By Harvinder Kaur November 1998 Being creative is not merely being good at painting or singing or writing poems. It is the spark of the divine Creator that lies nascent within all of us Think creativeThere are certain thought processes and abilities that contribute to creative thinking. You can cultivate and enhance your creative ability if you: Think Lots: Encourage your mind to think up ideas-not one or two, but loads. Be fluent in your ideas, even if sometimes they go off the target. One idea can lead to another that may help you get to the perfect answer. Think Different: Don’t always think the obvious. Tell your mind to move in different directions. Allow flexibility and flow. Think in Detail: Once an idea strikes, think out the idea in detail. For example, if you think of creating three-dimensional pictures using vegetables, then find out what vegetable should go where. Don’t leave an idea unformed. Creative solution Looking for answers, but mind is blocked? Try these steps: Gather your facts and information. Now think hard about whatever you are supposed to. After a spell of hard thought, let go. Take a walk, go to the movies. Or sleep over the problem. This step doesn’t involve doing anything. This is when the solution just pops into your mind. Try out your idea. Put it to the test of practicality. Dawn. The sun bobs up from the horizon, spilling its gentle rays on the rocky walls of an unknown cave. The moon quietly bows away with a zillion stars in tow. A cave man, hard like the stones he works with, watches the dawn as the wind plays with his unkempt hair and the cry of a newborn drifts into his ears. He stands motionless, entranced, unable to articulate what he feels or fathom why. Little does he know that he is mesmerized by the power of the Creator and His Creation… It isn’t easy to come to terms with the somewhat nebulous, intangible, but strangely fascinating concept of creativity. The word is derived from the Latin ‘creatus’, meaning ‘to bring into being’. More often than not, creativity has been associated with the arts—painting, dancing, sculpture, literature, and so on. Then, is it correct to assume that if you can paint or dance, you are creative? ‘Creativity is a transfer of energy,’ states painter Jatin Das. ‘When you observe something, say a tree, and imbibe the energy from there, then you transfer it to a medium or form.’ A definition that is given an individual touch by painter Joydeep Banerjee: ‘In creativity, the self seeks expression through personal language.’ Creativity involves manifestation, making the invisible visible. The creator is merely a vehicle, a medium, rather than an independent being empowered to create what was never there. GENESIS OF IDEAS The notion that creative ideas flow from a higher source rather than from the mind of man is not entirely new. We find traces of it in Greco-Roman culture, famous for its invocation of the Muses before any artistic activity, as well as in the writings of various New Age mystics. In his work Uno Mystica I, New Age guru Osho states: ‘It (creativity) is action through inaction, it is what Lao Tzu calls wei-wu-wei. It is not a doing, it is an allowing… Hidden behind man is God. Just give him a little way, a little passage, to come through you. That is creativity: allowing God to happen is Creativity.’ Psychologically speaking, the creative process involves a voluntary relaxing of ego-controls after consciously analyzing the subject at hand. In other words, it is a think-hard-then-let-go process. This ‘letting-go’ also helps the preconscious to operate freely on ideas. And it is in this frame of mind that the moment of serendipity, the magical ‘eureka’ experience, dawns. Dr Krishna Maitra, a reader in Delhi University, India, and executive member of the Asia-Pacific Federation of Gifted and Talented Children, negates such an assumption. ‘We shouldn’t confuse creativity with talent,’ she explains. ‘Talent is a specific aptitude in a specific area. For example, people may be good at music or dance or painting without being creative. Creativity involves talent, but talent is not creativity.’ Maitra feels creativity happens when various forces—be they environmental, motivational or psychological—interact to create something unique. And this is not necessarily limited to arts alone. Often, ideas come during relaxation or through dreams. Explaining how his notes were inspired, music composer Mozart once said: ‘When I am… completely myself, entirely alone… or during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.’ It would, however, be naïve to assume that all creation necessarily comes from the inner being. Many come from the conscious mind as well. For Nirmal Verma, celebrated Indian writer, creativity is a matter of ‘regular hard work and not inspiration. There’s nothing glorifying about it. It’s 99 per cent perspiration’. Verma feels that creating something involves both conscious and unconscious processes. ‘It is a kind of confluence of various forces,’ he says. ‘For instance, you witness a sunset. This catalyses a chain of memories which work into the present and influence your work.’ SIGN OF CREATION Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of America’s greatest thinkers, was sickly and dull as a child. Rabindranath Tagore, Bengal’s bard and Nobel Laureate, was a miserable misfit at school. Vincent van Gogh, Dutch impressionist painter, lived a life of abject poverty, developed schizophrenia and cut off one of his ears for a prostitute. All these people were unique in their own ways. In fact, if we scan the life and times of most creative people, we would find a varied range of idiosyncrasies, habits and tendencies that characterize them. Misfits: Tagore was not alone in being a misfit at school. Many children have problems fitting in the school framework because of their curiosity, their tendency to question more. Creative misfits can be differentiated from dull mischief-mongers by their basic liveliness, awareness and individuality. Loners: Creative individuals often prefer being alone for various reasons. They also have a strong tendency of doing things in their own, slightly offbeat, way. Henry David Thoreau, an American philosopher and writer who spent some time in complete solitude, wrote: ‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him keep step with the music which he hears, however measured or far away…’ Non-conformists: The innate originality of a creative person’s thoughts and ideas often make him swim against the current of the world. Shelley was thrown out of Oxford University for writing a pamphlet on the necessity of atheism, Copernicus was excommunicated from the Church for declaring that the earth revolved round the sun, Bernard Shaw raged against blind patriotism. Original and imaginative: There is something golden within the creative person. The creative spark, when it flies, inevitably shines in the darkness of ignorance. Creativity is often characterized by original thinking, sometimes laced with a sense of humor, even when things are not going well. Sensitive: Sensitivity fuels the creative power. Of course, creative people are not always sensitive in the same way, nor do they react similarly. But the quality of awareness makes them notice things. The flutter of wings, the sound of falling raindrops or children playing… nothing escapes the sensitive individual. Adventurous: A desire to explore the unknown, both externally and within the mind, is also an important ingredient of creativity. This quality is present more in creative-minded scientists who leave no stone unturned in their desire for knowledge. Take the example of B.P. Sen, a chemical technologist formerly with Hindustan Lever. According to Sen, one of his best achievements had been building an ‘unsinkable’ boat as a child, using plastic pipes and wooden poles. NURTURING CREATIVITY While creative expressions are generally characterized by spontaneity, this does not imply that the seed of creativity doesn’t need to be tended. There have been times such as the European Renaissance when creativity flourished unabated. There have also been places and countries where the controlled environment has forced many creative people to flee, a classic example of which can be found in the former Soviet Union. Here are some nurturing pointers that may help you enhance your own creativity and see it blossom in the youth of today. Catch them young: There is a dire need to understand and help a child exploding with the creative urge. Most children can be led, trained and encouraged to be creative. If creativity is suppressed at this crucial stage, it can have serious consequences on the child’s psyche. Allow flexibility: Understand the difference between discipline and rigidity. While a certain amount of discipline is desirable, even necessary, in the creative arena, the unpredictability of the creative insight calls for fluidity and flexibility. An excessively rigid routine is a death sentence for all creative thought. There is a need for balance. Creativity demands some time. You can’t force it. Allow it to bloom. Seek and provide an encouraging atmosphere: Not all creative people are aggressive. Some may be quiet, shy and content to work unnoticed. Many even need encouragement to go forward. An open platform for expressing thoughts is necessary for any creative activity. Such a platform of expression also demands a stimulating environment. Whether it means changing the look of
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