It is the nature of every person to error, but only the fool perseveres in error. – Marcus Tullius Cicero
What does that mean?
It says that we all screw up from time to time, it’s part of human nature. Know it, and get over it, move past the error and try again until you get it right. It also says that only a fool would persevere in making an error, which is to do it over and over again, expecting a better result (Einstein had a quote about that – you can look that one up yourself).
I have also heard it said that there are so many interesting ways to mess things up, why do the same one over and over again? That would be so boring! This is also similar to the quote by the Dalai Lama on intelligence and courage. Once you notice it’s not working, only a fool would try to do it the same way again. You need to be creative and come up with another way to mess up and keep messing up until you get it right (Edison said something like that – I might get to that one eventually).
Why is creativity important?
Without creativity, life would be pretty boring, wouldn’t it? I know my life would be painfully boring without it. Most people think of software geeks as being pretty square (except, perhaps, while they are gaming), but most software types are actually incredibly creative. The problems that they solve are never quite the same twice. Yes, some stuff (file input and output, database, sorting, blah blah blah) is at least somewhat similar, but those functions are available in libraries, they get used without much modification or creativity. The core of the problem, on the other hand, is unique in many ways. For each project, it requires creativity and team effort to work out the quickest, most efficient way through the maze (why? to get to the cheese, of course).
Parents are also masters of creativity, even if they don’t give themselves credit. How many of you who now have kids can remember a time when you looked at a parent that distracted and calmed a little one who was mere moments ago throwing a tantrum to end the world and wondered “How on Earth did they do that?” Now you know. For those who haven’t had kids, you probably wonder how they deal with the kids when they’re teething, during the terrible twos and even the fearsome teenage years. Creativity is learned, out of necessity if for no other reason.
And how many of you like having a friend around who is naturally creative, and can come up with really useful ideas seemingly out of thin air? I know that I like that kind of person, but I’m there to pick their brain. I want to find out how they came up with an idea so that I can try to use some of their methods and techniques to become more creative myself.
Where can I apply this in my life?
In a post about creativity, what are the odds that I would be stuck for an idea on how to move forward at this point? But to me, the word “stuck” is a challenge word. As soon as I say it, I must move past it. So, let’s use an old standby (if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time you know what’s coming…) – I’ll grab paper and start brainstorming for ideas. OK, I’m back. Here we go!
To me, brainstorming is just what it sounds like, a thunderstorm of activity in the cranial cavity. Swirling winds, driving rain of tiny ideas splattering all over the place, punctuated with blinding lightning strikes followed by the explosion of thunder! It almost sounds exciting when put that way, doesn’t it?
There are other ways to be creative, but getting a creative person to explain how they get ideas is very similar to getting a three year old to explain how the cookie jar became empty. It just happens, without any real thought. They’re just sitting there, minding their own business and poof, it happens. If you have a method, please feel free to share it, it just might be the spark someone else needs, and you can feel good about contributing.
Creativity is part gift, and a very large part training. Like any other skill, you have to work at it to get better. So I use brainstorming, a technique I learned ages ago, and have been practicing almost as long. It is just jumbling ideas around in my mind and seeing what bumps into each-other. Probably 90% of the ideas are so goofy I don’t even write them down, but after a while, you get a few ideas on paper.
Evaluate the ideas and look for ways to improve them. Eventually you will get a new way (or perhaps many more ways) to try to move forward, and to avoid repeating the error. Try the idea(s) and find ways to improve them. If they don’t work out, abandon them (only a fool would continue to do it again and again without trying to improve them), and try another. When the list is exhausted, it’s time for a new list of ideas. Repeat until you win, making as many errors in the process as necessary to accomplish the task before you.
Just make sure that each mistake is a new one, alright?