then I train day after day. The difficult part about creativity is that it isn’t as black and white as shooting a basketball. It’s very difficult to measure. With a shooting a basketball, I can see how many 3 pointers I make in a row, or see how many I make out of 10 attempts. With improving creativity, there is not distinct metric that clearly shows improvement. How do you measure an idea?
Maybe we should look at it this way. First, we need to define a metric that is measurable. For basketball, it is shooting percentage (shots made / shot attempts * 100). We can control the quantity of makes. We can’t really control the quality of makes nor do we care. All we care about is whether the ball goes in the hoop. For creativity, what can we control? We can control the number of ideas written in a day. That’s a fair starting point. We can’t really measure the quality of each idea, but statistics say that the more ideas we come up with, the more good ideas we’ll see. To be fair, we’ll also see more bad ideas, but that’s not the point. The point is to come up with more ideas. In basketball, we don’t care if it was a good make or a bad make, we only care if it was a make. We’ll take bad makes. We’ll also take bad ideas. There, we have our metric.
Now, to turn this into a plan. What can be measured, can be managed. If we can measure the improvement in the number of makes, we can also measure the improvement in the number of ideas. For basketball, I would dedicate about an hour just for shooting. This is where it gets even trickier with creativity. It’s difficult to say that for an hour I am going to do nothing but train myself to have new ideas. Because ideas come at any time of the day. For simplicity reason, let’s allow ideas to come at any point in the day. At the end of each day, we’ll count the number of ideas. Perhaps we’ll even put a star next to the best idea of the day. This would require something to write on being handy throughout the day. It could be either a physical pad or a note app in a computer or phone to write down the ideas as they come. It’s important to stop whatever is being done at the time to write down the ideas, since we all know how quickly ideas can come and go. Too many times have we tried to rely on memory to keep our ideas safe and secure, meanwhile ten minutes go by and the idea has completely left our head. For this reason, discipline will play an important role. But it should! It does in practicing basketball skills, why should it be any different with this?
We just figured out the metric we want to use to track performance. Now we want to figure out the drills we’ll do to improve at our best rate possible. When I’m shooting baskets, I don’t simply do the performance test over and over. I do other drills that will help me with shooting. I mix up the drills with 3 pointers, free throws, layups, mid-range shots, cardio, ball handling, and so on. Working on all these things also help to improve my shooting ability. What are the drills I can do day in and day out to help improve my creativity? For one, being discipline with staying off screens is important. Putting our phone down and leaving us time to think is crucial. We can’t have ideas come in if we have our phones rotting our brains away with social media. Unless we are using the phone to look up ideas which could help our brain stimulation, limiting the time on phones and especially social media is important. The next drill we can do is physical activity. This means working out, cleaning your room, going for a walk or run, and so on. Anything that requires that use of hands will work. These things get our brains working and will fuel the creativity in ourselves. Another drill to do is to be in nature. This is one of my favorites as I already enjoy being outside and in nature. Being in nature gives us different perspectives, different visuals, relieves stress, and simply puts us in a good mood. This creates the perfect environment to allow ourselves to catch ideas. In fact, many great ideas have come from nature. Another drill to do is to write. I write almost every morning and it is a great exercise for the mind and creativity. Reading could also be a good drill to utilize during this training time. An underrated drill would be drawing. Allowing your mind to put ideas and thoughts on paper in an illustration is directly related to coming up with ideas. I’m sure there are other drills out there that are helpful, but we’ve named enough for now.
The last thing to discuss is what do we mean by idea? An idea for what? I think it’s best to leave this open and not restrict any ideas. Doing so would only limit our creative range. It’s best to say that any new thought, new design, or improvement qualifies as an idea. And this could apply to something like a better way to make your bed, to a potential sit-com plot, to a product to sell. Anything goes in this sense, as long as it is either a new thought or an improvement on something. Let’s see how far this exercise can go by tracking how many ideas we can write down per day. I look forward to checking back in later to share my results.