‘Stay creative!’ insist dozens of essay writing guides.
‘We want creative team players!’ demand the world’s most successful companies.
‘Your project lacks creativity’, says your professor in chemistry. And this is not a joke! I’m just citing my advisor. That’s what he told me when I brought him a draft of my graduate paper. Honestly, it took me a really long time to figure out what place creativity can have within such science as chemistry.
Nowadays people who can boast of having good creative thinking skills are in amazingly high demand. But ironically, creativity is still associated with something only geniuses can possess. And merciless statistics claim that only 2% of our world’s population can be considered geniuses. I believe it’s quite unfair. Especially if we take into account too general criteria for selecting contemporary Einsteins or Michelangelos.
But a few days ago I came across a piece of really optimistic and encouraging news. Science has recently made a few remarkable claims. First, it’s that we all are able to think creatively but this ability may show itself in different circumstances. Second, it’s that we all can train ourselves to become more creative.
Or more imaginative, to be precise. Imagination is a blood sibling of creativity. But probably imagination is a few seconds older. Imagination helps generate an idea, while creativity finds the ways to bring it into being at its best.
Does it all concern art and literature only? Science says a big NO. Today it knows three interconnected types of imagination and can prove that each of us can nurture creativity. How is it possible?
Type 1. Creative Imagination
That’s exactly what helped Richard Wagner to compose his wonderful operas and Alexander Fleming to discover penicillin. That’s what we can actually call creativity in its pure form. And that’s what really should be referred only to art, literature or scientific discoveries and inventions.
However, not only artists and scholars can boast of having creative imagination. Although it’s still true that some of us are born more creative than others, the right environment and self-development can boost imagination in every personality. Experimental studies have demonstrated that toddlers can grow into really creative youngsters when they are regularly involved into creative activities and can interact with creative individuals.
Even if you are now in your 20s and feel that your childhood experience certainly lacked such involvement and interaction, it’s never late to catch up with them.
Let’s set a practical example. If you want to write a good essay on a complex topic, you can simply do some brainstorming with your friends. That’s what the right environment is. If you want to be good at writing in general, you can take some additional courses. That’s what self-development is.
What can add to your confidence that such measures can be truly helpful? Cognitive research comes up with a suggestion that the longer you have thought and learnt of or worked on an issue, making mistakes in the process, the better you become at generating original ideas and selecting the ones that will bring you success.
Simply and more practically put, the more essays you write, the better you get at going it. Truths are so plain, aren’t they?
If you still want a more scientific explanation, check what “divergent” and “convergent” thinking is. When you face a particular, complex topic or issue and can think of multiple ideas or solutions that are connected to it more or less closely, this is “divergent thinking”. It is always supported by your intuition (even if you believe it tends to betray you exactly when you need it most of all) and hence by your fast and automatic intuitive thinking.
However, your ability to evaluate those ideas and solutions for their correctness or usefulness within the topic or issue you face is provided by “convergent thinking”. The selection of the best idea is possible thanks to your slow and deliberate analytical thinking.
Each of us is born with all these types of thinking. The differences between their correlations make each of us unique. But what’s more important, we can upgrade these correlations through mere self-development. Because we all can be geniuses of our own kinds.
Type 2. Fantastical Imagination
If you forget about time when you’re painting or doing some experiments in the college lab, you can claim that you have fantastical imagination. It implies that you can get completely absorbed by an idea and that this idea will follow you wherever you go until you bring it into life in your picture or project.
Interestingly, fantastical imagination may not look like the most necessary ability that can boost your creativity because of its dark sides. Firstly, it is believed to increase daydreaming and hence to distract you from everyday plans and duties, shaking your perfect time management skills. Secondly, it can once turn into a tendency to escape of reality, especially as a response to any traumatic experience.
On the other hand, if developed in positive and healthful environment, fantastical imagination is a good source to feed narrative ability, perspective taking skills, and even creative imagination.
And here is another piece of good news for you! Such ability can be trained too. It’s not one of those innate things like risk-taking or empathy, though they can be developed either. Next time you’ll throw a party, try playing a role-playing board game. (But you’d better tell your guests about it in advance so they will bring some requisites with them, and you’ll have a really creative time.)
Or you can take an amateur drama course. It can help you not only to boost imagination but also to learn more about your personality. More importantly, such creative activity can improve your problem-solving and planning skills, as well as your memory consolidation.
Type 3. Episodic Imagination
It helps your mind visualize events by making use of episodic and real memory details, while fantastic imagination always tends to take you to fictional worlds.
With episodic imagination you can analyze the past better and learn from your mistakes, accumulating priceless life experience. At the same time, you can imagine the future and get yourself ready for it. By the way, there’s one compelling feature in our ability to think about ourselves, other people, and events in the future and not current reality.
If you want something good to happen, you must think not about this something but about the way it’s going to happen. For example, if you want to get an excellent grade for an essay, you must imagine not the moment you see “A+” on your paper but the process of writing – the correct and profound writing whose result can be only excellent.
What you should always remember is that the power of your thinking can be limited only by your own fear or unwillingness to imagine and to be creative. You have the potential, so all you must do is developing it.