Will marshmallows and chocolate help you compete in the Olympics? They can if you’re creative.
But how can you get a creative edge? First, always learn. Never quit reading. Constantly take courses. But most of all, believe in your creative potential (even if you can’t draw a smiley). This belief alone boosts creativity, according to Michael Michalko, author of Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius.
Here are some tips I learned for getting creative:
First, describe whatever you see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. When you describe your world, you train your mind to think like a writer. Take it further—seek names for common yet unusual things, like “tinder stone.” After all, clever writing demands detail.
Second, strive for quantity, not quality. A five-karat diamond stands no chance against a dozen one-karat diamonds topped with a ten-k. So, produce at least five original ideas every day, says Michalko.
Third, find similarities in unlike things. Infinite unlike things can be likened. For instance, a solar system can be likened to your hairdo. Or your hairdo to a virtual reality dome. By likening unlike things, you tap into original thinking. In other words, make analogies.
Fourth, use humor. In my opinion, Joe Toplyn (a late-night TV comedy writer) wrote the bible of comedy writing. His jokes rely on rules, list-making, and methods. So, to learn actual tools for honing creativity, read Toplyn.
Fifth, dream the impossible—and gun for it. Circumstances might turn ideal hundreds of years from now. Or they might have been ideal years ago. But even crappy soil produces crops, right? (Listen to philosophers. They say that whatever we imagine already exists—in another universe.) So, if you can dream it up, gun for it.
Michael Michalko relays these creative tips and more in his book Cracking Creativity: The Secrets of Creative Genius:
- Don’t rely on the past for creative solutions: “Interpreting problems through past experience will, by definition, lead the thinker astray. In order to creatively solve a problem, the thinker must abandon the initial approach that stems from past experience and reconceptualize the problem” (preview location 178, 65%).
- For greater creativity, strive for quantity over quality: “Dean Keith Simonton found that the most respected produced not only more great works, but also more ‘bad’ ones. Out of their massive quantity of work came quality. Geniuses produce. Period” (preview location 210, 77%).
- Liken the unlike for creative inspiration: “If one particular style of thought stands out for creative geniuses, it is the ability to … connect the unconnected by forcing relationships that enable them to see things to which others are blind” (preview location 222, 82%).
- In other words, “If unlike things are really alike in some ways, perhaps they are so in others” (preview location 233, 86%).
- Liken opposites, too: “David Bohm believed geniuses were able to think different thoughts because they could tolerate ambivalence between opposite or incompatible subjects” (preview location 233, 86%)
- Lastly, look for accidental outcomes: “When you find something interesting, drop everything else and study it. Too many fail to answer opportunity’s knock at the door because they have to finish some preconceived plan” (preview location 255, 94%).
Take comfort in the philosophers. You know, the ones who say whatever you dream up exists in another universe. That means somewhere you’re skiing a marshmallow slope and swimming a chocolate lagoon during the Sugar Olympics.