Mastery Before Creativity

creativityFor me, creativity has always come in fits and starts. I can’t control it, and I certainly can’t predict it. Creativity diarrhea, if you will. It just kind of happens.

Steve Pavlina has a great article with 7 steps to maximizing creative output, a must-read for anyone serious about making the most of their creative juices. Steve hits the nail on the head when you says

Of course there are degrees of mastery, but the more you develop subconscious competence with your tools, the easier it is to enter and maintain the flow state. When you’re in the flow state, you won’t be worrying about where your fingers need to be, what buttons you need to click, or what words you need to type. Your subconscious will handle those details for you while you remain focused on the high level composition.

Steve hits on the most overlooked catch to creativity: If you aren’t adept with your tools, there’s no room for creativity. Sure, anyone can come up with a great idea, but whether or not it will actually work requires crucial knowledge.

Shoot, even if you’re a belly dancer, you still have to know what you’re capable of before you try it. Moving the wrong way could leave you writhing with severe belly-button cramps. And nobody wants to see that.

On the flip side of the coin: If you know what you can do, you can get creative by staying away from the norms. Digital Photography School has a great article on how to take more creative photos (via Lifehacker). In short: staying away from the the so-called “rules” of photography allows you to take more interesting shots.

Rules are a great thing to know (and use) – however the curious photographer often takes great shots because they not only know the rules but because they set out to break them.

Your shot selection will become more creative when you a) master the rules and then b) break them. You still have to master the rules first.

Another example: research is the absolute buzz-kill of creativity for me. I’ll be brainstorming, and pretty soon I’ll stumble upon an idea for X. Many times I find myself trying to prove that X can be done, instead of moving on and staying in the current flow of creativity. If I didn’t worry so much about the details, I tend to produce more in the creativity department. And most of my worrisome details refer to core knowledge of the tool I’m using.

I’ve found that if you really love something, you’ll want to learn everything about it anyway, so maybe this is a moot point for the truly impassioned. Still, nothing stirs the creativity like brushing off the ‘ol user manual.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • fru celestine nji August 20, 2007, 2:44 pm

    Actually the stuff was pretty good and i am reay sure it will really work for me because it has made me understand why
    great achievers always achieves at greater heights

  • Pinto January 16, 2007, 6:33 pm

    How do you get those fancy quotes to appear in wordpress?

  • danieltoh January 15, 2007, 2:54 pm

    Surely, without mastering the basics we would definitely be stuck in the lower rungs of basic activity. But when we finally have mastered what we need to know then I think that we can go from the level of conscious competence to unconscious competence, where we can fully autopilot the stuff that are routine and give our full concentration on the more difficult tasks that requires right brain creativity. Good stuff, keep it up!