Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creative Compentencies

I was a little worried today.  I've been struggling to come up with a good topic for the ole' blog.  I wasn't feeling creative.  The well was a dry so to speak, and then I had an ah ha moment.  I decided to discuss creativity.  Some people say you're either born creative, or your not.  I disagree.  I think creativity is a skill and just like any other skill it can be developed.

A couple of years ago I read an article in Scientific American Mind about creativity.  It was titled, "Let Your Creativity Soar".  If you can find a copy I urge you to give it a read.  It discusses creative competencies you can develop, and will in turn help you be more creative.

The competencies, or proficiencies, it discusses are as follows, capturing, challenging, broadening, and surrounding.

Capturing:  Preserving new ideas as the occur to you and doing so without judging them.*

To accomplish this you always should have a small notebook, and a writing implement with you.  You could also use a small voice recorder, or in some cases your camera.  You never know when a great, new idea for your next game session is going to occur to you, and if you don't write it down, you might not remember it later.  Come on now!  Everyone knows this happens to them at some point or another.Remember don't judge the idea either.  Record the idea first, and evaluate later.

Leonardo da Vinci was a habitual record keeper.  His notebooks comprise about 13,000 pages of drawings and notes.

I usually keep a word processor window open when I'm working on the computer, so if I think of something I can switch over, and record it.  If you do this, don't get complacent like I did.  Back up your work, not once, but twice.  I believe three times is best.  And to be really safe, one copy should be off site.

Challenging:  This is giving yourself tough problems to solve. In tough situations, multiple behaviors compete with one another, and their interconnections create new behaviors and ideas.*

This came up tonight when I couldn't think up a blog topic.  Because I challenged myself at the beginning of December to write a post every single day of the month I knew I had to challenge myself to write the post.  So I just started writing, and then came up with the idea for this post.

An interesting thing to note is that, although Leonardo da Vinci was a great painter only about 15 of his paintings survive.  This is due in part because he was always experimenting with new techniques, sometimes with disastrous results.  If this isn't challenging yourself I don't know what is.

Broadening:  The more diverse your knowledge, the more interesting the interconnections - so you can boost creativity by learning interesting new things.*  Remember diversified knowledge can be very synergistic.

If your main hobby is gaming, maybe it's in one particular genre or style.  If you primarily play fantasy RPGs, then maybe you should try some science fiction role playing.  Even better yet, try something completely different.  Head down to the local science museum, ( don't forget your notebook or even your camera! ) and just enjoy browsing the exhibits.  You never now when looking at something will spark an idea.  I like to think this how the idea for the movie "Night At The Museum" came about.  I can imagine the writer thinking, "Hhhmmm... wouldn't it be cool if everything came to life at night, here at the museum?"

Leonardo da Vinci is a great example of "broadening" one's self.  Some consider him the archetype of the Renaissance Man.  He had an interest in many arts and sciences, and could be considered the most diversely talented man to ever have lived.

Surrounding:  The more interesting and diverse the things and people around you are, the more interesting your ideas become.*

I'm something of a habitual collector.  I'm not quite a hoarder, but I have to be careful.  My shelves have lots of weird nick knacks on them.  One in particular is a toy crocodile with it's jaws open.  In the jaws I placed a rubber eyeball.  Heh... it makes me laugh every time I look at it, and you never know, one day it might spark an idea.

Yeah, da Vinci did this also.

A few more things about developing your creativity.  One, do not fear rejection, and don't let criticism stop you from expressing your ideas.  Also, do not fear the blank page, or blank computer screen as the case may be...  This was advice given to me by an artist at a convention years ago, and it's really good advice.  Mistakes aren't the end of the world.  Learn from them, and move on.

I give a workshop at a local con about publishing/creating mini-comics.  Whoever wants to draw a page is welcome to create.  At the start I always give the the one rule, and that is that there are no rules in this workshop.  Draw the way you want to draw.  This should be the same with the gaming hobby.  You want to write a module, who says it has to be in a dungeon, or castle, cave, sewer, or whatever?  Break the rules.  Make your adventure in a giant tree house, or in an Escher style dungeon.  Hhhhhmmm... that may have been done before.  Well, you get the idea.

One of the things I do is not limit myself to just the geeky forms of entertainment.  I read all kinds of books, and watch all kinds of movies.  Yes, I really enjoy science fiction, fantasy, and horror, but there are a lot of great movies and books you could enjoy.  If you haven't read the book, or watched the movie of "To Kill A Mockingbird"  I highly recommend both.  Will it help with your gaming?  Either as a player, game master, or designer?  Who knows?  You might be surprised.

*Scientific American Mind, June/July 2008. "Let Your Creativity Soar", Pp 24-31


  1. I'm with Angry. This was a great read, and surely not only because I think in a very similar way! I especially agree with the need for challenge, most of all breaking out of habit and experimenting.

  2. Thanks for the comments. I hope everyone who reads this learns something useful to help them in their creative endeavers.