Suitable for Advanced/Expert ESL Learners.
By Jacqueline Schaalje
Read the following text and answer the questions.
We are all aware of what creativity can produce, such as fictional stories or beautiful pieces of art, but this still leaves us wondering what creativity is and how it can be defined. Each person experiences creativity differently and also expresses it differently, which makes creativity one of the most interesting aspects of being human.
When a person takes their ideas that they create in their imagination and turn them into something real, this is a tell-tale sign of creativity. For individuals who are able to see different aspects of the world in abnormal or interesting ways, or to find patterns that are hidden beneath the surface, they are exercising their creativity. Also humour is a result of creativity, as lots of jokes revolve around a combination of ideas from two different spheres of life.
There are two main processes associated with being creative: thinking and producing. Once you think of an idea, are you then able to execute it efficiently to bring your idea to life? That is a stage that is just as important as thinking the original idea. Let me give you an example to show you how this stage also involves creativity. Imagine you’d want to write a TV-series. You can have a bunch of creative ideas, but writing the episodes will employ even more creativity connecting all your ideas together.
Can You Learn Creativity?
One school of thinking says that in order to be creative, you must be born with the necessary skills. There are other groups that believe that creativity can be learnt, as soon as a person is able to access deeper portions of their mind.
There are several components that can be added together in order to achieve creativity: knowledge, thinking, and learning. With the ability to harness these components, you will be able to open your mind to further creative opportunities. Knowledge allows you to think of ideas that are different from the norm. Learning is imperative to establish the skills necessary to execute your creative ideas. Teaching yourself how to become creative is much like teaching any other skill; as long as you are in a supportive environment that allows you to practise, you will be able to enhance your creativity.
The Masters of Creativity
Can you mention some names of geniuses throughout history who exhibited an ample amount of creativity? Shakespeare, Picasso and Edison were masters in art or science. Some believe that they were born with their talents, whereas others believe that they learnt their talents through years of experience. There are even some irreverent souls who will tell you that Shakespeare used to smoke cannabis to fertilize his brain. Even if you think that you would never be able to develop the skills that the masters of creativity once had, with the appropriate amount of determination and practice, you can certainly become more creative in your own life.
Creativity According to John Cleese
John Cleese, who you probably know from Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, is a hugely creative comedian. Nowadays he likes to dabble in creativity workshops. What is creativity, in his view? He says that creativity isn’t so easy to learn; what’s more, it’s inexplicable. Clearly, some people are more creative than others. First of all, he claims that creativity is not a function of intelligence. Even the most intelligent people aren’t necessarily creative. So how did creative people accomplish their feats? They let their mind go, Cleese says. Creativity is born in the unconscious mind. Have you ever noticed that your best ideas come to you not when you’re bent over your desk or staring at your desktop, but when you’re in the shower, or when you’re walking your dog? Yup, in order to be creative you must stop thinking. Just let ideas bubble in your mind.
Another aspect he likes to teach is that you can’t be creative when you don’t have time to do some reflective thinking, or contemplation. You need time off work, off the internet, off Facebook and off your telephone. When you’re alone and everything is quiet around you, this is when creative ideas come to you. Consequently, in our busy world, where little beeps and buzzes are distracting our attention, being creative is hard to pull off.
The last idea that Cleese has about creativity is that your creative projects need to be done quickly, or at least under time pressure. Similar to having deadlines for a work project, you have to produce something before time is up. Cleese likes to tell an anecdote about when he lost a sketch. After he had hastily rewritten the sketch from memory, he found back the old sketch. When he compared the two sketches, the hastily written sketch was better!
The Creative Power of Free Writing
This leads us to another thinker, who also thinks that unconscious fooling around will lead to creative results. In his bestselling book, “Accidental Genius,” marketing guru Mark Levy advises readers to be spontaneous, playful and silly in a confident way. Write fast and steadily and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The fear of making mistakes spells the end of creativity. Another thing you shouldn’t be afraid of, in the eyes of Levy, is writing weak content. Inevitably, when you’re writing quickly, not everything that appears on your paper will be brilliant. In some sessions, you might discover that everything you’ve written is absolute, tear-inducing nonsense. But between the rubbish, maybe you will discover one or two thoughts or ideas that are worth saving. And you can work those out. Of one thing you can be sure, says Levy, if you want to write creatively, you should start with the writing. Without writing anything, or just quietly dreaming about the great story you will write once when you have time, you can never be a creative writer.
Now do this quiz to test your reading comprehension.
Choose the right answer.
1) What’s so great about creativity?
The expressions about creativity are endless.
Each person creates different things.
Each person talks about creativity in a different way.
Creativity is the one thing that makes us human.
2) What does exercising your creativity not depend on?
Seeing patterns hidden beneath the surface.
Quietly developing your ideas in your own space.
Combining unexpected contrasts.
Being able to crack lots of jokes.
3) Thinking of an idea is only one process that is associated with being creative, what is the other?
Writing the episodes of a TV-series.
Executing the idea.
Manufacturing the product.
Putting your idea into words.
4) What are the two schools of thought about creativity?
One school says you need to access deeper portions of your mind, the other says you can be creative while being on Facebook.
One school says you must learn to be creative, the other says you are born with it.
One school says you need to be born creative, the other says creativity can be learnt.
One school says only creative people can access deeper portions of their mind, while uncreative people are more intelligent.
5) What’s a component you need to make you more creative?
Knowledge, this gives you more ideas to choose from.
Mediation, it makes you more relaxed and open to new ideas.
Daydreaming, the power to transport your mind.
Intelligence, people with a higher IQ are more creative.
6) What made Shakespeare, Picasso and Edison masters of creativity?
They’re much more creative than normal people.
They’re much more creative than normal people but they were also able to execute their ideas expertly.
They were much more successful than other artists or inventors.
They were better able to remember their most fruitful ideas.
7) How is it that a creative idea can come to you in the shower?
Creative ideas don’t usually come to you when you’re at your desk, due to some quirk of nature.
Creative ideas might just as well come to you when you’re walking the dog.
Because, as John Cleese claims, creative ideas don’t come to the most intelligent, and when you’re in the shower you’re at your least intelligent.
Because, according to John Cleese, creative ideas are born in the unconscious mind, when you’re not thinking about your problem.
8) Why does Cleese teach about the importance of contemplation?
He says that you need to be with yourself in order to become creative.
He says that busy people often contemplate.
He teaches that the digital world and creative thinking are mutually exclusive (= they cannot happen at the same time).
He teaches that Shakespeare didn’t have Facebook and that’s how he came to his incomparable works.
9) Finish the sentence. Creative projects are better done under time pressure…
Since this forces you to produce ideas, even if they are completely lame.
The hurried dashing down of some ideas actually does not help creativity.
Because staring at an empty computer screen for an indefinite amount of time hasn’t made anyone more creative yet, ever.
As stress releases chemicals in the brain that induce creativity.
10) What, in Mark Levy’s opinion, makes for the end of creativity in someone’s writing?
Thinking before you write.
Not being afraid of making mistakes.
Writing weak content.
Not saving your silly and spontaneous ideas.
Want to learn more?
John Cleese lecture on creativity. Includes plenty of (light bulb) jokes!