Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Time Management Tuesday: Will Spending Time Being Creative Make Me More Creative? And What Is Creativity, Anyway?

 I ended last week's post with the question "Does creativity lead to creativity?"  I think it's a significant question (I would. I asked it.) because it relates to the whole writing every day issue. Writing every day does make it easier to stay in a project, as Sussman said in the article I quoted last year. It encourages break-out experiences, which are creative acts. But does doing creative work regularly actually make people more creative? Is it like working a muscle that gets stronger with use? Because if it does, then maybe those of us who aren't able to write every day really ought to be making a bigger effort to find time to do so.

Perhaps we should first consider what creativity actually is. Over the years, I've heard many people limit the term to the arts. Only writers, artists, and musicians could be creative. However, many people create things where a thing didn't exist before. And coming up with a solution to a specific problem when no solution existed before is a creative act. Evidently PBS did something on creativity and flow as part of series called This Emotional Life. That program's definition of creativity is "the ability to generate new ideas and new connections between ideas, and ways to solve problems in any field or realm of our lives."

But can we get better at generating new ideas and new connections between ideas by spending time generating new ideas and new connections between ideas? You can find lots of tip-type advice on how to become more creative--things along the lines of listen to classical music and don't watch TV. (Lots of people are down on TV as being a creative act, by the way, which is intriguing because the material on TV was created by somebody. Even programming that strikes us as uncreative, such as the multitude of real housewife programs and the twenty-somethingeth home design show, was created by somebody. We have to remember that the first creepy little girl beauty pageant show was a new idea. I'm not saying it was a good one. Also, the whole classical music  is good and TV is bad thing is not a new idea. Not a creative suggestion, I would suggest.) But the closest thing I'm finding that might be said to address my question about time spent creating influencing creativity is the 10,000 hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.

Gladwell wrote that it took 10,000 hours of work to achieve mastery in a field. (Some argue that he was talking about mastery at an extreme level, so most of us wouldn't need to practice quite that much.) Lisa Cron in Wired for Story refers to the late Herbert Simon's estimate that it takes 10 years to master a subject, by which point a person would have absorbed around 50,000 pieces of information. (Kind of makes you wish you'd started keeping track of all that learning, doesn't it?) But weren't both these people talking about skill and knowledge rather than creativity? Is there an impact of all that work on a person's ability to generate new ideas?

If you've been around here much, you will realize that I'm not done with this. But I've accepted that I will need to move on to a new time management topic next week while I'm continuing to obsess on this creativity business.

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