Why You’re Creative: Deadlines

from morguefile.com

Would the great pyramids ever have been finished without deadlines? Or slave labor? Okay, this isn’t the best example

Procrastination helps keep you creative, but its opposite, the deadly hovering deadline, can do the same. Like the Sword Of Damocles, a seemingly bad threat, wielded properly, can drive you toward your goal. Continue reading


Why You’re Creative: Procrastination

without water, I guess. irrelevant.

Procrastination gives you an oasis.

No, I’m not saying procrastination is bad. I’m saying it helps you become more creative.

That’s right, we finally have a reason why you are more creative already! Well, if you procrastinate in the right way, at least. Here’s how procrastinating can help you become a more creative individual, and why it needs to be a certain type of procrastination.

Continue reading

Why You’re Creative: Deep Thinking

Unless you're Jack Handy

You have to have white hair to have deep thoughts.

As I mentioned earlier, the problems that hold people back from creativity are all fairly mundane. It’s nothing special. ‘Deep thinking’ is one of those mundane things that can really help you be creative. It refers to consciously focusing on your inner thoughts, as opposed to breezing past them in focus on the next task before you, such as eating that poptart or organizing those magnets.

Bogger Julie McCutchen explains this concept as deep listening, in a guest post about enhancing writing by accessing intuition:

One of the keys to unlocking intuition is deep listening. There are two components of this complete approach:
Outer listening involves listening to the world around you with curiosity about life, people and relationships …
Inner listening requires turning your focus inwards to what is going on deep inside you.
Take a few moments before you write to listen deeply.

Well, duh, you may say. It seems simple, right? But it can have genuinely useful results. It’s a truism because it helps. Truisms are cliched by definition, and can be a problem among advice websites. But with a little deep thought, you can get past the obvious state of a cliche and wheedle your path down to the truth beneath. Reshape it, and you’ve become a true creative.


Why You’re Creative: Be a Sports Commentator

sports to commentate on

“The ball appears to have stopped directly in front of the pins. There’s no movement at all. Still nothing. Nothing. Nothing… hey, wait a second. Is this a still? It’s a still shot! What’s with this screen?!”

To be creative, you need to emulate the sports commentator. Why? Here’s Gene Perret, a comedy writer since the 1960s, on the subject:

“I’ve always been fascinated in watching sports on television at how sharp-eyed some of the commentators are. When I watch bowling, I just see the pins “explode.” The commentator, though, tells you exactly where each pin went. When I watch diving, I don’t know how many turns and spins that diver took. My eye can’t follow it. But the commentators know.

It’s not that their eyes are sharper and quicker; it’s just that they know what to look for, how to look for it, and where to look. They’re tuned in to that sport.”

Gene was talking about the importance of tuning in to comedy in order to write it, but the same principle applies to creativity in general. After all, comedy is about creativity: you need to catch the audience off-guard in order to surprise them into laughing, and unexpected connections are the mainstay of creativity.  Don’t worry about your quality at first, because it’ll be terrible. But the more you focus on making connections, the better you’ll get at it.

Why You’re Creative: The Series

Creativity doesn't really look like much of anything, really

Creativity looks like a light bulb.

There are certain basic problems in life that everyone tends to face. They seem obvious, yet trip up millions of people all the time. This is particularly true in the realm of creativity, as most people are convinced that they can’t be creative.  In reality, they’ve just gotten tripped up on issues that should be clear, but are a little more tough to unearth than people think. Creativity is possible for everyone, and it’s like a muscle. The more you focus on training it, the bigger and better it becomes.

There are several misconceptions about creativity: that it requires special knowledge; that descends on people from above, in a manner similar to Dr. House suddenly realizing the root of his patient’s disease seven minutes before the episode ends; that it alone with bring success in life. In reality, determined people can be creative, and slackers won’t be. Everyone should be at least a little creative. Adding creativity to your interpersonal interactions makes you a fun, engaging personality, and that will help everyone in any walk of life.

I’ll be starting a series of posts here about the problems that keep everyone from being creative. Pay attention to them, and look for them in your life. With a little constant effort, you can be creative, too!

The Creativity of College Cheating

from Morguefile.com

Academic honesty has faced plenty of problems over the years. They have all been people. People are the biggest problems because they can always think up new ways to go about getting what they want. If a college course is too tough in their eyes, hundreds of options open up, and only one of them is honest. There’s a reason cheating has never been stopped, and that’s human ingenuity.

Cheating hasn’t really been studied in depth, since it’s in so many forms, but the fact that cheating depends on creativity has been addressed. One paper, published by the University of Michigan in 2006 and titled How College Students Cheat On In-Class Examinations: Creativity, Strain, and Techniques of Innovation, “examines the variety of creative tactics that students use to cheat during in-class examinations.” I’ve culled the most fascinating examples given, all of which prove that cheaters are a lot more cunning than you might think.

Disclaimer: Cheating is of course not a good idea, and often has drastic penalties. Don’t consider this a suggestion, but a cautionary exploration.

1. Learn the teacher’s interests.

Says one student interviewed:

What I mean by that is notice if he brings a magazine or newspaper and if he does this everyday. If you see him reading something on campus, notice what it is and how long he’ll read than look up. Bring a watch. Most people begin reading something they like and forget what they are supposed to be doing and in about 5 minutes they’ll look up to see where they are or look at their watch to remember what they have to do. After you notice these things a few times your set. If you are going to a test and he comes in with a magazine or paper he read daily or every other day you got him. You’ve already studied his reading habits and you know about how often he’ll look up at the class. Say he looks up about every 3 minutes. You know you have at least 2 minutes to cheat so now you got him. He is unaware of his thought less routines or habits so the chance of getting caught in virtually gone.

2.  The Flying Ducks method

Another student shares one of my favorites:

I found [one] method relying on several parties in an auditorium setting. I call this method the flying ducks formation of test taking. You need a few people in order to make this procedure work. A person who studies or is a scholar is needed for this procedure. What happens is the scholar sits in front of the pack of students and takes the test as though nothing is happening. Two people sit in front of the pack of students and takes the test as though nothing is happening. Two people sit in the next row over his shoulder in a formation and compare or copy the test from him. Then in the next row, two people sit to the left over and the right over and copy the test. When looked from above the students sit in a V-formation as though they are a flock of ducks migrating to the south. This procedure works best in auditorium classes that has a slope in it, because it is easier to look at someone else’s paper.

3. Signs

Two students share similar stories:

Another method of cheating that was successful on multiple choice tests for a while was using signs. This would work in the classes that had students facing each other. For example, I would watch a student and he or she would signal me the answer by touch the nose for A, touch the chin for B, the ear for C, and finally touch the top of the head for answer D. This method was harder so we had to pay attention and stay on the same question.

I had a huge exam in physics coming up and had no time to study. So I devised a plan with a friend in that class. The plan was to cheat on the exam through silent communication. The way we decided to do this was to give each object on our desk a certain letter meaning. A would be a pencil, B would be a pen, C would be a calculator, and D would be the actual test. When either one of us didn’t know the answer to one of the questions we would knock the number of the question out lightly on the desk and wait for the other to pick up the object with the letter of the right answer assigned to it. It worked beautifully and the teacher never knew what happened. We both passed the test and were never caught.

How the economy is ruining Hollywood creativity (such as it is)

   “To be fair, economics is to blame for some of the decrease in creativity. A movie studio can make more money with a sequel than a gamble on something creative.” ~Scott Adams, The Heady Thrill of Having Nothing to Do, August 6, 2011

"It says right here that it's 'a hit.' What could go wrong?"

The solution: pick an old topic, freshen it up, and pitch it. Turn a dumb board game into a good movie, and you’ll be able to create a solid work in today’s economy.

21 Jumpstreet is a great example: it’s ostensibly based on an 80s shows, but only shares the very basic premise and a few (hilarious) homages which only serve to make the rest of the original story even more fun.

Hollywood’s already covered remakes, prequels, superheroes, kid’s cartoons, Dr. Seuss books, toys, even board games – the next cash cow, judging from The Great Gatsby and Les Mis, is classical literature. And, as we transition to the inevitable ‘movies based on cereal mascots’ phase of Hollywood’s game plan, the only successes will be those who can embrace reality and craft a stellar story around a terrible terrible concept.