The Easiest Way To Be A More Creative Person

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Fueled by a love of biographies about musicians and artists, Carolyn Gregoire, a senior writer at The Huffington Post, wanted to know what it was that made someone creative. So she teamed up with Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, a leading creativity researcher, to find out. "It was a cool opportunity for me to get a better sense of what makes creative people tick," says Gregoire, "and [find] that special sauce of creativity — which, it turns out, is not an easy thing to define."

Their book,Wired To Create: Unraveling The Mysteries Of The Creative Mind (officially out tomorrow), explains the characteristics that creative people have in common — and shows that anyone can be creative if we find a way to tap into those traits. To learn more about this, we asked Gregoire what it is that sets naturally creative people apart.

How do you define creativity?
"We believe self-expression is kind of fundamentally creative. This can take so many different forms, from the way we dress to taking a different perspective, finding new solutions to a problem. These are all things that involve creativity, even if we don’t think about them that way. So I think when we take a definition of creativity as writing a song or being able to create a beautiful painting, that’s a really limited sense of what creativity is. Really it’s the ability to openly express ourselves and see things in new ways."

What kinds of things do creative people do differently?
"One thing that creative people naturally tend to do is daydream. Creative people tend to be pretty intimate with themselves and to be particularly attuned to their own emotions, ideas, and memories. And daydreaming is this way that we can really get in touch with ourselves and let thoughts flow. It's often when we’re in that place where thoughts and ideas are coming up — but we’re not trying to control them — that those connections really take place.

"The biggest one is being open to experiences. This is a domain of personality which is the number one predictor of creative achievement in arts and sciences. It encompasses things like intellectual curiosity, being really moved by art and music, openness to fantasy, having imaginative tendencies and thrill-seeking. What unites these things is a drive to explore not only in one's outer world, but also in one's inner world. Pretty much all creative people are seeking out new experiences and knowledge, and are very driven to better understand themselves and the world — and to do that in a number of ways that enrich their lives, not just their creative work."

Creative people are very driven to better understand themselves and the world.

Carolyn Gregoire
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How can someone become more creative?
"Solitude is a great first step. If you’re not naturally someone who feels comfortable just letting your mind wander freely, solitude is a natural way to do that. Because when we’re alone — not alone on our computers, but really taking some time to chill and be by ourselves, that's when the mind gets to that place of settling down. And that's when creative incubation occurs."

Why are some people naturally more creative than others?
"I think most of it has to do with skill. Picasso had a technical level in skill that most people do not. But also a big thing is finding what you care so much about and really following it through. Someone who has a really developed creativity and becomes an artist in some fashion is someone who has found that thing that intrinsically motivates them.

"So [in the book] we talk about research around passion, which really revolves around falling in love with a dream. It’s not just about finding out that you like to play guitar, it's falling in love with this vision of yourself. What makes people really get to high levels of creativity is isolating that vision and then taking concrete steps towards it."

Anyone can find their own style of creativity.

Carolyn Gregoire
Is there anything that's more difficult for creative people?
"One thing we focus on in the book is that creative people can be very contradictory. They’ll score really high on a test of mental health and also on one of mental illness. They have these really wide-ranging traits that are sometimes at odds with each other, and that can create a lot of internal and external tension. [But] that inner tension can give rise to creativity — that need to make sense of yourself. The whole idea with doing creative work is to create meaning and make sense out of yourself and the world."

What do people get wrong about creativity?
"The idea that some people are creative and some aren’t. Really, that’s not the way it works at all. Creativity is a whole-brain process and draws on so many parts of the brain, thinking styles, and cognitive processes. This suggests that anyone can find their own style of creativity, because it isn’t just one way of being or another. It [encompasses] so many different skills and qualities that anyone can draw on in their own way."
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