In the book “Where good ideas come from” by Steven Johnson, Creativity is described as the ability to make connections between existing idea/platforms to get to a “new” result. The following list are 11 ways that you can create more more possible connections in your brain to then have the ability to create something “new”. New is is quotes because it’s said that there’s no such thing as new ideas. Take a look at “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon if you’re curious.
1 – Emulation
As a kid we would often traced and copied the things the artwork that we liked. At a certain point, most of us just stopped — but why? When you copy or trace great work line by line you’ll learn what they did — possibly why, if you’re paying attention. Maybe this sounds like cheating but this is a simple way of learning the “rules” of creating in certain styles before you start making your own up.
It’s important to note that you should never share this work as your own. This is for learning purposes only.
2 – Read books
Believe it or not there is information written in books that’s not easily available online. When you read things that you want to remember, make a note of it or highlight. Once you read more and more books you’ll be able to make very interesting connections. People talk about individual books often but the meaning of those books to some people usually isn’t as great unless they’re read ALL the same books as another person. Read a range of genres and read often.
3 – Writing
While most designers and animators would say they’re not great at writing this is a fundamental tool to creativity that everyone should practice. It starts by writing about the things you want to know more about then as you develop you’ll find questions that need answers. You’ll then have to do the research to come to your own conclusions. You should also write about the things you know a lot about, While you already know the information, putting it into words can lead you to some different places.
4 – Ask questions
If you truly want to understand something you’ll have to ask questions. The hard part here is finding the right person to answer that question. When you’re on to some great thoughts or ideas you’ll start asking questions that nobody seems to be able to answer. Half the battle in understanding something is coming to the right questions.
5 – Collect
Many artists may disagree but a fundamental part of my creative process is to collect. I’m always collecting things that I could borrow from later. Maybe it’s photography, vintage designs, logo designs, fashion, blueprints etc.. Aaron Draplin has this same process where he goes “junking” to find new/old things, he then keeps an archive of everything he likes and goes to it when in need. This doesn’t mean just copying things in your collection though. Maybe it’s a color pallet, line thickness, timing, etc.. I use Pinterest for this mainly. When it’s time to create I’ll look through my pins to find artwork that give the same feeling that I’m looking for, then I’ll analyze why it works, then use that idea in what I’m working on.
6 – Listen
Listen to podcasts, music, books, etc. expose yourself to different points of views on the topics you care about. Maybe it’s science fiction, aliens, or golf. Never be afraid to be yourself, even if you secretly love Justin Bieber, Let that music in and take you to different places. There’s connections to be made everywhere.
7 – Watch tv
Maybe it’s not the best habit but watching television is a great way to experience stories/feelings that you might not ever get a chance in your life to ever feel. Part of being creative is tapping into those feelings or emotions to create something that tells a story.
8 – Travel
When you travel, you’ll experience many emotions and see many new things. Certainly others may have seen those places before and they’re not really new, but have they seen all the same places you have? Make those connections, what’s similar, what’s different?
9 – Be bored
Being bored is not a bad thing, it gives you a moment to process things and to make connections. So don’t be afraid to be bored, let it happen. Stop instantly diving for your phone anytime this happens…especially while you’re driving. Driving is a great time to process information. Next time you’re waiting in line for something, keep your phone in your pocket and your head up. People would look at you funny — but their heads are down glued to their phones, so don’t worry about them. Let your eyes wander around a room and see what amazing solutions there are for problems that once existed.
10 – Notebook/journal
Charles Darwin always kept a journal to report his findings & observations in. Sometimes these didn’t mean anything specifically but he could easily make connections between 2 things that may have seemed unrelated at one point to create amazing theories. This works the same with sketching.
11 – Just make
Many have the problem of the intimidating blank canvas. In “the war of art”, Steven Pressfield says that the secret to making is to simply put in the time and just DO. You must fight resistance, tap into the creative muses and just make. If you sit down long enough, something will start to happen. The result might be good, or it might be bad but the one thing you should take from this article is that it doesn’t matter. Being creative is about more than just making “good” things. It’s about creating something that others may not have thought about exactly before.
Keep an active mind, explore, record and question. Creativity is an amazing thing that some people feel has to be “gifted” to you. All humans are capable of being creative, it’s just a matter of organizing thoughts and doing something about the things most people don’t think about.