As Adam Webster explained in his January article, “The Cage,” we’re raised and educated to think the same. In our conventional cage, creativity is stifled, and cookie-cutter “ideas,” are all that are emitted. Convention is something engrained into us, and it’s hard to undo how society has told us to think and act. The band Spoon conveys this concept in the simplest way that I’ve ever seen or heard in their song “The Underdog.” Their lyrics, “I want to forget how convention fits. Oh, but can I get out from under it? Can I cut it out of me?”
At young ages, we are very impressionable and learn by example, usually those we idolize, like teachers and parents. Children are blank slates, born into the world with no preconceptions or knowledge. Everything we know or think is based on what we’ve learned, and what we’ve learned is that which has been engrained into us. Because children lack knowledge, it is easier to ingrain ideas and values into them than it is into adults, who already have ideas and values of a different time period engrained into them. This is exemplified by generational value differences. It’s not that children influence other children and that’s why generations have different values; it’s the way each generation is raised and educated.
Given the convention instilled in us all, how do we get out of it to create newness? After all, in looking to the past it is plain to see that innovative ideas come from those who aren’t conventional. Look at Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso, and so on. As Webster said, we’re all unique due to the distinct combination of life experiences each of us has had; and, thus, within us are unique ideas. It’s just a matter of accessing and activating those parts of our brains; then creativity will reign. But, how does one go about doing such a thing? Here are some ways to activate the creativity you possess within.
1. Experience that which you haven’t.
I’ve found that doing things I haven’t before allows my brain to think of things it hasn’t before. It’s interesting to experience this epiphany-like light bulb that goes off in my head, yet it’s difficult to explain. Your heart-rate increases, your mind begins considering not only new ideas, but expansions of those ideas. Some aren’t great; others, however, are.
To access your creativity, it is imperative that you constantly try new things. Listen to new music; speak to people with different perspectives on life and try to understand those perspectives; travel to new places and try to understand their values and cultures; try new restaurants and local hangouts; read new books; learn as much as you can about things you don’t know or understand. New experiences mean new ideas, and new ideas possess the potential for creation.
2. Re-experience that which you have.
We are constantly changing. Our old conventional ideas evolve into new ones. Sometimes revisiting the past can reignite old ideas that we’ve forgotten, but that are none-the-less important. Old ideas can also inspire new ones.
Watch old home videos; listen to old music; watch your favorite childhood television shows; look at old year books, pictures, and crafts you did as a child.
3. Write down your dreams.
Dreams are something scientists have yet to understand; they don’t know what our dreams mean, nor do they even understand why we sleep, let alone have dreams. Scientists also don’t understand how our brains create ideas. What we do know is that some of the greatest ideas leading to creative innovation have come to their creators in dreams. Here are just three of the many instances when dreams led to creativity:
- Paul McCartney turned a tune he heard in a dream into the famous Beatles song, “Yesterday.”
- Mary Shelley was inspired to write Frankenstein based on a vivid dream she had.
- German physiologist Otto Loewi turned a belief into theory because of a dream. After being stuck for seventeen years on how to test his belief that nerve impulses in our bodies were chemical rather than electrical, he finally found his answer after a dream; he went on to win a Noble Prize for his work.
Always have a writing utensil and notebook next to your bed. Our dreams are something we struggle to remember even moments after they occur. In some instances when dreams were responsible for innovation, those who experienced them couldn’t even remember writing down their thoughts; they simply awoke the next morning to discover that they had written their dreams in the middle of the night.
About the Author: Allison Dean
Allison Dean jumped at the chance to bring us a guest post with tips for activating the creativity that exists in all of us. Allison saw the need for an educational resource that laypersons could depend on when they had legal problems, thus she spends her professional life writing about how to find legitimate medical malpractice lawyers and personal injury attorneys.