How do we begin to think creatively?

creativity habits permission Oct 13, 2022
a threaded needle

If, as Dr. Edward deBono posits, the mind is a self-organizing, self-maximizing memory system, how do we jump out of our well-worn track and think differently?  

We decide.  We choose to be creative.

I remember a time when I chose to think differently. I had been in college studying finance, reading the Wall Street Journal daily, and managing a household with a husband and young son.  

Two weeks before graduation, I learned I was pregnant with my second child.  Then immediately after graduation in 1979, with my BBA in Finance in hand, we followed my husband’s new career to a different state.   

But ooops, employers at that time refused to hire a pregnant woman, especially one with designs on a management track.

Stuck with no options

So there I was. 

I had this sparkling new degree with a continuing revved-up drive to learn and grow,  and everywhere I turned was a closed door.  Societal norms had rewarded me with walls that locked me in.  

 My 10-year old son was in school and sports.  My husband was launching his career and worked all hours.  I was alone all day in a 2-bedroom apartment in a strange city with nothing but housework to occupy my mind.  (Insert primal scream….). 

Believe me, that place was o.r.g.a.n.i.z.e.d!

Deep down, I knew it wasn’t a permanent situation. This baby was going to be born and I was going to launch a career when the time was right.  In the meantime, though, I desperately needed a lifeline.  

So I decided to use that time as a gift.

The decision

To stay sane, I began exploring every creative medium that interested me.  

Being a fiber person, I tried needlepoint and learned counted cross stitch.  Like crochet, these skills are mathematical and were very satisfying.  I began using yarn in my crochet and created wall hangings and window coverings instead of thread doilies.  I learned to knit.  I hooked a rug. 

At Christmas, I designed, baked and decorated a gingerbread house from scratch.  I made every Christmas present with my own hands (a tradition I continue as much as possible even today.)

At the library, I focused on the classics and read Hemingway, Dickens, Vonnegut, Steinbeck, and many others.  I steeped my brain in great literature.  I tried my hand at poetry.

The Creative Pause

The first step in learning to think creatively is to simply stop and make an effort.  deBono calls this exercise the Creative Pause.  

We don’t need outside forces to make that decision. 

Simply decide to take a Creative Pause every day.  This is how we retrain our brain to think creatively.  Even when we believe the opposite, that we are not creative, or talented, or an artist.

deBono notes that the concepts we have around creativity idolize the creator as one with “aesthetic sensibility, emotional resonance and a gift for expression.”  We forget that there are many more misses than hits as an artist develops.

Letting go of perfection is essential.  He suggests when we set the goal on perfection it is certain to cause us to abandon the entire exercise.  

Instead, reward the effort.  Simply commit to putting in the time and allow the results to be as they may.  This practice allows the mind to acclimate to thinking differently and can be practiced at will.

Did I become an “artist?”  Did I uncover a hidden talent?   No.  I did not.  But I do look back on that time of isolation and disruption with fondness.  It increased my confidence, it stretched my imagination and it built skills I would have never attempted otherwise.

Even though I didn’t have the language for it then, I had given myself a Creative Pause, the first step in leading a life of expression and joy.  

That two-year time frame gave me so much.  By focusing on the effort, the learning experience itself, it tickled new thinking pathways.  I had permission to experiment and play without expectations.

When we commit to our creativity, we open a new door to joy.  A Creative Pause is the first step.

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