Sensing You're Not Creative? Here's How To Fix That.

Sensing You're Not Creative? Here's How To Fix That.

Create April 08, 2019 / By Larry Robertson
Sensing You're Not Creative? Here's How To Fix That.

Your sense that you’re not creative is the surest sign you’re not using your creative senses.

When the zone you ply your trade in is creativity, people inevitably ask, “How can I be more creative?” As an innovation advisor and writer about creativity, I am far from alone in this experience, as evidenced by the mountain of books and articles on the topic. While the answer can feel illusive, in truth it’s far simpler than we tend to think – if we allow ourselves to hear the more creative and indeed accurate answer.

Allow me to pause for a moment and point out that the fact that people even asking this question is a hopeful sign. The overwhelming majority of us conclude that we are not creative. It’s a fiction of course. But it’s a fiction that feels like a truth. It only feels that way because for most of us most of the time our innate human capacity for creativity is layered over and obscured by the societal norms we craft then reinforce in everything we do – from how we teach and train, to the rules and incentives we put in place as we try to persuade an ever-changing world to act more predictably. Yet at our evolutionary core, creative we remain.

Maybe that’s why people ask. Perhaps it’s their gut gently but tenaciously pestering them to get back to basics. But by the time that intuitive reminder is allowed to bubble to the surface, it gets filtered through our day-to-day M.O. and comes out looking less like the broader question, “How can I be more creative?” and more like, “Give me a trick.” In the parlance of my book The Language of Man. Learning to Speak Creativity, it’s a textbook case of our mind’s orderly ‘hedgehog’ mode reigning in our equally important and creative ‘fox’ mindset. And it reflects the mindset imbalance most of us work under most of the time.

What we really ought to be asking is this: “How can we rebalance how we look at the world and how we think?” and in so doing, tap our creative capacity more often, or better still as a matter of course. One reason creativity blooms in so many different forms is that this shared human capacity draws fuel through nearly half a dozen input paths, in other words, our senses. We learn, interpret, question, and operate through how we see, touch, hear, taste, and smell. It also happens to be how we sense, seed, and manifest creativity. Rather than pursue tricks, those red herrings we only dream will enable us to skip right to the creative output, we should tend to and explore the input paths. It turns out there’s an extraordinary simple way we can. 

We often hear talk of openness, mindfulness, getting out of your usual space, or meditation as powerful means to a creative end. Yet most of us don’t get around to such things, or allow them to fade if we do. Time is an issue, or finding the right place to engage. But those hurdles are most often because, as with creativity itself, we think we need to go all in and big to get the desired effect. Try this “3-for-3” exercise instead. 

Be it when you’re driving in the car, sitting and watching TV, playing a sport, literally anywhere and anytime, mentally take note of 3 things you are taking in for at least 3 of your sense. If you are driving, for example, you can easily focus on what you ‘see’ – the blurring perception of the lines on the road as you increase your speed… the bug mark smudge in the corner of the windshield, the angry look on the face of the driver sitting next to you in traffic. All are things you’re seeing anyway, but now you are tuning into them consciously. 'Feel' might be the next sense you explore – the way your winter coat squeezes close to too tight under your arm when it’s grabbing the steering wheel… the heat of the floorboards under your shoes… the out of place feeling of ones eyebrow hair you just know is sticking awkwardly up on your forehead, even though you can’t see it to confirm.

 If you do this even a few times, among the things you are likely to notice are: It’s fun. Your mind naturally goes for the less obvious, even if it’s purely to avoid boredom. You can ‘up’ the game by choosing not to go for the same things twice. The harder senses, that is the ones you don’t typically think of in whatever circumstances you do this in (say ‘taste’ when you are driving), are often the most fun to try to find three answers to. All of it is pushing your brain. Yet all of it is pure play. There is no deadline (you can stop and start the game anytime you want). There are no hard and fast rules, nor a ranking of how well you did. And it all happens while you’re busy doing what convinced you that you didn’t have time to be creative.

And yet you are exercising your creative mental muscle, along with those sensory paths that nurture it. This is where creativity begins – the simple habit of using what you’ve got. Ready? 1, 2, 3-for-3.

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