“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
- Issac Asimov
Creative projects often involve having to learn a new skill, no matter how well the person creating is versed in their area of creativity.
For example, anyone who has started a business has probably found themselves having to learn the basics of web design. A writer who has decided to self publish has probably had to learn how to format eBooks. A person who makes craft products has probably had to learn how to take effective photographs of his art in order to share them online.
Learning something new can be both challenging and frustrating but don’t let that put you off doing it.
Josh Kaufmann, in his book The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast expresses the idea that with twenty hours of deliberate practice, you can go from knowing nothing about something to performing noticeably well, whether it’s learning an instrument, learning a language, etc.
His method consists four steps:
Learning can, and should, be about exploring and experimentation (which is also how creativity works a lot of the time -- you learn new things as you go along).
Learning a new skill has many benefits, least of all a feeling of accomplishment and pride.
It will help you to grow as a person and it enhances your knowledge base. It could also lead you onto something very different in your life, for the better.
Find something new you can learn. It doesn’t have to be anything as demanding as learning a language or repairing a car, but at least learn how to perform a small aspect of a larger skill.
Think about something small you are unable to do but could do if you just spent a small amount of time dedicated to it.
Here are some ideas to start you off:
Learn basic HTML code.
Learn how to cook a good meal.
Revise the math skills you have forgotten since you finished school.
Learn a few chords on the guitar or piano.
Learn how to make something using origami.
Apply at least the first three rules of The First 20 Hours method for now.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche
In 2014, a study at Stanford University provided confirmation to what many creatives have for a long time believed — that walking can be beneficial to creative thinking.
The study found that walking (indoors or outdoors), boosted creativity. Interestingly, it wasn’t the environment that made a difference to creativity, it was the act of walking itself.
The world is a much more sedentary one that it once was with the increase of a higher use of computers, more cars and public transport readily available, and manual jobs being replaced by desk jobs. In 2008, the United States American National Health Interview Survey found that 35% of adults were considered inactive.
Nineteenth century Russian composer Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky took a two hour walk each morning before composing in the afternoon.
Novelist Charles Dickens walked up to thirty miles a day.
Apple founder Steve Jobs often held meetings whilst walking.
Henry David Thoreau wrote that; “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
But why? The answer is quite simple. As we walk, the heart beast faster, circulating more blood and oxygen around the body (particularly the brain), thus improving mental clarity and creative thinking.
The next time you’re feeling bored or particularly uncreative or unproductive, trying going for a walk.
That could mean a walk through the woods or walking around your house or place of work for a few minutes.
Make it a daily practice in order that it becomes a habit.
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
- Bob Marley
Remember mixtapes? Specifically, a mixtape was a term that used to be applied to a homemade compilation of music. Before online downloading and streaming was available, these were often songs recorded from the radio. These days, the modern equivalent of mixtape is a digital playlist, although the term mixtape is still loosely used.
One of the greatest benefits of listening to music is that it has the power to influence your mood as well as help you to be more creative.
Music can be relaxing, thus clearing the way for creative thought. It alters the state of our brainwaves as well a producing neurotransmitters such as dopamine that alter our mood.
Music can help us to create images in our mind and open us up to new ideas.
Studies have shown that listening to the music we love and the music we are familiar with helps us to become more creative. This is because it can increase focus and lift your mood. Music has been scientifically proven to increase the beta waves in your brain (these are at an increased level when you are creative).
Revisit the songs you love and make a compilation of them, whether it be a YouTube, Spotify or iTunes playlist, on your computer, phone, tablet, or on CD. Maybe you still use cassette tapes?
The music that you are most familiar with is the best to use (studies have shown that unfamiliar music is better for downtime than it is to inspire creativity).
Listen to your mixtape often.
“Everything you can imagine is real”
- Pablo Picasso
In the art world, a found object is a natural or man-made object that is found by an artist and kept because of some particular interest that the artist sees in it. It could be a piece of wood found in a forest or something he bought in a store.
Found objects can end up being the actual works of art themselves or (more commonly), they can provide inspiration to the artist for other works.
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp presented what was to become probably the most famous/infamous piece of Found Art in art history. Duchamp’s work consisted of a porcelain urinal placed on its back and signed R. Mutt. Fountain (as it is titled) is a controversial yet iconic work that has become a figure example of artistic expression.
Another example is Dali’s Retrospective Bust of a Woman, which is made from bread, corn, feathers, sand and other objects.
American artist Carl Andre often uses manufactured objects (most famously, bricks or copper), to create minimalist sculptures. His aim is to get the viewers to focus on form rather than any skill or technique possessed by the artist.
Found Object art isn’t a new thing, however. From the dawn of humanity, humans have created art using objects they have found, such as making jewellery with stones.
Take a look around your house and collect objects that could be used in making an art work.
Don’t worry about making a piece of art today though, you can save your pieces for another day.
The purpose of this task is to take a look around you and notice the usefulness of everyday objects and to look for interesting features in those items that are familiar.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
- Pablo Picasso
Have you ever witnessed how proud a child is of their paintings and craft work? They’re keen to show everyone and have it displayed somewhere visible like the kitchen fridge.
Amusingly, it may barely resemble what they us tell the painting is of, but they are proud of it nonetheless.
The reason for this is because they haven’t been taught the ‘rules’ yet (they have no rules that determine the artistic value of work), which means they are far less judgmental in their creativity.
Children are also amazed, fascinated and curious about things in a way that adults are not, taking much more interest in the simplest of things.
As we grow older, we tend to ignore the solutions that may appear too simple and obvious to us.
To quote Picasso again; “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”.
Find something creative to do. It could be anything (drawing a picture, taking some photos, singing, etc.), and do it as much as you can without judgement.
If you think you’ve made a mistake, or something doesn’t look, feel or sound right, no matter.
Just keep going.
Enjoy it like a child would.