Can Creativity Be Learned?

Most would agree that artful photography requires a fair amount of creativity. But is creativity something you’re born with? Or is it a process that takes hard work and dedication?

A few experts say anybody can be creative–it’s just a matter of finding something you’re interested in, something that inspires you, moves you, makes you think and want to create, then getting to work and doing it:

“Being a powerful creative person involves letting go of preconceived notions of what an artist is, and discovering and inventing new processes that yield great ideas. Most importantly, creators must push forward, whether the light bulb illuminates or not.” –PBS Off Book

The video above, How to Be Creative: Navigating the Creative Process, talks about the process of being creative and the factors involved, from taking ideas from others who have inspired you and transforming or combining them to come up with your own remixed version, collaborating with other creative minds, and being able to understand yourself and others.

Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. Cognitive Psychologist, says it’s not a simple left brain/right brain distinction; people who are more open to combining different associations from various brain networks tend to be more creative.

The Cognitive Stages of Creativity

Preparation: Lots of brain activity in areas associated with attention and deliberate focus.

Incubation: Where you let it go. Research shows that when you let your mind wander away from the task, when you return to it, you have more creative ideas.

Illumination: The stage of insight, where the connections subconsciously collide, then reach the threshold of consciousness.

Verification: When you think about your audience and craft the message so it’s best received by people, basically, you package it in the right way.

creative process

Author Julie Burstein says creativity is a process and that you have to expand your capacity for uncertainty. Actually, Burstein offers up a few tips on how to be creative:

  • Expand Your Capacity for Uncertainty
  • Develop Your Own Tools and Prompts
  • Understand How to Work
  • Keep at It

She says that one of the key elements is what the poet John Keats called “negative capability”: the ability to stay in a space where you don’t exactly know what’s going to happen next, the willingness to chase down ideas, and the understanding that not all of your ideas are going to lead somewhere–but that the experience of pursuing an idea will influence the next idea.

Do you feel as if you were born creative? Or is it something you’ve learned along the way?

“At the end of the day, if you keep pushing, you can eventually get some place that is beyond what you thought was possible.” –Kirby Ferguson, filmmaker

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One response to “Can Creativity Be Learned?”

  1. Donald Crais says:

    Enjoyed the article: will share with my beginning photography students. The article reinforced ideas I have regarding creativity and creative people. I believe that everyone has a resource of creativity. Some have easier access to those abilities. That access is significantly affected by environmental and negative societal bearing.

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