Creativity and work: 3 essential Components which make your work truly 'creative'
I wish we were taught about creativity in school. But fortunately, I studied architecture in college days and got a little bit closer to creativity and what it means to bring it into everyday work. Normally, we don’t think much about creativity unless we think of art, music, design, writing…etc.
But by the end of this post, you will understand that creativity can be brought into every mundane action of life.
If you are struggling for ways to become more innovative, imaginative and bring a personal touch to your work, this post is a good beginning for you.
Let’s understand the essential components of any creative work.
Components of a creative work
First, let’s understand that your mind is only a mass of information and memories that you have collected throughout life. Every thought you have is influenced by either something outside or some memory inside of you. You can never have an original thought. Every thought that you have is only a rearrangement of the information that is already there in your mind. Even in your dreams at night, it is only a rare and illogical composition of faces, places, and feelings that you have already seen.
Thus creativity is not about bringing something totally new and unknown. That is impossible since our mind itself is limited. No matter how vast, the mind has limited information. Creativity is about how uniquely you arrange your knowledge.
Information is available everywhere. It is useless on its own. Only when you mix information with your actions, reflections, and experiences that it becomes an insight. The value of any work is in the insight that it gives.
I have identified a few common elements that are needed to make creative work. These will help us understand the process of creativity better.
1.) Unique composition of various elements (An Idea)
Creativity starts with how uniquely you can compose your knowledge to give meaningful insights. For example, think of a broomstick. It has existed for a long long time. It was used to sweep the floors. But after you watched Harry Potter movies, your association with the broomstick was never the same! An ordinary household object was given a unique meaning in the world where a person could ride a broomstick and fly! The world is full of such examples.
- ‘Iron-man’ is an example of a combination of a living armor wrapped around a rich, genius man.
- Spiderman is a combination of a teenage boy with the abilities of a spider.
- Tom and jerry is a unique relationship of friendship between cat and mouse.
It takes imagination to create such unique compositions. Whenever you are free or find yourself in an unproductive situation, It is a good exercise to look around the objects and associate them with a unique meaning or a story that they can create.
Now I know that you also have great ideas, we all do. It is the easiest thing in the world to create ideas. If you start brainstorming, you can generate around 10 decent ideas under 1 minute for your next project.
But now think about this: I can imagine people upside down, waking with their hands, or I can imagine a skyscraper in the shape of an ‘S’ letter in the middle of the city. But is that a creative thought by itself? When such a bold form or imagination is in isolation, it doesn’t become impressive, it only looks out of place. Therefore we need to move on to the second step.
2.) Strong and logical relationship to context (Linking Ideas)
The second mark of creative work is that it always fits well in its surroundings. In architecture school, we were always told to think about the context in which we place our buildings. As innocent students, we used to look at some buildings designed in the other half of the world and apply the same thing to our design projects. Only in our later years, we learned to become more sensitive toward the context in which we placed our designs.
When I imagine people walking upside down, I also have to imagine what kind of cities and houses are created. I also have to redefine gravity, if there would be such a thing. I have to reimagine the shape and functions of the body which suit the new world. If I imagine a building in the shape of the letter ‘S’, I also have to imagine the surrounding buildings. Maybe the entire city can be made of letter-shaped buildings.
“I choose such notes that love one another.” -Mozart
The point is that a creative work or a character cannot be seen in isolation. For every unique association that we imagine, we also have to imagine where it fits the best. People flying on broomsticks don’t fit into a world where people are hungry for wealth, fame, and success. It fits best into a world of magical schools and sorcery.
Once you have an idea(s), the next step is to bring logic to that idea. Imagination on its own will become like a dream. It wouldn’t make sense no matter how beautiful. As beings of logic, we long for things to make sense. We are satisfied looking at an imaginative work that is somehow made perfectly rational and logical.
This is where questions are our best friends. ‘Why?’, ‘how?’, ‘what?’, ‘when?’, and ‘where?’ are the major tools for materializing our imaginations.
- If you are a writer and just created a story, ask “where does it work the best?”
- If you have imagined multiple characters, ask “How do I bring them together?”
- I am a chess player and I think about a move, I ask, “Why do I need to make this move? What purpose does it serve?”
There is no end to the questions we can ask, and often they lead us to a proper direction for making our ideas a reality.
Now you have used imagination to arrive at a unique idea and logical questions to materialize them. But you are still missing a central spine of any creative work. What is the meaning that you are trying to express?
3.) Expression of a very strong meaning/feeling
The process of using imagination and logic isn’t straightforward. You have to go back and forth to ideas and asking questions over and over again. In this messy process of creativity, there is one core meaning which always guides your decisions. Always ask, “What is it that you want to express?”
Creative work is not a need. It is an urge, a desire. We don’t need creative work for survival. We could have lived well without art, music, and paintings. And yet, we cannot imagine our life without it. Our desire for creative expression is the urge to bring the unseen and the unknown to the material world. Deep down we know that we are more than material and the only way to express that is to engage in creative work. Legendary architect Louis Kahn puts it in the best way:
“The creation of art is not the fulfillment of a need but the creation of a need. The world never needed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony until he created it. Now we could not live without it.” – Louis Kahn
Therefore think about that feeling or a deep meaning that you want to express through your work. All your ideas and questions are only to guide you to express that. Even If there is a sadness within you, the music that you make must express that feeling. All your decisions, from selection of scale, notes, chords to the combination of instruments must aid in expressing the sadness within.
I hope that this post has given you a new way of looking at your work. No matter how mundane, all actions can be done with the intention to express that which is deep within us. Even while walking in the street, a smile given to a stranger is an expression of gratitude for life. If you are always in touch with your being, you will always want to somehow express it in everything you do!
This post covered ‘what’ makes a creative work. In the next post, we will see ‘how’ we can start bringing more creativity into our work. Here I am attaching two posts from my previous blog to inspire the imagination and genius within.