“Creative people as those who take bits of information from stores of memories, knowledge, and skills, or the environment around them, and combine them in novel ways”. – Shelly Carson, psychology lecturer and researcher at Harvard University.

Most of us don’t classify ourselves as creative, and the older we get, the more likely we’ll underestimate our creative abilities (…or is it that we’re more likely to give up the naïve notion that we’ll leave our mark on the world?). But author Jonah Lehrer says, “It’s a myth that creativity is a rare gift possessed by a lucky few. It’s a universal trait. We all have it, and that means we can all get better at it”. Yeah, there’s hope!

Both hemispheres of the brain are involved in the creative process: The right hemisphere is interactive and emotional, while the left hemisphere is orderly and detail-oriented. Scientists can now pinpoint when someone has a “light-bulb” moment by a burst of activity in both hemispheres. While some of us are wired to have original ideas, Carson says “we all need to recognize our creative abilities and exercise them…through practice and learning…The more stuff floating around in your cognitive workspace, the bigger repertoire of things your brain has to combine in original ways”.

But how to do it? First, gather information and explore the world around you. Push your boundaries and dare to be a bit fearless (I started this blog – does that count?)…

Once you have stocked up on information, relax (I like this idea) Our brains can only sift through so much information if you are too focused on an idea, or too plugged into external sources, like the internet. It’s tempting to throw out an idea before we have had time to fully process it. Ideas flow better when we don’t feel judged. Keep paper handy because when our brain is relaxed, inspiration comes and goes quickly. Does that mean all those scraps of paper with notes littering my house can actually help me organize, understand, and build on my ideas? Cool!

Finally, find your own creative process. Some of us work best after an aerobic workout (not me), first thing in the morning (not me), or right before bed. Hmm… I’m tired after all this research and writing…so I think I’ll take the “right before bed” suggestion and change it to “take a nap first”. Maybe I’ll wake up and feel creative…

References: How to boost your creativity: 10 tips from best-selling author Jonah Lehrer, by Sydney Loney, Chatelaine Magazine, August 2012

Unleash the Power of Your Mind: Four Women Who Have Done Just That, by Sydney Loney, Chatelaine Magazine, August 2012