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If you're serious about developing your creativity, give David Lynch's Masterclass a try:

David Lynch is a revolutionary director best known for movies like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive. He also created the famous Twin Peaks tv show. He is widely regarded as one of the most creative and visionary director in modern cinema.

Lessons include topics like: pursuit of creativity, catching ideas, the writing process, educating yourself, working with people, buliding worlds, breaking the rules, sticking to your ideas, and the future of creativity.

How to quickly improve your creative skills

What works for me is to focus on one medium for a bit and express everything that I can through it. Usually I'm increasing my knowledge and skills related to that medium at the same time, which allows the ideas to flow because the rest of my mind is occupied with improving the means of expression and is therefore kind of out of the way.

Once I've communicated all I can through that particular 'language' - music, writing, painting, videography, animation, ceramics or whatever - I'll find myself naturally transitioning into the next. My cycles only last around two years so I've learnt to work pretty intensely once I'm in the zone since I never know where I'll end up next!

Don't be too hard on yourself.

For example, music creation is supposed to be an enjoyable process, not something to get stressed over. Of course, that is how I see it only because I'm not a professional musician and I don't use music to pay my bills. But still, creativity, being such an internal process, is not something you can rely on being 100% satisfactory all of the time. And that is why we all just have to keep playing, being mindful of what we do when we play (by not getting into useless habits) but at the same time saving the criticism (not judgement) for whenever there is something concrete to improve on.

Having said all that. Different things tend to work for different people. If you're more of an analytical person, getting into music theory and leveraging it to transcribe, understand and improvise over your favorite songs may be a good activity. You may be surprised when you find yourself playing those improvised bits in completely different contexts.

What books related to developing your creativity can you recommend?

If you're really interested in the topics, you should give these six books a try:

Is it possible to learn creativity or do you have to be born with it?

Is it a skill or a talent? Can it be taught?

Start simple. Simply start. Every oak grows from an acorn.

You kind of have two choices: rely on innate ability (talent) or building music foundations through training and practice, typically over a period of years. I went the latter route: guitar lessons, piano lessons, vocal coaching, college level music composition classes, and years of continuing practice. It kind of comes dow to you and what it means to you.

Creativity is, like a lot of basic skills, innate to a degree, however without a working knowledge of theory your progress will be unfocused.

Theory is a structure that informs you of what notes are available and serves as a template. Without theory knowledge it's not impossible but your creativity is going to be blindly noodling around on a keyboard or piano roll versus deciding a key, a progression and working from there around a structure that's used by the majority of western musicians.

As for the motivation to prevent stalling that's on you - you either have the determination to persist in spite of the challenge, or maybe you need a structured course & tutor to make progress if you can't find sufficient resolve to continue otherwise.

Convince yourself that theory will free your creativity and trust that it will - it's a lot easier to move a piece forward when you've the full range of options afforded by theory over not knowing how to get by 8-bar loops played by ear with no sense of why it works.

Creativity is not pure talent or a "lucky day". You can learn tecniques on songwriting and production that will help a lot. Sure, sometimes it just strikes you and you are starting to whistle a fantastic melody that just popped up in your head. Also it is probably easier to write a super happy song when you are not having a horrible day. However, you can also learn what it takes to make a melody sound happy - or sad. And also more general stuff like what makes a good melody in the first place.

Melody is just an example. Since people have been making music for ages there are theories and books on just about everything.

So yes, the more you practice and learn the more "creative" you will get!

How important creativity really is?

I’d say problem solving skills are the most important, and creativity can really help in that you will approach solving certain problems from multiple angles that people who lack creative thinking may not have thought of (outside the box approach basically).

Remember that, in general, succeeding is 90% about the execution and 10% about the idea.

How to awaken creativity in yourself?

Pick one of the many things you're interested in and actually stick with practicing one of it.

Literally not a single person in the world can just sit down and hammer out an award winning short story on their first try.

Spending the minimal amount of time on tons of different hobbies is probably the fastest way to get discouraged.

Also worth noting you're probably greatly overestimating the quality of the stories and stand up bits you did when you were way younger. Not trying to be a dick, but it'll be easier to stay on track of you stop comparing yourself to "back then" with your rose colored glasses on.

"I have to go look stuff up on google to get ideas for how to make simple things look better but then it's not even my idea."

Actually, that is a large part of how learning to be creative works. The other one is experimenting. You can't create something out of nothing, you need a source, an idea. Your mind can't create an idea out of nothing, you need inspiration. Just keep looking for good stuff, copy them, modify to your likings until you get your own, perfect creation.

If you have problems with creating, try to do it in small steps. There are many ways. For example, playing guitar does not just make you creative by itself. At first, it requires creativity, it drains it from you, then leaves you with a miserable song which you then need to expand using all your ideas and inspiration.

What to do if you're stuck with your work?

How to get out of a rut when it comes to creative endeavours?

It seems like a lot of people need to work on confidence and overall mental health. I get it.

Playing in bands stressed me out for a long time. So, I finally quit and while I still get occasionally guilty feelings or nostalgia. Overall, my life has gotten so much better leaving that part behind. At least for now.

I focus on recording and mixing for other people now. I think one thing that stresses people out is the pressure from having to to everything. Writing, recording, mixing, mastering etc. not even taking into consideration the promotion and release on various formats. I’ve done all that too and it’s stressful as hell. It might cost more but there is some real freedom that comes with just showing up to track and being “done” with it.

I think sometimes people get this idea that greatness comes from dark times. To me, it doesn’t. It might happen in spite of dark times. But mostly dark times just take from people, it doesn’t give. So it is important to work on our perceptions and mental health just in life in general.

It’s alright to just sit on the porch and plunk around on an acoustic. Just chillin and enjoying music without having to stress about it it’s something “good”. You don’t even need any ideas, just play around. It’s all good to relax, something good might come of it. Or take time to refocus.

One last thing. It’s ok to want to make music that just “sounds good” to you and is fun. It doesn’t have to be super deep or have a story to tell or anything else. I think that’s one reason people feel trapped and stuck. Well, fuck it. When I’m jamming with my buddies that’s the story... we are having fun being creative. It’s ok to just enjoy creating things. Then keep moving forward.

I do feel that more reps makes you better at any thing you are gonna want to do, so yea, “fucking around” is making you a better player. Sitting down paralyzed because “nothing I write is good enough” isn’t. Like I told my band mates; “I’m serious about having fun and if it’s not fun I’m not doing it”. It wasn’t fun for a long time before I stopped. I’m still creative, just doing it in other ways now that suit my pace and mental health.

Are schools doing a good job reaching creativity?

In the US compared to other countries we do not do a good job. The first two years of college are spent relearning everything you were supposed to have learnt in high school.

You need a foundation, but creativity can be taught. The foundation doesn't invalidate the creativity of the individual.

Our schools do a poor job at even building the fundamentals, let alone creativity.

There are things that should be abandon in high school, things that have little practical application in life. Things like advanced mathematics, it's necessary to have a foundation in mathematics, but what I've seen is math being used as a tool in high school to separate the wheat from the chaff. Math is not open to interpretation or bias, so it makes math the easiest way to determine rankings.

A student that would otherwise excel in another area is being tortured by learning something that has no practical application unless they go into a STEM field, even then, they are most likely not doing advanced mathematics on a daily basis.

Is programming a job that requieres creativity?

Of course programming is creative. Ask any programmer about elegant code. The root word is create. Are we not creating something?

I always thought programming as a creative outlet because you're able to make something out of it. Most softwares/apps we use starts from someone's idea. Programming is just a tool like a paint and brush is to a painter.

Being a graphic designer also does not mean you can go all out and disregard rules. I'm not a graphic designer or anything so don't take my words for it but I think the one that allows you to be really liberal is fine arts. Graphic design is applied arts.

I'm a programmer and a musician. I apply the same creative process in music and in computer science.

  • Define an objective (write a program that does X, or write a song that makes the audience feel Y emotions)
  • Determine which tools help me achieve the objective
  • Determine how to implement the tools to achieve the objective
  • Implement
  • Analyze my product, and determine how it can be improved
  • Repeat steps 1-5 until I have a song or program that meets my requirements (requirements are defined in step 1)

Another part of the creative process is acquiring new tools.

  • Find a new tool I want to learn (new programming language, new guitar technique, etc.)
  • Break the tool down to its basic components.
  • Understand basic components
  • Understand how basic components connect to make the new tool
  • Practice until I know how to use the new tool

What's more important? Talent or hard-work?

There's a saying "inspiration is for amateurs" - meaning that creativity can come in flashes of sub-conscious brilliance - but those people who do it for a job consider it a skill.

They wrap themselves in a process which can be summarised as understand, explore, ideate, iterate (or more / less steps).

In short if you want to do creative work;

  • understand your topic - really dig into what you're working with
  • explore connected (or unrelated) ideas, worlds, adjacent places (soak up a world of new ideas and information)
  • ideate - generate your own ideas, remix original content, ask "what if" questions, conjure up lots and lots and lots of ideas trash or not
  • finally - iterate; the an idea and hit it over, and over and over ask lots of different questions, look at it from lots of angles, try and rework it top to bottom a dozen times till it looks nothing like what you started with.

These are some of the ways the professionals drive their creative work.

I disagree strongly with those saying that creativity can’t be learned. Creativity is about practicing new ways of thinking to look for novel solutions to problems. Like everything some people may be more predisposed to it, but it’s a learned skill like all things. Look into design thinking or try something like improv, creating art, etc.

Some resources are the Stanford d.school crash course, Creative Confidence TED talk and book.

Is marijuana good for creativity?

Weed makes me procrastinate too much personally. I also can't think as quickly. Doing any upper level math or science stoned just didn't work well.

So I stayed using it as a reward system. I'd only smoke once a week at night after I finished my assignments. But over the years, I realized that smoking really messes with my REM sleep. The quality of my sleep is so bad, it doesn't matter how many hours of sleep I actually get. I am just fatigued and hazey the whole next day.

I know this is anecdotal, but I think there's something to it. I've often heard from people who smoke every day don't feel like they dream much. I hope this will be researched in the future.

Can you be a good programmer if you're not creative?

I'm a math guy. Maths is my first passion and will always be.

All people are different and learn at different pace. Some people can make shortcuts here and there because they are naturally good at this or their upbringing set them up for that, whatever. Some don't and have to work their way up.

Lower the level you are trying to learn. That's a great advice for learning anything. Practice the fundamentals.

Now, how do you beat the fact that you are not really creative enough? Read a lot of code. Like really. Tons of it. Rewrite it, change it up.

Always expose yourself to different concepts and approaches.

Backend guy? Read design book.

Constantly challenge your mind.

The thing is when you approach a certain problem, firstly your mind tries to apply knowledge and solutions it already has/used in the past.

By consistent acquiring of new knowledge you set
up your mind for the future.

But don't forget to relax and have a rest, that's the most important thing in learning/practicing anything really.

Gamedev taught me that I know very little about gamedev. For real.

I thought that knowing programming and design would be enough. It's not. I feel like a babe in the woods when I start working on a game. Even though I published 4-5 (small-ish)games and worked on 4-5 other and abandoned countless prototypes.

The more gamedev I do the more I realize I know so little about the RULES of making a good game.

Well, that's something that's about to change cause I'm reading through "Game Design Workshop" and it's an eye opener. It's the theory and rules that are very welcome to my brain's eternal question: "How the fuck do I make this game good?". There's no definitive answer but that book has started to shed some light.

Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, Fourth Edition
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Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, Fourth Edition
  • Fullerton, Tracy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 556 Pages - 08/27/2018 (Publication Date) - A K Peters/CRC Press (Publisher)

What to do if you lack motivation and feel like you're not improving your creativity

Do you feel you're losing your creativity?

Or perhaps through this feeling, you're on the way to finding your creativity for the first time.

The trick is not to fight it, or consider it an obstacle to struggle against - but to realize these moments of total despair and helplessness as part of the process underlying the equally inexplicable moments when everything is working and effortlessly aligned. (and these moments will come again, if you simply trust the process..)

You can’t lose your creativity. We use creative solutions all day in small ways. It’s a matter of focusing your creativity towards art. It might be good to spend some time in reflection learning more about yourself and what gets you into the zone.

There are some things that you can do to your workspace to facilitate creativity. Even making the lighting warmer has put me into the zone, or artwork on the walls that I like. Even having a movie on mute in the background for some stimulation.

You can be creative with any gear, but it’s also good to know what gear makes you less creative. For example, I like to play the piano so gear that has full size keys is going to get me into the zone faster, etc. Hope you get out of the slump, and you will!

Pro tip: Don't pay attention to Youtubers at all, and don't take any 'advice' you read on forums seriously unless it pertains directly to a question or problem you've been having. The internet and especially Reddit is for know-nothing know-it-alls trying to act smart for an audience. Listen to your feelings when thinking about what you're creating.

How to get really good at creative web design

Disavow yourself of the notion the design is solely or even primarily about aesthetics. Design is fundamentally about problem solving. While aesthetics can play a role in design, it is often much less important than most web designers and/or clients think.

Next, recognize that web design is much more complex than mere visual and/or graphic design. We have to deal with interaction design, interface design, visual communication design, user experience design, navigation design, information architecture, and so on.

Finally, recognize, as others have noted, that the design process tends to be very iterative in nature.

This is demonstrated in several ways.

Play close attention to the iterative process. They try several different things and choose the one which seems to best solve the problem (e.g., communicate a specific sentiment).

In this talk, Bierut talks about how the many iterations his firm went through in designing a logo for the MIT Media Lab.

Alternatively, look into art history. Particularly look at the studies performed by the great artists before they actually undertook large works. They'll sometimes draw scenes or parts of scenes tens if not hundreds of times before they put it on the canvas.

We have this misconception that design is natural, and people simply bang out good design with easy. That's not true. Some people might be able to produce good looking work, but if it hasn't been vetted, studied, and compared with other possible solutions then you should seriously question if its good design.

Templates are generic. They rarely solve the visual communication problem well. That's because they start with visual and graphic design and are unaware of the content which will be placed into them. If you start with content and have content and visual/graphic design work with it, you will create a much more cohesive and effective message. Few web designers do this well.

Copy. Copy until you understand the process. Then abstract the process and apply it in different contexts. Seriously, go watch tutorials on YouTube for Photoshop. Practice what you see. You'll eventually start to abstract the integrated techniques and start using them in unique ways on your own work. Do the same with interaction design, visual design on the web, etc.

No skill is only for the "naturals." In fact, research on expertise shows that through deliberate practice, anyone can essentially erase the advantage naturals have over others at a skill.

Check out the The Futur on YouTube. They have an excellent channel covered many aspects of design.

Check out Jesse James Garrett's book on the Elements of User Experience.

Learn the basics of graphic design. You can find numerous websites on it. You can also take a few courses on Coursera. I recommend the ones by the CalArts guys.

Also, there is a course on drawing nature on edX. Anyone can learn to draw. I highly recommend that course for getting your started.

Anyway, that's just some quick thoughts off the top of my head. There is hope. There is hope if you're willing to put in the effort and time.

Can accessibility put constraints on creativity?

I've had discussions around this with colleagues before. Our consensus ended up around:

  • Yes, accessibility can put constraints on creative solutions
  • There is a difference between art and design
  • Design is the application of art with in the confines of usefulness (and accessibility constraints)
  • Web design is a design practice not an artistic one so you need to accept the constraints as a challenge to be met not ignored

My musical journey and creativity

I have spent 14 years trying to self teach guitar, bass, and to a lesser extent drums.I played in crappy punk bands, I took guitar classes in high school taught by teachers who literally didn’t play the instrument(choir teachers) I took a mediocre community college class in guitar, a slightly better one in piano, and I was in choir for two years as a kid. I was never what I’d consider “good” at any of it. In the past year, after not even picking up any of my instruments in a few years, I started jamming with a friend and we got kind of serious.

Then I started seeing his vocal coach, and on a whim bought a piano and signed up for lessons with a retired college professor who taught jazz composition. In less than a year I’ve gotten way better at piano and vocals than I ever have been at any other instrument. The vocal coach probably taught me more in a month than 2 years of choir practices (i guess my choir directors must’ve sucked) and learning piano and theory and practicing it constantly has gotten me to a point where not only am I starting to feel kinda decent at piano but I’m getting better at guitar and bass as well just from knowing my theory better.

My teacher put a lot of emphasis on breaking the rules, writing my own stuff, and improvisation.

I know part of it has to be that I’m just different now, more focused at this age. But seriously having formal instruction, preferably by someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, and preferably private instruction over trying to pace a class of 30-40, is soooo much better and faster than trying to go it alone. It’s not that it’s impossible to learn alone but my instructors know what order to teach things in so they make sense instead of just randomly trying to learn whatever I think I might need to know next and being super confused by it. Now I’m more confident and creative than I’ve ever been before.

Practical application is everything. Learning the basics only serves to make all other things easier.

How my creative process looks like

Let's say I'm writing a book.

I take a work-ethic oriented approach. Today I came up with 100 character ideas. Just a big list of one liners that briefly describe a possible character. Most of it is going to absolute garbage, but you can usually find something interesting in this exercise. It's the same approach that freewriting takes.

A lot of them are just really plain, boring, cliche stuff like:

  • An actor with stage fright

Others are just bad:

  • A dancer with no feet

A woman with enormous breasts, like james and the giant peach enormous

It's important to write these horrible ones down anyway, because you'll find some that wouldn't work if you took them straight:

  • A professor who murders students who fail

That would be a terrible thriller, but I could see a comedy there. Finally some I think might have potential:

  • A once famous actress now in her elder years turns to prostitution to survive

This one got me thinking something like, if Audrey Hepburn were still alive and incredibly desperate, there are probably fans that would want to sleep with her no matter how old she was, so what would that fall look like? Someone who used to be an icon of glamour and sophistication forced into such a debasing situation? That's an interesting character. Maybe a bit dark for the kind of writing I'm looking for, but interesting.

  • A tyrant who lives off the charity of his once subjects

This brings up so many questions. How is he still alive if he was deposed? Why are the people taking care of him? How has he handled his fall from grace? Is he bitter and spiteful, or has he changed, reborn from his once subject's graciousness?

Neither of these will necessarily end up as good characters once fleshed out, but they're interesting enough to me to see where they lead.

I take this approach with pretty much everything. Don't like a sentence? Five variations of the same sentence.

You just dig up everything, exhaustively, until you find a turd worth polishing.

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