42 Truths About Creativity - Part 1

42 Truths About Creativity - Part 1

Creativity is like washing a pig. It’s messy. It has no rules. No clear beginning, middle or end. It’s kind of a pain in the ass, and when you’re done, you’re not sure if the pig is really clean or even why you were washing a pig in the first place.
— Luke Sullivan

We recently read The Creative Act: A Way of Being by the acclaimed music producer Rick Rubin.

You might not have heard of Rick, but you will undoubtedly recognise the names of the artists he’s worked with: Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Johnny Cash, Jay-Z, Adele, Ed Sheeran, and Kanye West. 

The book is a collection of his thoughts on creativity and the creative process, having helped so many musicians discover their best ideas. 

A few of us at 42courses had read the book, so it prompted a conversation about creativity and its meaning. 

The outcome?

We agreed that creativity is highly personal, but when harnessed correctly, it becomes a superpower capable of changing the world.

Below is our collection of ‘truths’ about this powerful skill.

Hopefully, they will give you a deeper understanding of your own creativity. 

1. It’s messy

The act of creation is not a smooth process, even if we would like it to be. It’s full of false starts, blind alleys and frustrations. And behind the final polished creation stands an enormous number of failures. 

2. It’s not just restricted to ‘artistic’ pursuits

You can be creative in any domain. Art, music and writing are the obvious forms of expression, but creativity is alive in engineering, technology, science, and more. There’s artistry in everything we do. 

3. It requires filling your mind with ideas

To have new ideas, you must first fill your mind with existing ideas. The more reference material your brain has, the more opportunities it has to make new connections. Try to use as broad a range of sources as possible. Don’t keep fishing in the same pond.

4. It should make you feel uncomfortable

Creativity requires vulnerability. But it’s the source of your most fantastic ideas because it makes you uncomfortable. Remember, all breakthrough ideas are initially ridiculed before being revered.

5. It’s something you were born with

Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative adult, you started out as a child with a wild imagination. The desire to create is part of being human. It’s in everyone. It’s just more dormant in some than others.

6. It involves questioning norms and conventions

To come up with something new, you must challenge what already exists. This requires a deep understanding of the domain you’re operating in. You have to learn the ‘rules’ before you’re ready to break them. 

7. It’s often the thing that you think will never work that does

Nearly all brilliant ideas sound crazy in the beginning. In fact, if your idea doesn’t spark debate, then it’s probably not worth pursuing. Resist the urge to self-censor.

8. It gets better with collaboration 

We are collaborative by nature. Exchanging ideas with others can spark fresh perspectives that lead to more interesting outcomes. So don’t be shy, share your work and invite feedback.

9. It’s a straightforward process, even if the outcomes are not

As the great ideas man James Webb-Young explained, the creative process follows a set of simple steps. But just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. As Kevin Ashton said, “Creating is an ordinary act; creation its extraordinary outcome”. 

10. It’s about ditching pre-conceived ways of solving problems

The Einstellung effect, or the ‘mental set’ effect, is a cognitive bias that occurs when you approach a problem with a preconceived mindset. This prevents you from considering alternative solutions that may be more effective. Therefore, try to approach every creative challenge with an open mind.

11. It’s meant to be fun

If you’re not enjoying yourself while coming up with ideas, you’re doing something wrong. A playful state helps you overcome any inhibitions which might otherwise block the flow of ideas.

12. It’s a series of ups and downs

The creative process is a roller coaster of emotions with extreme highs and deep lows. You must get comfortable with being uncomfortable and place great faith the the outcome will be worth the struggle.

13. It’s inexhaustible 

You can’t run out of ideas. Sure, you might have periods where you struggle to generate thoughts, but they’ll always eventually manifest. Be patient. 

14. It requires energy 

Being creative is hard work. It often involves late nights and weekends. It can become an obsession that takes over your mind. Make sure you set aside periods of rest to recharge sufficiently and avoid burnout.

15. It helps to have constraints 

Contrary to what you might think, constraints help the creative process. Limited resources or specific requirements stimulate innovative thinking by forcing you to find new solutions.

16. It thrives on randomness

Feeling ‘stuck’ is a common part of the process. If you find yourself in this situation, it can help to introduce some randomness. Try incorporating something utterly unrelated to your challenge and see if that unblocks your mind. 

17. It rewards keen observational skills 

The best creative minds are tuned in to the world around them. They’re constantly looking for inspiration and ready to notice anything that stands out. They are masters of spotting things that others overlook. 

18. It requires solitude 

Part of the creative process requires time on one’s own. Being alone is a chance to reflect. It allows the mind to mull over the individual threads of any idea and pull them together. 

19. It’s highly subjective 

You get to decide what to create because your ideas result from your unique experiences and perspectives. It’s you who chooses which direction to take your project. 

20. It requires discipline 

Creativity is like a muscle. You need to practice to keep your edge. You can’t wait for inspiration. Ideally, you should create on a daily basis and guard your creative time ferociously. 

21. It’s an iterative process

Where you end up is normally a very different place from where you start. Creativity is a sequence of changes and improvements. Your ideas evolve. They get better with each alteration. 

If you found the above helpful, you’ll love our Creative Thinking Course. Made in collaboration with some of the world’s greatest creative minds, it's packed with practical tools and tips to help unlock your creative potential. 

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