Unleash your creativity | Sunday Observer

Unleash your creativity

11 September, 2022
Rose meditative, a painting by Salvador Dali
Rose meditative, a painting by Salvador Dali

Have you ever questioned yourself whether you are a creative person? Like most people you may not have done so. That means you are probably not creative. However, we have been taught that creativity is a rare commodity and only a few people can claim to be creative.

There are artists but all of them may not be creative. Is creativity something rare and mysterious? How do you identify creative people? Can we learn creativity like any other subject? It is very difficult to find answers to such questions. That does not mean there are no answers. Only a creative person will be able to find the answers.

Answers to these questions come from cognitive psychology, the branch of psychology that focuses on the study of higher mental processes including thinking, language, memory, problem solving, knowing, reasoning, judging and making decisions.

Creative people have the ability to generate original ideas or solve problems in novel ways. If you look at any piece of activity, you will find creative people solving day-to-day problems and going forward. If you are not creative, the problems you face may appear to be formidable.

One day a teacher asked a class of young students to write the uses of a newspaper. Most of them wrote that newspapers brought news, features, cartoons and advertisements. However, a ten-year-old boy wrote something different: “You can read it, write on it, dash it down and paint a picture on it. You could put it in your door for decoration, put it in the garbage can, and put it on a chair if the chair is messy. If you have a puppy, you put a newspaper in its box or put it in your backyard for the dog to play with. Put a newspaper on the floor if you have no mattress, use it to pick up something hot, use it to stop bleeding, or to catch the drips from draining clothes. You can use a newspaper for curtains, put it in your shoe to cover what is hurting your foot, make a kite out of it, and shade a light that is too bright. You can wrap fish in it, wipe windows or wrap money in it.”

Creative thinking

The teacher hailed him as a budding creative writer. Think of your own school days. Were there any creative students in your class? There would have been only a few of them. Although most psychologists say that creativity can be taught and learnt, there are a few factors leading to creative thinking. One of them is divergent thinking which produces responses that are based on knowledge and logic. If you ask a person who relies on divergent thinking, “What can you do with a newspaper?” he would say, “I’d use it as a dustpan.” It is a creative response you never expected.

Creative people like intricate and complex thinking patterns. Unlike ordinary people, they have a wide range of interests. They are interested in psychology, philosophy and abstract thinking. However, psychologists say intelligence is not closely related to creativity. For instance, they will not do well in traditional intelligence tests which may penalize their divergent thinking.

After more than two decades of laboratory research, psychologist Robert Epstein concluded that creativity is within everyone’s reach. He has experimented with children, parents and teachers to understand the pattern of creative thinking. If you want to unleash your creative potential, you have to master certain strategies.

Capturing new ideas

One such strategy is the capturing new ideas fleeting like birds. In fact they streak through your consciousness. If you do not grab them, they will fly away. Those who are serious about improving their creativity should explore the ways and means of preserving new ideas which cannot be created but gathered.

You may have heard of Salvador Dali, the great surrealist, who used to grab ideas for his paintings from the fertile semi-sleep state called ‘hypnagogic.’ He used to sit in an armchair and hold a key over a plate kept on the floor. When he falls asleep, the sound of the key hitting the plate would awaken him. He would then sketch the bizarre image he had seen.

It is not difficult to find creative people in society and what they do. Writers carry notebooks and artists are armed with sketch pads. Today some of them carry laptops. When they cannot find their notebooks, they would simply make notes on napkins and candy wrappers. Do not think that they are crazy people.

Most of us see dreams at night, but nobody cares to record them. We also see daydreams. Psychologists say that you should capture every daydream in order to be a creative person. Daydreaming is quite easy and fascinating. Close your eyes and let your mind wander freely.

Relax and allow the mind to conjure up any thoughts without your guidance. In a daydream you can travel to other planets, go round the earth or make a trip to the moon. When you do so, you will experience moments far from reality. That is the beginning of creative thinking.


Many years ago I conducted an experiment at a leading private institute. All the students, most of them young adults, were asked to close their eyes and start daydreaming. After the session one student said, “I flew to the top of a building in the city and saw it crumbling down.” Others too described similar experiences.

Capturing such daydreams is easy but we do not make an attempt to record them in our journals. For some creative people the three B’s of creativity – bed, bath and bus – are fertile, especially if you are in the habit of recording the impressions. A well-known lyricist composed a song on the back of a bus ticket as he did not have his notebook at the time. The song became very popular. For a creative person the place does not matter much to get ideas. Even while cycling along a village road you can get fresh and creative ideas.

I have experienced failure in many examinations. Although I was considered a bright student I could not pass my SSC (Senior School Certificate) examination in the first attempt. Later I found that such failures can be a wellspring of creativity. When failure hits you like a bomb, you get frustrated. According to psychologists, frustration is an important ingredient for creativity. After a failure we go along different paths vigorously enhancing our creative powers.

Creativity is not something mystical. It is an extension of what you already know. Very often we find it difficult to open a door or a padlock. However much you try, some doors and padlocks do not open. Then you start turning the keys vigorously. Sometimes you may have to shove or kick the door. It is ok to shout for help because you in a difficult and challenging situation. All your efforts will lead to a solution.

Ultimate problems

We face many ultimate problems which seem to have no solution. If you have lost your job and you have to feed your wife and children, you are in a frustrating situation. You may not favour such situations but they are really necessary for life. When you are frustrated you are in the company of great poets and inventors. Archimedes was really frustrated when the king asked him to find whether the goldsmith had defrauded him when he made his crown. He thought of it for many days and finally found the solution. He was so happy to have found the solution that he jumped out of the bathtub and ran along the street naked shouting ‘Eureka!’ (I found it).

To become a creative person you need knowledge and diversity. To gain knowledge, you have to study many subjects you know nothing about. Some people read only one type of books. I had a colleague who had a library full of Agatha Christie’s detective novels. He had not read anything else. He should have expanded his knowledge by reading books on other subjects as well.

There are certain ways to boost your creativity. In one of my foreign trips I bought a bronze image of Rama and Sita. When you keep such items on your table they promote new ideas. Why do we take the trouble to enhance our creative powers? The main reason is to solve our problems at home and at the workplace. Creative people are great problem solvers and you are welcome to join them! [email protected]