Here’s a wordy definition: “Creativity occurs when ideas, ‘things’ or associations are produced in some new combination that is either useful or appropriate for a particular problem or purpose, and/or is aesthetically pleasing.”
That’s from Robin Hogarth’s Judgement and Choice. I prefer the title of this Ricky Gervais article:
“Creativity is the ability to Play”
By slashing up and reconnecting ideas you can find something new. By putting side by side two things that should never sit together, you may just start a love affair.
Deconstruct. Rearrange. Add. Subtract. Cut. Splice. Fuse. PLAY.
The upside of this is that you create new things and make discoveries. And you get to have some fun. The downside? It’s hard to consistently and continually play. It’s not fun to have to have fun all the time.
My dog has a moose teddy. Sometimes when I get home, he goes berserk, scrambles for his toy box and comes back with moosey. I always imagine him saying as he looks at me, tail wagging, “let’s play motherfucker.” And we do. There’ll be a tug of war. I’ll chase him round the house. I’ll throw moosey around in the garden. I’ll tackle him to the ground and we’ll playfight.
Guess who gets bored first? Not the dog.
Having fun is hard work.
Hogarth knew this too: “What distinguishes people who are creative from those who are not so creative? … creative people tend to work hard. That is, they engage in a greater number of thought experiments than the less creative.” They try more things.
Over at Farnam Street, one of the consistently best blogs around, a key principle is combinatorial creativity.
The word that better embeds this idea in my mind is “promiscuous.” Here’s the definition from dictionary.com: “characterised by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association, especially having sexual relations with a number of partners on a casual basis.”
You want your ideas to be promiscuous.
I’m not the first to write that facts don’t stay in our heads, stories do. To better remember that creativity is the ability to play and make connections, think of a friend. The one who is a dead cert for the weekly alcohol-fuelled Saturday night. The one who is addicted to Tinder and can quite easily pass an evening by retelling stories of their sexual escapades.
Want to be more creative? Then your ideas should be what you affectionately call your sleep-around friend. Slutty.