Modern man is obsessed with creativity. The obsession is understandable, given how much we rely upon creating new value by refining our understanding of the world around us.
But where does our creativity come from? How do we nurture it? On one level, it just happens when we ask ourselves questions. Like, “Where did I put my keys?” The brain is hard wired to answer questions using the data that it has stored in memory. We can also learn how to reach higher levels 9of creative thinking. This learning takes time and effort and it focuses on how to get better at questioning.
As we improve our skills, a funny thing happens. We start to see things in a different light. Our enhanced creativity arises from this ability to use this data in new ways.
In other words, we do not create new things. We use what others already created in new ways. This is not a new thought. Michel de Montaigne wrote about it many hundreds of years ago. From Brain Pikcings
I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.
Nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.
… what makes Montaigne’s meditation so incisive — and such an urgently necessary fine-tuning of how we think of “curation” today — is precisely the emphasis on the thread. This assemblage of existing ideas, he argues, is nothing without the critical thinking of the assembler — the essential faculty examining those ideas to sieve the meaningful from the meaningless, assimilating them into one’s existing system of knowledge, and metabolizing them to nurture a richer understanding of the world.
This is true in problem solving and it is true in art and story telling.