10 Things You Didn’t Know About Exceptionally Creative People

I recently completed Dr. Keith Sawyer’s book, Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the subject or curious about how to enhance their own creativity. (Visit his blog at keithsawyer.wordpress.com) In Zig Zag, Dr. Sawyer outlines a variety of exercises and tactics to help you along the creative process. He also provides valuable insight into the nature of the creative process itself. In his book, I learned some surprising things that exceptionally creative people all have in common. Below I have listed 10 things that you (probably) didn’t know about exceptionally creative people.

exceptional creators

  1. Exceptional creators sleep more hours than the average person. (Harvard researcher Jeffrey Ellenbogen found that after sleep, people are 33% more creative!)
  2. Researchers have found that people who have lived in more than one country (multinationals, biculturals, immigrants ect.) are more creative.
  3. Exceptional creators aren’t born that way. Creativity is close to 80% learned and acquired (according to Hal Gregerson, a professor at INSEAD Business School).
  4. Successful creators are curious by nature. They ask questions and listen closely to the answers, even when the information has no obvious relationship to what they’re working on at the moment. In other words, exceptional creators are experts at “connecting the dots”.
  5. Exceptional creators are masters of the discipline of play, the ability to imagine and envision possible worlds and alternate realities.
  6. Most exceptional creators are working on multiple projects at a time. (They’re using these various areas of focus to make even more connections and thus advance their work!)
  7. Creative people are exceptionally self-aware. They are constantly reflecting on what they’re doing at any given moment and they’re constantly listening to themselves.
  8. Creative people work harder than most other people, usually at researching and acquiring new information. Paradoxically, they also take more time off.
  9. About 25% of the world’s most exceptional creators engaged in the creation of elaborate imaginary worlds as children. (So think twice next time you want to make fun of someone’s “imaginary friend”! 😉
  10. Exceptional creators make a conscious effort to introduce change into their lives, or to put themselves in situations in which they’re more likely to experience the unexpected.

Belief: The Intersection of Creativity and Culture

In Western culture, we consider creativity the province of a select few. But that’s not true of all cultures. In primitive societies, for example, most people participate in creative activities. In more “advanced” ones, creativity becomes something special and therefore an option for fewer and fewer people. In the West, we tend to be concerned solely with the outcome of creativity. The product, so to speak. Asian cultures, on the other hand, are about the process of creativity. They care more about the journey than the destination itself.

How do cultures come to such different approaches towards creativity? 

creation

It might boil down to our beliefs, particularly as they relate to creation. In the west, our story of creation begins with this, “In the beginning God created heaven and Earth.” We take this to mean that God created something from nothing, and thus, we humans tend to approach creation in the same way. This line of thought suggests that the creative act is linear. It says that the creator starts at X and advances until he/she reaches Y.

Chinese beliefs

Contrastingly, in Chinese culture, the universe, the Tao, has no beginning. There has always been something and there will always be. For the Chinese, the creative act is not one of invention but of discovery. Confucius himself said, “I transmit but do not create.”

hindu beliefs

The Hindus hold similar beliefs. In Hindu culture, there is nothing to invent, only old truths to rediscover and combine in new, imaginative ways. For Hindus, the creative genius is like a light bulb illuminating a room. The room has always been there and always will. The creative genius doesn’t create or even discover the room. She illuminates it. And this is not insignificant because without illumination, we would remain ignorant of the room’s existence and of the wonders that lie inside.

light bulb

Personally, I think that our Western version of creation, from the very beginning, has been misconstrued and taken out of context. If you continue reading Genesis, God’s story goes on to say that God always has been and always will be…That we are carefully crafted in His image. Thus, our creation story is closely in line with that of the Chinese or Hindu cultures. It has no beginning and no end. What they call the Universe, we call God. This points us to the rightful conclusion that the creative act is, in fact, non linear. The process of creativity is just as important, if not more so, than the outcome. When we begin to approach creativity in this way, not only does it become more accessible, but also significantly more rewarding.

Make Time to Play

“Did you ever hear a small boy complain of having to hang about a railway station and wait for a train? No; for him to be inside a railway station is to be inside a cavern of wonder.” –G.K. Chesterton

boy in train station

Children are naturally creative primarily because they’re curious and playful. The experiment endlessly, let their minds wander freely, and they experience imaginative worlds with such detail that it’s often clever. 

Although the adult world is filled with deadlines and pressure, we have to continue to make time to play. It is our duty and our right to create space in our day for imagination. Perhaps then we will be as clever as children.

The Big Bang Theory

If you’re going to convince me that a printing press explodes and creates Shakespeare…

big bang

You need to at least be able to tell me how it exploded.

Suffering Breeds

Just like if humans were to create robots that turn against us, so does suffering breed the very thing that ends it: compassion.

Playa Tamarindo at Sunset

Playa Tamarindo at Sunset

Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica. I recently returned from a trip to Playa Tamarindo. It was my first time in Costa Rica. The beauty was breathtaking. This picture was shot on an iPhone 5. Can you believe it?

Secrets aren’t just our creations, they’re our creatures…

“The problem with keeping secrets is that they’re alive. We like to think that our secrets can lie quietly in our minds, as inert as dirt, but we’re wrong. Secrets aren’t just our creations…they’re our creatures, beings with wills of their own. They grow. They reproduce, as we form new secrets to support the old ones. They even migrate, colonizing the people closest to us (ask anyone from a secretive family). But the scariest thing about secrets is what they want: They want out. The truth constantly tries to escape into the open, and keeping any of it buried invites isolation, obsession, addiction, even complete psychological destruction. On the other hand, random or ill-advised confessions can be disastrous. The only way to find harmony and balance is to learn when, where, why and to whom you should confess your secrets.” – Martha Beck

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Your-Guide-to-Confessing-Your-Deep-Dark-Secrets#ixzz2mG1h8Uvo

 

We are all Artists

If God is the Divine Artist and He created us in His image, then what does that make us?

CREATION

Think about it, as a kid, you probably loved to draw, write, paint, sing, make up dances, make up just about anything really….

artists

But then somewhere along the way, someone told you that you weren’t any good at it, they laughed at your work, or explained to you why being an artist is unrealistic. See we’re all born artists. We all have it in us to create. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up…

God didn’t create us because He was lonely and needed us. Just as a songwriter doesn’t write a song because he needs the song.

songwriting-large

A songwriter writes a song because he needs to communicate himself.

creator

So it is with God, when He created us.