Why do we create?

Creativity, at its foundation, comes from a simple need: to solve.

Let us explain. On the surface, this may seem like a simple answer to a complicated question. What does a painting solve, for instance? Or a novel? Or a streamlined website user interface?

A novel itself may not solve anything; physically it is ink and paper. But the creative act of writing a novel is the author solving the question of “how do I tell this story?” Or a painter solves the questions of “how do I express this thought or feeling or image?” Some of the most crucial innovations in human history were pursued to solve specific problems. The modern world as we know it exists due to the likes of the printing press, the nautical compass, and the Internet, solving navigation and information dissemination.

So if creativity comes from a problem that needs to be solved, how do we learn to solve?

In our previous post, we embraced the MacArthur Foundation’s definition of creativity as “the expression of human endeavor as individuals actively make or find something new, or connect the seemingly unconnected in significant ways.” Another way to say this is that we draw on seemingly unrelated knowledge to solve a problem, making those significant connections.

Albert Einstein once said that “Creativity is the residue of time wasted.”

Unless you are a screenwriter, this doesn’t necessarily mean you cultivate your problem-solving creativity by binge watching Netflix. Einstein most likely did not mean for us to waste time on cat pictures (though we do love them), but to rather spend our spare, non-dedicated time expanding our knowledge in order to have a broader canvas later when creating.

How do we do this?

By increasing your seemingly-random tidbits of knowledge, your brain will have a wider selection of information to connect in new ways when you set out to create a solution to a problem.

Let your mind explore this week. See where it takes you.

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Harish Venkatesan

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