A frame for focus before making any creative effort

Thinking that creativity comes from nothing, that grand ideas either pop into our heads like magic or they don’t, hurts your ability to truly think creatively.

That’s not how creative thinking works.

In actuality, ideas come from a collision of everything we already know or are experiencing. This point is important to really try and understand, because without it our creative efforts are often futile.

How often have you run into this scenario: you want to do something creative, so you set out in an effort to do just that only to end up feeling overwhelmed or producing less-than-great work – paintings of sporadic brush strokes, writing that leads to nowhere, or ideas that we know are subpar. All of these things are more often than not the result of not defining the context from which our ideas will flow, of believing creativity is out of our control.

We should do our best not to confuse the complexities of creativity with sheer magic. Creativity may very well be partially magic, but there’s a lot about creativity that we do know with some confidence (thanks to science!). One such thing is that creative ideas are always, always, always a result of knowledge or existing ideas colliding together in our minds.

To produce truly creative results in anything we do (artistic or otherwise) requires that we first have a clear understanding of what’s expected. When we set specific expectations or goals for ourselves before we approach any creative endeavor, we are giving our minds the context for which they can seek out related ideas.

That’s the meat of being able to really think creatively: you establish some level of context from which to move forward.

Without that context, your brain is going to fire in every possible way it can, which is going to lead to fewer insights (or no insights) or dull work.

Instead, give yourself a frame of focus before you sit down to make any creative effort.

Creativity doesn’t work in a vacuum, it works in a space – sometimes large and sometimes small – that we define, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not.

Photo via Flickr.