Where does creativity come from?

Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.”

During my Industrial Design Engineering studies, I learned how to look more broadly, to seek solutions outside the more obvious realm of the problem. One subject I remember was called Creative Problem Solving in which unfamiliar techniques were applied, like dressing up, role playing and viewing angles from unrelated areas, such as nature. Though a little bit weird, the processes applied often yielded useful results.

But even before that I enjoyed applying imagination to create. As a child and in my youth I would draw the most fantastic aliens and build anything and everything with lego. I fabricated pirate ships from cardboard and constructed crazy hot wheel tracks for my matchbox cars. Our pet rabbit Mo enjoyed play-pen creations and I would make bamboo boats with my brother during holidays. On the beach, I would build castles of sand, and whole villages as well as ball-tracks with bridges and tunnels. Creative huts of straw, wood or snow would function as HQ’s of imagination. I wrote stories at primary school, inspired by the fantastic Mr. Gunnell, who would make wondrous illustrations on the classroom chalk-board to accompany his story-telling antics.

In fact, I cannot ever remember not imagining and creating. A quote from Maya Angelou was; “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Like a sponge, I would soak it all up before wringing it all out. Inquisitive and observant I would unconsciously study the most beautiful forms and study the strangest refractions. I would digest books like snacks and become absorbed in nature, walking for miles with friends, our dog or alone. It was Bernard Shaw who said; “Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.”

Encouragement from others obviously helps, but aside from good observation skills and a healthy imagination, a desire to create requires hard work and perseverance. Any artist will need to cast aside the guilt of time-consumption, must disregard any notion of failing and ignore the inevitable criticasters. The only things that matter are the enjoyment of the creative process and the fulfilment of achieving a result. This doesn’t just happen by its self though, and I refer to Jack London who said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”

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