What Does It Mean to be “Creative” Anyway?
Imagination is a delicate dance between novelty and value.2 For something to feel imaginative it should feel both likewise helpful however new in some method.
Although we think about creativity as creating something that is special, the majority of it isnt. Most of what we experience as being “brand-new” is simply taking old things and remixing it in fresh or unanticipated ways.3.
For instance, the chord progression of the 17th century author Johann Pachabels “Canon in D” has been reconditioned with contemporary instruments numerous times to produce dozens of hit songs simply in the last couple of decades.
Just exchanging this one component developed an apparently entirely brand-new and unique story.
We wouldnt consider them to be particularly imaginative.
And this is where the difficult work of imagination comes in. It turns out that creativity is a skill. Simply discovering about imagination and how it works can assist.6.
The majority of innovative movies or books take old plot-points of their genre and include some sort of new twist or unanticipated dynamic. One of the factors why the show Breaking Bad was so successful was that it took a generic story about the drug trade and changed the primary character with a middle-class white dude that the majority of Americans might relate to. Simply exchanging this one element produced an apparently entirely brand-new and novel story.
Scientists call this “divergent thinking” and its one of the best predictors of quantifiable imagination as well as among the best skills to find out if you want to be more imaginative.4 Instead of asking yourself, “How do I develop something new?” ask yourself, “How can I alter something old to make it feel brand-new?”.
Even my own creativity has actually followed this course. One of the most typical criticisms of my books is that I didnt “come up” with many of the suggestions I give.
I merely repackaged it in unique and intriguing methods, changed the emphasis on a couple of points, and added a couple of my own ideas to spice things up. Instead of selling desperate people a vision of success, I help individuals question their definition of success. Rather of attempting to sound like a reliable dickface, I utilize phrases like “authoritative dickface.”.
And this has worked. The millions of people out there who arent into mushy, woo-woo, feel-good self-help crap truly appreciate the novelty of the method I write.
Which brings us to the second part of innovative work: including value. Innovative work isnt imaginative simply because its “new”– its also innovative because it includes some sort of value to the world.
I could compose an hour-long symphony made up of nothing but underarm farts or invent a new “diet drink” that includes stubborn belly button lint and water. And while these things would definitely be “novel,” they certainly would not be valuable. We wouldnt consider them to be particularly imaginative.
For stuff that adds worth however isnt new, we typically consider it to be a rip-off of something or someone else. Believe of the motion pictures that Hollywood remakes eighteen times– you still pay to go see them, despite the fact that you understand theres most likely absolutely nothing original or creative about them.
On the other hand, stuff thats novel but doesnt does not include, we see as crude, tasteless, and immature. See: armpit fart symphonies and stomach button lint water.
Nailing the mix of novelty and value is difficult. It needs a great deal of experimentation. It needs getting feedback from people. It requires comprehending your audience and their values. It needs honing and refining your craft over many years of practice.5.
And this is where the tough work of imagination comes in. For every hit tune, that band probably has half a dozen albums that no one has heard of.
Creativity is, in truth, effort. And like all effort, ideal creativity requires some degree of routine and repeatability.
And that is why creativity is covertly kinda boring.
It ends up that imagination is a skill. And like any skill, you can practice and get much better at it. In reality, simply discovering about imagination and how it works can help.6.
So here are a few of the not-so-exciting-but-also-really-fucking-important things you can do to be more imaginative in your own life.