Creativity is generally thought to be successfully taught through the psychological creativity techniques such as:
Alex Osborn‘s “brainstorming” (1950s to present), Brain storming is simply a technique to let go of the judgmental mind. It is a very good as an exercise because it can be initially fun and fun always allows stymieing self-judgement to be eased. However, brain-storming is a chaotic technique and so few ideas of worth come from it.
Edward de Bono‘s “lateral thinking:”
- idea-generating tools intended to break current thinking patterns—routine patterns, the status quo
- focus tools intended to broaden where to search for new ideas
- harvest tools intended to ensure more value is received from idea generating output
- treatment tools that promote consideration of real-world constraints, resources, and support
There are three problems with the lateral thinking guides. One is that they encourage the idea that traditional critical thinking and logic are outmoded, not needed, and do not support creativity. The next is there is no mention about when particular techniques should be implemented. The third is the assumption that using these techniques without building skill in them will yield creative levels as high and useful as when the techniques are practiced enough to become second nature.
- Genrikh Altshuller‘s Theory of Inventive Problem Solving consists of task analysis, process analysis; doing the opposite as device in experimentation; use medium according to its best function; organize similar parts; get double work (function) out of parts; problem aspects compensate through using opposite to balance or have it interact; re-orient use of problem aspects to make the problem its strength; cut what is not vital; work-economy of movement etc.; at optimum output all of the time; varying tempo (sometimes go really fast); use what you have if you must (“copying”); use simplest means; use only what’s needed; do it in a different way, and other items of creative techniques.
The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) was a catalog of forty or so creative techniques compiled by the Soviet inventor and science-fiction author Genrikh Altshuller, who imprisoned for twenty-five years for criticizing his government. Altshuller’s catalog of techniques triggered interest in creativity worldwide and provides a fairly exhaustive list of creative techniques and a logical and insightful means of discussing them. Most of the elements of TRIZ have been used in formal arts training for thousands of years.
Artists usually feel that the most effective approaches to creativity are the methods taught in the schools of creative arts, methods which tend to begin with basic skills such as looking in fine art, listening in music, and doing in acting. Literally years are spent learning how to look, how to listen, and how to do. In other words what to look for, what to listen for, and what to do is taught. Skill in physical perception is requisite in creativity in the arts and this includes perception of one’s inner sensations. How many ways one knows how to look, listen, and do contributes to the level of creativity. While most artists are in a particular area of art–fine art, sculpture, theater, music, dance–within each of these there are different mediums to use. Further an artist must become skilled in the many techniques of their mediums. Indeed many artists strive to become skilled enough in a variety of media and rendering techniques that they can move effortless between them. This is important because the range of techniques allows different artistic problems to be solved. Knowing the history of art–the different types of arts and the world views behind them–is essential because the history of art gives examples of different types of mediums, their techniques, and why these mediums and techniques were chosen over others.
Artists often start with a subject or question and what about that subject or question moves them, what interests them. Then an approach is selected, what the point of view the artist will choose toward the subject or question, what artistic movement or school will help the artist answer her question. What the question is like is asked; that is, what analog or metaphor sums up the artist’s thoughts and feelings about the question. Then the artist will do a process analysis (even though they don’t generally know that term from engineering) to organize the materials and procedure to do the work. They also do a task analysis (again even though they don’t know this term from behavior analysis) to divide the work into stages that can be later successfully linked together into a whole.
Then comes the amazing part, the artist enters what I call the creative trance where they lose awareness of their surroundings and become only aware of their materials, what they need to do with their materials, and the idea they are grappling with. If they don’t have the technical skill to do what they want, they are apt to flounder and stop, stuck. But if they have the skill then every movement they make is totally fixed on using their medium to create a piece that expresses the idea and their emotion about that idea. While in this trance, the work of creating an art piece occurs swiftly because the artist allows her subconscious, her perceptions, her feelings to shape her work unfettered by the conscious mind’s judgementalism.
All environmental stimuli except the tools of artistic the medium and the artistic idea itself are blocked out, so that manipulation of the medium becomes one with the internally focused need to express. Writers speak of feeling they have entered a trance world where they feel they are within the story they write. Stephanie Barron, author of the Jane Austen Mysteries reported “my characters grow wings. They pick up the book and fly away with it, and I run after them, typing furiously, taking dictation as they tell me how things must be.”1 Michelangelo reported :
“The best artist has that thought alone
Which is contained within the marble shell;
The sculptor’s hand can only break the spell
To free the figures slumbering in the stone”2
Japanese potter Ahimsaby reported that he must “Let the clay do what it wants to do”3 and Mihara also reported, “I consider it my job to help the clay express its beauty. Clay leads, and my hands follow.”4
Interestingly, the creative trance mirrors scientific studies on dreams, for conscious dream states have been found to occur where the individual blocks out the environment and dreams, all the while remaining perfectly conscious.5 Indeed, dreaming has been defined this way: “we dream any time that the following conditions are met: (1) an adequate level of brain activation; (2) a shutting out of external stimuli; and (3) a shutting down of the self-awareness system that helps focus our minds when we are awake.”6 In each of the descriptions of the state of mind of the artist when creating, the artists tell of a shift of awareness from themselves to that of their art form, as though the medium itself has consciousness. They are reporting how they cease to be self-aware; their awareness is shifted, projected into the thing they are making. All that exists in moments of creative inspiration for the artist are the medium and the internal self’s focus on expression. Further, psychological studies of readers has discovered that for some people the experience of reading is like actually “being in the story” and this phenomena is referred to as being an “immersed reader.” This observation is particularly suggestive regarding artistic people because the phenomena of being an “immersed reader” does not happen to everyone. It happens only to some people, just as only some people are regarded as being truly artistically talented.
Depth of feeling is a component to creativity that is essential. The ability to be emotionally engaged with a problem or construction of a thing or performance is what attracts the subconscious to the task and provides the impetus to complete it. The subconscious is mostly concerned with the regulation of the body’s functioning. Emotion generates changes in the physical body. If the emotion is of pleasure, the body experiences well being and so wants to encourage this state. If the emotion is of worry or intense anxiety, then the physical alarm signals the need to quickly find a solution to what causes the alarm. Emotions are part thought, part bodily reaction. Great art is a result of some great emotion that must be expressed and shared. Great invention, novel invention is similarly rooted in emotion in that there is some need unmet felt by the individual and that need moves them to find a way to meet the need. The driving force behind creation is emotion. Attraction and fascination with ideas and problems as well as the need to sort out troubling ideas and problems are keenly felt emotions for artists, and these emotions allow for the sustained effort difficult problem solving and artistic creation requires.
Artists feel that intuition is central to creativity. Artists think of intuition not as a subjective, unreliable, emotional infiltration into conscious thought but as a source of sure guidance from the unconscious. “Intuition” to most artists is the fast and logical mental processing of the unconscious mind which is unimpeded by the judgementalism and criticism the conscious mind so often inflicts on its own thinking. Intuition, therefore, is to be sharpened and developed into an ever more reliable resource of mental processing. This is important because much of what makes up the creative state are physiological processes and sensitivities that have been heightened and developed by learning experiences that foster imaginative thinking. Artists consider certain psychological, physiological, and emotional abilities as components of creativity which when developed into skills become second nature to the artist, ultimately becoming part of intuition.
Artists consider the components of creativity to consist of inborn psychological-physiological tendencies, trained psychological abilities and skills, and a trained knowledge base in their art and all that relates to their art. Additionally, the cognitive ability to abstract, especially the ability to transpose elements and principles to another form or arena, is essential. The psychological-physiological tendencies and trained psychological abilities and skills are exceedingly important to artists as a component of creativity because artists feel that the creative person is first and foremost an individual of emotional depth. Emotional depth arises from an innate blend of acute sensory perception (seeing, hearing, feeling), acute physiological sensitivity, a natural attention to subconscious promptings of sensations and perceptions, a natural tendency to lapse into daydreams, and an above the norm ability to empathize. This innate blend of abilities must be further developed and trained so that the areas of empathy become more broad, skill in perception is increased, accuracy is attained in recognizing nuances of sensations, attention to subconscious promptings is refined, and daydreaming becomes skilled, controlled, and focused into a creative trance, a type of conscience dream.