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By mgieva • June 2, 2010

The science of creativity

"White flakes as thick as the outer part of a boiled egg" was the image that stayed with my friend while she was reading Proverbs for The People, a book of African-American stories. "How did that metaphor even occur to the writer?" I asked myself. I wish I could hide in some dark corner of the author's mind and watch the magic of creativity happen.

But creativity shouldn't be perceived as a mystical vacuum of inborn talent. The modern meaning of this concept is no longer strictly associated with ancient deities. It is a human skill that can be deconstructed.

In a 1996 interview with Wired, Steve Jobs shared his thoughts on creativity. "Creativity is just connecting things," he said. Discoveries are made with the emergence of new associations between existing ideas. Creative people, Jobs observed, are "able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things."

How come they are able to do that, you might ask. Jobs thinks that the reason behind their creativity is the number of experiences they have had and the amount of thought they gave them.

Based on Jobs' thoughts and some additional research, I suggest a few ways for people to hone their creative thinking skills:

Embrace A Range of Experiences
Embrace different opportunities and seek out various experiences. Travel whenever you get the chance to, and get to know people and places you wouldn't usually encounter.

Synthesize These Experiences
Think deeper about the things you read, the people you meet and the places you visit. Be curious and ask questions that can reveal more information. The chances are you will discover fascinating stories about them that will inspire you in new ways and give birth to fresh ideas.

Break Preconceived Assumptions
According to Otto Rank, Austrian psychologist and philosopher, creativity can be described as an "assumptions-breaking process." Original ideas develop when people make an effort to erase preconceived notions.

Stay Positive
Barbara Fredrickson, Professor of Psychology who studies the effects of positive emotions, argued that joy broadens "the individual's momentary thought-action repertoire." In other words, people who experience happiness are excited to explore new opportunities. The conclusion, as described in Positive Psychology, is that "joy appears to open us up to many new thoughts and behaviors."

Creativity does not merely emerge from inborn talent, but results from a set of skills that can be acquired. And though you might not see snow flakes as the outer part of a boiled egg, you might see rain drops as the ornaments of a crystal chandelier.

Photo credit: (busy) Manu-chan~