12 things not taught about creativity

Motorpool Classroom

“I could never do what you do, I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” I have heard this or some such statement for years from students, guests at openings or people who find out I take photographs for a living. If I could I’d like to reach back into their history to discover and remove the experience that made them feel this way. If the thought makes it true then…

But then there is Michael Michalko who’s first point in his article “Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking” in The Creativity Post is that everyone is born a creative person. From these first affirming words I’d like to offer a synopsis of his thoughts here…

1. You are creative. The artist is not a special person, each one of us is a special kind of artist. Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief.

2. Creative thinking is work. You must have passion and the determination to immerse yourself in the process of creating new and different ideas. Then you must have patience to persevere against all adversity.

3. You must go through the motions of being creative. When you are producing ideas, you are replenishing neurotransmitters linked to genes that are being turned on and off in response to what your brain is doing, which in turn is responding to challenges. When you go through the motions of trying to come up with new ideas, you are energizing your brain by increasing the number of contacts between neurons. The more times you try to get ideas, the more active your brain becomes and the more creative you become. 

4. Your brain is not a computer. Your brain is a dynamic system that evolves its patterns of activity rather than computes them like a computer. It thrives on the creative energy of feedback from experiences real or fictional. You can synthesize experience; literally create it in your own imagination.

5. There is no one right answer. Reality is ambiguous. The only certainty in life is uncertainty. When trying to get ideas, do not censor or evaluate them as they occur. Nothing kills creativity faster than self-censorship of ideas while generating them.

6. Never stop with your first good idea. Always strive to find a better one and continue until you have one that is still better.

7. Expect the experts to be negative. The more expert and specialized a person becomes, the more their mindset becomes narrowed and the more fixated they become on confirming what they believe to be absolute. Consequently, when confronted with new and different ideas, their focus will be on conformity. 

8. Trust your instincts. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged. 

9. There is no such thing as failure. Whenever you try to do something and do not succeed, you do not fail. You have learned something that does not work.

10. You do not see things as they are; you see them as you are. Interpret your own experiences. All experiences are neutral. They have no meaning. You give them meaning by the way you choose to interpret them.

11. Always approach a problem on its own terms. Do not trust your first perspective of a problem as it will be too biased toward your usual way of thinking. Always look at your problem from multiple perspectives. Always remember that genius is finding a perspective no one else has taken.

12. Learn to think unconventionally. Creative geniuses are inclusive thinkers which mean they look for ways to include everything, including things that are dissimilar and totally unrelated. Generating associations and connections between unrelated or dissimilar subjects is how they provoke different thinking patterns in their brain.

And, finally, Creativity is paradoxical. To create, a person must have knowledge but forget the knowledge, must see unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder, must work hard but spend time doing nothing as information incubates, must create many ideas yet most of them are useless, must look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different, must desire success but embrace failure, must be persistent but not stubborn, and must listen to experts but know how to disregard them.


  1. Oh Marco this is good!

  2. Hi Marco, Thank you for this insightful post, I hope you don’t mind but I’ve printed your words and strategically placed them on the main wall of my ‘creative room’ in the hope that I will stop saying “I wish I could do that” or ” I can’t do that” etc. TFS

  3. Great article. Love no. 6. This one is really important. Usually the first three ideas can be tossed, unless they are inspired.

  4. Very good points.

  5. IBaSchmuck says:

    Marco? Why do you have to make SO MUCH sense?

    I believe that we are BORN creative and that the creativity is sucked out of us, beginning at an early age. Those with accepting parents, siblings and friends go on to reach creative heights. And those who are told to “conform” do so, at the cost of their own lives. Creative and otherwise.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  6. Excellent post, Marco. Folks need to know that while we are all born with a few creative genes in our system it still takes a tremendous amount of work and perseverance to make it all work.

    Thanks for sharing this.

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