Creativity

The 7 Habits Of Highly Creative People

23 April 2018

From Medium:

The most commonly held belief about creativity is that it’s elusive, esoteric and unique only to the anointed few.

The ancient Greeks believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons. They called these spirits daemons. The Romans had a similar idea as well but called the spirit a genius.

Centuries later, not much has changed. The only difference is that we no longer attribute creativity to divine spirits, but to special individuals. We think that it’s only Beethoven, Picasso and Mozart who have creative genius.

Except that’s not true.

. . . .

1. Steal Like An Artist

There is a truth that the aspiring creative must first recognise. We need only turn to Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist, to learn this:

“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”

One must realise that the idea and inspiration for a piece of work comes from many sources at once. Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of previous ideas. It’s why, quoting Jonathan Lethem, Kleon writes that “when people call something ‘original,’ nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.”

Hence the recommendation — steal like an artist.

The good artist emulates the style of another as closely as he can. The great artist selects elements from others’ work and incorporates them into his own mix of influences. He does so tastefully, knowing that the right fusion will create something that is uniquely his, although not completely original.

. . . .

5. Give Yourself Permission To Suck

Creating more work sounds like a good idea in theory, but it’s difficult in application. The single and most important reason is that we don’t give ourselves permission to suck.

Stephen Pressfield knows this too. In The War of Art, he names the fear that all creatives have — he calls it the Resistance.

“The amateur, on the other hand, over-identifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright.Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over-terrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyses him.”

The problem is that we’ve been trained to tie our self-worth to our accomplishments. If that’s the case, who then, would willingly create a piece of work that would be used to judge him?

For this reason, Pressfield says that we must turn from amateur to professional. Only then can we produce truly creative work.

“Resistance wants us to stake our self-worth, our identity, our reason-for-being, on the response of others to our work. Resistance knows we can’t take this. No one can. The professional blows critics off. He doesn’t even hear them. Critics, he reminds himself, are the unwitting mouthpieces of Resistance.”

The way to creativity is to create a lot, and the way to create a lot is to give ourselves permission to suck. People will forget the mistakes and garbage we make, but will remember our best works.

Link to the rest at Medium

The key to surviving the forthcoming robot revolution

31 January 2018

From The New York Post:

Millions of Americans are fearful that robots will take their jobs.

And rightly so, say some recent studies. A 2017 study from Forrester Research projected that 25 million jobs will be axed from the US workforce over the next decade because of automation, but only 15 million jobs will be created in their place. Another widely cited 2013 study from Oxford University found that as much as 47 percent of the US workforce could be at risk of losing their jobs to automation within the next 20 years, particularly those workers in sectors like transportation, logistics and commercial retail.

. . . .

Other research takes a more optimistic view: A report out this week from professional services firm Accenture and the World Economic Forum projects that as few as 16 percent of jobs “are at risk of displacement … after accounting for potential job gains that would arise from the same trends.”

“There will obviously be some displacement, but I think, net-net, these technologies really allow for the expansion of human consciousness and the expansion of jobs,” said Brian Uzzi, a professor at the Northwestern University McCormick School of Engineering. “It shouldn’t be thought of as machines substituting for jobs, but it’s going to be about job growth in current areas.”

. . . .

Whatever the numbers ultimately turn out to be, they’re likely to worry people with no STEM or engineering backgrounds to speak of — the actors, writers, English and psychology majors of the world. The good news though: Even if you don’t have a tech background, automation may help you at work.

Indeed, Uzzi and other experts believe that the future for such workers will revolve around using AI to enhance their efficiency and productivity, rather than regarding it as a job-taking threat. These experts see the selling point of human labor as residing in humans’ trademark creativity, sympathy and intuition — qualities not even the most advanced of automatons can effectively replicate.

LivePerson is one tech firm that’s proving that people with non-STEM backgrounds can find work in this changing environment. The New York-based company, which creates chatbots for clients in sectors like hospitality or telecommunications, employs a battalion of trained actors and linguists to write the content that customers interact with digitally.

Whatever the numbers ultimately turn out to be, they’re likely to worry people with no STEM or engineering backgrounds to speak of — the actors, writers, English and psychology majors of the world. The good news though: Even if you don’t have a tech background, automation may help you at work.

Indeed, Uzzi and other experts believe that the future for such workers will revolve around using AI to enhance their efficiency and productivity, rather than regarding it as a job-taking threat. These experts see the selling point of human labor as residing in humans’ trademark creativity, sympathy and intuition — qualities not even the most advanced of automatons can effectively replicate.

. . . .

Bradbury and his team develop the chatbots’ voices and written content — “very much a different job,” he explained, than what their coworkers on the programming side do. He likened his company’s left brain/right brain structure, in which writers and engineers work side by side, to using Microsoft Word: “It’s a different job to write the words into the word processor than to build the code into the word processor [and] decide where the buttons go.”

Psychology is yet another industry already benefiting from AI, Uzzi said, pointing out emerging technologies that diagnose patients’ mental health challenges and aid licensed psychologists in developing treatment plans for them more expeditiously and effectively.

Link to the rest at The New York Post and thanks to Judith for the tip.

Is Creativity Finally Dead?

24 January 2018

From Medium:

Creativity has been on a downward spiral in many segments of society as a result of profound information overload. We can call up information on almost any topic with a few clicks of the keyboard. As a result, we’ve gained massive amounts of awareness into the way our world works and into things and people and places of which we would previously have never been exposed. And yet we’ve lost something, too: We’ve lost a sense of the powerful dangers of knowledge. We’ve lost the ability to create meaning and substance out of the power of not-knowing.

. . . .

Not long ago, there existed a phenomenon called “not knowing.” Pre-internet, there were times when “I don’t know” was not just an acceptable answer to a question—it was the only answer. Pre-internet, people would say, “I don’t know,” and move on with their lives, rather than immediately Googling the answer to whatever question was being asked. Sometimes you simply didn’t know and moved on with your life. Other times, you didn’t know, and so you created an answer by fashioning a story that explained things in a way that made sense to you. Mythology, world religion, and the earliest days of science, exploration, and discovery were all rooted in the attempt to craft a story that fit the reality mankind perceived to exist.

. . . .

With more access to more information than at any point in human history, society has become incurious and willfully ignorant about things that we should never have allowed to slip aside. Most damaging of all, an incurious culture is the fastest, most effective way to destroy creativity and genius.

. . . .

In a time when people didn’t immediately know everything, society fostered curiosity, exploration, and discovery. The thrill of the new was sparked by a dissatisfaction with a lack of knowledge or understanding. The creative process began, and still begins, from a place of curiosity and not-knowing.

Link to the rest at Medium

PG will suggest that “incurious cultures” have abounded throughout history. Indeed, incurious cultures may be the historical norm with few exceptions.

PG further suggests the curiosity of individuals has proven far more important than the curiosity or lack of curiosity of the cultures in which they lived although a wealthy culture could fund (or crush) the curiosity of creative individuals.

Wealthy cultures can attract creative individuals by supporting their efforts. Due to the business creativity of the Medici family, Florence became a prominent center of medieval trade and commerce. The Medici Bank was the largest bank in Europe during the 15th century due to innovations in financial accounting and bank management, with branches in Rome, Venice, Geneva, Bruges, London, Pisa, Avignon, Milan, and Lyon, some of which were formed as limited liability partnerships.

What we would today call the Trust Departments of the Medici banks managed large portions of the funds owned by the Roman Catholic Church and many wealthy European families.

Medici wealth attracted great artists, sculptors and architects to Florence, including Brunelleschi, Donatello, Ghiberti, the Della Robbias, Filippo Lippi and Angelico, Botticelli, Paolo Uccello, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

The bank’s network helped support the Medici patronage of the arts. For example, Cosimo de’ Medici forwarded money from Florence through the Pisa branch so Donatello could pay for marble.

Adult coloring class promotes creativity and camaraderie

21 January 2018

From the Sioux City Journal:

At age 76, Kris Bergstrom is finally getting in touch with her inner artist.

“I never considered myself to be artistic in the past,” she said, methodically coloring in intricate patterns with a pencil, “but I’m amazed at how relaxing coloring books can be.”

No, you read that right.

Bergstrom is one of the regulars for Coloring Corner, a weekly class held every Wednesday at the Siouxland Center for Active Generations.

“When I heard about this class, I couldn’t believe my ears,” Bergstrom’s sister Kathy Anders, 65, admitted. “C’mon, coloring books at our age? Before we knew it, we were both hooked.”

. . . .

A former teacher before she married, Card dabbled in different forms of art. But the 70-year-old never tried her hand at drawing.

“I like the creative challenge of drawing,” she said. “Even more than that, I like spending time with my friends. Every member of the Coloring Corner has become friends, since there’s so much camaraderie in this group.”

. . . .

Miriam Clayton, 84, can’t help but smile when Wickstrom mentioned the marketplace for art.

“You know it’s the book publishers who are making millions of dollars by selling coloring books,” she said. “Go into any book store and you’ll see coloring books aimed at every age and every interest.”

“When I was a kid, coloring books were inexpensive,” Card interjected. “This isn’t the case anymore.”

Link to the rest at Sioux City Journal

Real Worlds, Possible Worlds and Fantasy Worlds

10 January 2018

From The New York Times:

The act of reading alters your brain. It does so, first, because your thoughts are brain processes. When you read, neural patterns come and go as the words pass before you. Some of those patterns also give rise to memories, subtle molecular changes in cells and the signaling mechanisms that link them. And third, your brain is physically transformed by learning to read. The networks that underlie vision and language are changed. Even people who become literate in adulthood, as a team led by the French neurobiologist Stanislas Dehaene has shown, acquire differences that are visible in a brain scan. With and without literacy, the brain is the same basic organ, with the same shape and chemistry, but a reading brain is different in ways that count. As Cecilia Heyes says in her forthcoming book, “Cognitive Gadgets,” if one didn’t know that reading is a recent human invention (literate culture is perhaps 5,000 or 6,000 years old), a skill passed on through learning in each generation, it would be easy to mistake the brain patterns seen in reading as evidence for a genetically encoded reading instinct or “innate module.”

. . . .

E. O. Wilson’s new book, “The Origins of Creativity,” is about the role of the humanities in an intellectual culture increasingly dominated by science. Wilson values the humanities, but he wants them to have closer ties to some of the sciences, an argument that draws on his view of the relationships between human biology, thought and culture. “It is becoming increasingly clear,” he says at one point, “that natural selection has programmed every bit of human biology — every toe, hair and nipple, every molecular configuration in every cell, every neuron circuit in the brain, and within all that, every trait that makes us human.” But reading itself, the reading of books like his own, shows that this isn’t true. The circuits of the brain are changed by literacy, and the molecular configurations in countless cells are being altered as you pick up new ideas from the page, as they make their way into your memory. If what Wilson says were true, there would be no point in reading, in trying to learn songs or engage in many other activities. We’d have little resemblance to humans at all.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Driven to Draw: Creativity Erupts from Brain Insult

9 January 2018

From The Mission:

After eating one banana at 10’oclock precisely, she begins furiously drawing on the nearest blank sheet of paper. Her hand moves as if possessed, compulsively and rapidly sketching the same inane subjects from the day before. The irrepressible urge to create results in a complete neglect of her personal hygiene. Later, she gathers her pictures in a neat pile and binge eats an entire box of cookies. This isn’t a starving artist preparing for an opening show. This is Mrs. YCFZ, an 83 yr old patient never notably interested in art, diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia.

Mrs. YCFZ isn’t the first documented case where an urge to create erupted out of brain damage . . . ; yet the explanation for this sudden obsession for producing art baffles scientists. Creativity, from a neuroscientific perspective, is defined as the ability to produce a work that is both original and valuable. The brain part used in this endeavor is the prefrontal cortex (PFC).

. . . .

The PFC has a big job. It is connected with sensory systems involved in perception and receives information about past events and connects them to long-term memory circuits. As part of the limbic system it modulates emotions and motivations programs and performs plans of actions. In other words, “seeing” that art piece in your mind, planning what materials to use and then executing is all due to this little piece of grey matter. It is understandable then, that impairment of the PFC would result in a creative drought. Yet, clinical evidence says it is not so.

. . . .

The artists were not informed of the mental status of Mrs. YCFZ — they were only told to grade the drawings in front of them. Even though her cognitive ability deteriorated over the course of those three years, her creative capacity had not.

. . . .

She scored higher from her first to her last drawings; especially in measures of novelty and abstraction.

Link to the rest at The Mission

Creativity grows by blending, breaking, bending

12 November 2017
Comments Off on Creativity grows by blending, breaking, bending

From The Houston Chronicle:

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and an adjunct professor at Stanford University, best known for his work on brain plasticity, which has led to television appearances and programs, and, of course, best-selling books.

. . . .

Anthony Brandt is a composer and music professor at Rice University, the recipient of a Koussevitzky Commission from the Library of Congress and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s also the founder of Musiqa, Houston’s contemporary music ensemble.

They combine their interests and talents in the book “The Runaway Species,” a fascinating look at creativity across diverse disciplines.

. . . .

Q: You use a framework for creativity in your book, and you discuss the concepts of “bending,” “breaking” and “blending.” Can you discuss these?

Anthony Brandt: “Bending” is taking a source and messing with it in some way, as when a jazz band plays the same song they played every other night, but they do it in some other way. It’s a variation on a theme. “Breaking” is when you take a whole, break it apart and assemble something new out of the fragments. In the book, we use the example of Picasso’s “Guernica,” in which the artist used bits and pieces of animals, soldiers and civilians to illustrate the brutality of war. And “blending” is any time you are marrying two or more ideas. In the book, we have an example of “Ruppy the Puppy,” the world’s first transgenic dog. He has a gene from a sea anemone, and he turns a fluorescent red under ultraviolet light.

. . . .

Q: The book also describes tension in the human brain between being drawn to the familiar and the lure of exploration. Can you elaborate on that?

Brandt: People aren’t the same in the way they balance novelty and familiarity, but everybody has creative software running in their brain, and they are all capable of aligning themselves on that creative spectrum and being participants in it. But the diversity in this tension, between exploration and familiarity, is healthy. We want a range of people, some of whom are pushing the envelopes, others who are holding back. We don’t want to rush headlong into every wild idea, but we also don’t want to stay rooted in one spot, never improving our lot.

Link to the rest at The Houston Chronicle

Oliver Sacks on the Three Essential Elements of Creativity

12 November 2017

From Brain Pickings:

Imitation, besides being the seedbed of empathy and our experience of time, is also, paradoxically enough, the seedbed of creativity — not only a poetic truth but a cognitive fact, as the late, great neurologist and poet of science Oliver Sacks (July 9, 1933–August 30, 2015) argues in a spectacular essay titled “The Creative Self,” published in the posthumous treasure The River of Consciousness.

. . . .

He writes:

If imitation plays a central role in the performing arts, where incessant practice, repetition, and rehearsal are essential, it is equally important in painting or composing or writing, for example. All young artists seek models in their apprentice years, models whose style, technical mastery, and innovations can teach them. Young painters may haunt the galleries of the Met or the Louvre; young composers may go to concerts or study scores. All art, in this sense, starts out as “derivative,” highly influenced by, if not a direct imitation or paraphrase of, the admired and emulated models.

When Alexander Pope was thirteen years old, he asked William Walsh, an older poet whom he admired, for advice. Walsh’s advice was that Pope should be “correct.” Pope took this to mean that he should first gain a mastery of poetic forms and techniques. To this end, in his “Imitations of English Poets,” Pope began by imitating Walsh, then Cowley, the Earl of Rochester, and more major figures like Chaucer and Spenser, as well as writing “Paraphrases,” as he called them, of Latin poets. By seventeen, he had mastered the heroic couplet and began to write his “Pastorals” and other poems, where he developed and honed his own style but contented himself with the most insipid or clichéd themes. It was only once he had established full mastery of his style and form that he started to charge it with the exquisite and sometimes terrifying products of his own imagination. For most artists, perhaps, these stages or processes overlap a good deal, but imitation and mastery of form or skills must come before major creativity.

. . . .

More than a century after Mark Twain declared that “substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources,” Sacks — who had previously written at length about our unconscious borrowings — adds:

All of us, to some extent, borrow from others, from the culture around us. Ideas are in the air, and we may appropriate, often without realizing, the phrases and language of the times. We borrow language itself; we did not invent it. We found it, we grew up into it, though we may use it, interpret it, in very individual ways. What is at issue is not the fact of “borrowing” or “imitating,” of being “derivative,” being “influenced,” but what one does with what is borrowed or imitated or derived; how deeply one assimilates it, takes it into oneself, compounds it with one’s own experiences and thoughts and feelings, places it in relation to oneself, and expresses it in a new way, one’s own.

Link to the rest at Brain Pickings and thanks to Anne for the tip.

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