Get Creative Ideas Using this ONE Method
I’ve got a great example of how to think outside the box for you called conceptual blending.
Before we get to that, last week, I had a successful webinar where I talked about creativity with a lively group of women. Thanks to all of you who attended. I was so glad to have you there. This is how I started the webinar –by making this important point.
If you’re not exhibiting creative abilities it’s not because you’re unable to do so. Because the truth is, you were born creative.
I went on to explain why mastering techniques is not enough in making you creative. In addition to techniques, you’ve got to learn new ways of thinking.
This week, I’ve been reading Michael Michalko’s book “Creative Thinkering – Putting Your Imagination to Work”. Excellent read!!! I wasn’t surprised to see Michalko start his book by making the same point about the fact that we are all born creative.
Michalko also talks about the importance of building creative thinking skills. He blames our education systems (which Sir Ken Robinson also famously pointed his finger at in this Ted talk) for making us less creative because of the ways we are taught to think. Michalko explains “Conceptual Blending” as one of the creative ways of thinking that can get you out of the thinking habits that hinder your creativity.
So what does Conceptual Blending mean? Let me briefly explain the idea of Conceptual Blending as described by Michalko. We’ve all learned from childhood to put things into categories. Categorizing things makes it easy for us to simplify, understand and work with them. For example, when you visit my website I have a category for my blog where all my blog posts reside. Then I’ve got a category for artwork where you’ll find different categories of my artwork and I’ve got one for my art shop.
Similarly, we think of an apple as a fruit. A carrot as a veggie, a dog as an animal and we pair our socks by color. We categorize almost everything in our lives. So when we are faced with a problem we need to solve, we default to the categories we’re so familiar with. What this does is to limit us from coming up with creative solutions. This is the proverbial “thinking in the box”. The possible solutions we tend to come up when we’re faced with a problem, all stem from looking at the problem in relation to its specific category. Thus what I call “thinking inside the category box”.
To successfully think creatively, you’ve got to forget the categories and blend unrelated items.
Example of Conceptual Blending
Let’s take an example, to make it clearer. Recently, I’ve been practicing drawing faces. And I’m really enjoying doing them. It takes me several hours to complete one pencil sketch and I enjoy every minute of it. So I’ve been thinking of how to incorporate my pencil sketches into my textile work.
The solution I came up with is to use my fabrics as my drawing surface and my sewing machine needle as my pen and my threads as ink. This seems like an interesting solution. (Sewing + Illustrations = Sewed illustrations). I broke out of the box of seeing only pens, pencils, and markers in the drawing instrument category. I moved on to see sewing machine needles as though they were drawing instruments, not just tools for holding layers of fabrics together.
That is the idea of Conceptual Blending – a creative way of thinking that’s different from the conventional ways of categorizing we’re taught in school.
“Conceptual Blending” is the act of combining unrelated items in order to solve a problem.
That is one way of thinking creatively.
Another example is how quilt artist, Caryl Fallert-Bryer Gentry came up with her applipiecing technique. She combined two different techniques which were originally in separate categories to create something new and innovative.
Applique + Piecing = “Applipiecing”
In summary, take these three steps to come up with creative ideas:
- Break down the category walls
- Combine unrelated items
- Pick a combination that best solves your problem
Remember, mastering the techniques are not enough. Many people are being taught the same techniques by the same teachers. What makes you creative is your way of thinking about how to use what you’ve learned. Your creative thinking is what truly sets you apart!!! That’s what makes you create awesome work!!!
And the best part is this. You can apply these concepts to any part of your creative process, not just your techniques.
Question: What are some creative ways you can improve the current processes you use to make your creative work? Forget the categories and blend unrelated items. Start writing down your combinations. You’ll be surprised what you come up with.
Also published on Medium.