Our identities and thoughts are shaped as we grow, learn, and adapt. We are the sum of our experiences and memories. We function based on our conditioning. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t be creative, the problem might not be your ability to be creative, but how your brain has been trained throughout your life to think about creative people and the whole concept of creativity.
Though the left brain and right brain might be associated with logic vs. creative thinking, the brain is extremely complex and the two sides don’t operate independently. Turns out, there are different types of imagination and creativity—and you might just be able to teach yourself to be more creative in the future if you put in the work.
So how does creativity work, and how can you possibly get better at it? It’s all in your mind—but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the level of creativity you were born with. You can’t wait for your “muse” to show up. It all comes down to practice and exposure—training your brain and your mind to come up with “divergent thinking” and imaginative ideas by being exposed to and practicing creativity. It’s important to realize that the brain is different than the mind. If you change your brain, your mind follows. Whether you use it for solving a complex problem, creating a beautiful work of art or writing compelling prose, your creativity has many uses.
Creativity and the Mind
People who are creative might label themselves as “right brain thinkers.” However, this idea that one side of the brain controls logical thinking (the left) and the other controls creative thinking (the right) has no real basis in reality and is essentially a myth. Though the theory’s origins are grounded in science, more recent research has shown that this is an oversimplification and that the two halves of the brain mostly work together.
So what does this mean for creativity? That you don’t have to put yourself in a box. You can train your mind to become more creative through deliberate practice and exposure. That might mean taking a writing or painting class, improv practice, or lots of exposure to creative works made by others. By exposing your brain to creativity, your mind becomes more creatively-attuned and able to practice imaginative and divergent thinking.
Finding Your Zen in STEM
When you think of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, creativity may not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, creativity isn’t just required to write a novel or an opera. Creative thinking is essential for solving increasingly complex real-world problems using science-based methods. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts openings in STEM related fields to surge from 1 million to 9 million jobs by the year 2022 and employers won’t just be looking for technical skills—they’ll be looking for innovative and creative thinkers. As we teach robots to make decisions and work to edit out diseases, divergent thinking is just as crucial in traditional “left brain” fields as it is in the arts.
Exercising Your Creative Muscles
If practice is the key to building creativity, where do you start? Small, yet consistent action can help you build your confidence and ability to think creatively. The brain isn’t a muscle, but it does require plenty of exercise.
The first trick to exercising your creative muscles? Carve out some time to just do nothing. Yes, it will feel uncomfortable at first, but that’s the point. Your brain will start to get bored, looking for something to do. You’ll get crazy ideas that you might want to consider running with!
Freewriting, listening to music, collaborating with coworkers, making a list of terrible ideas—these are all ways to stretch your brain and change your thinking patterns. Little by little, these creative practice efforts will help you change your mind and become more creative.
Learning to Think Creativity Can Improve Your Life
Developing your creativity might seem unimportant if you don’t have plans to write a novel or become an artist. The truth, though, is that learning to think creatively can improve your life in many ways. You’ll be able to solve everyday problems more easily, you’ll perform better at work, and you’ll likely be happier and more enthusiastic about life. Logic and technical ability are important, but they’re not the only skills that are important. Everyone can use a bit more imagination and creativity in their lives—both personally and professionally.
Photo by Steve Johnson at unsplash
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.