Creativity in all forms is crucial for success in life (i.e., creative thinking, expression, problem-solving, etc.). We spoke to an expert in unlocking individual creativity to learn how to get the most from this exciting skill.
An interview with Heather Willems,
Co-Founder and Principal
ImageThink, New York, NY, USA
For something so important for life, what would you tell girls that are underestimating their creativity or are hesitant to try different routes to reach their full creative potential?
Creativity is important because it helps ignite your curiosity, fuels your imagination, and as you practice, it builds your confidence. Not only that, it helps you to explore your thoughts and ideas forging connections that were not there before.
What role did creativity play in your education?
I don’t think I could have gotten through school without creativity –
- It helped me to process my emotions so I could focus my energy on my work
- I developed unique skills that gave me confidence
- I met like-minded people that shared my passion and became lifelong friends
- It challenged me and that gave me a sense of purpose. There was always room for improvement, and the idea of mastering something excited me
- I was able to enter a state of flow, or my happy place where I am loving life!
Creativity comes in all forms, and I practiced many of them: Singing, dancing, drawing, writing, photographing, playing an instrument, acting, scrapbooking, sewing, etc.
Drawing: If I drew pictures in my notebook next to my notes in class I could remember them better during my exam.
Writing: I started my first journal when I was ten years old. It was to express myself and work through problems. I would write about my feelings, describe a beautiful scene in front of me, or sometimes I would transcribe conversations that I eavesdropped on around me. Documenting what I saw and experienced, helped me to make sense of the world. It helped me to focus my ideas and taught me to communicate more efficiently. Journalling every day became an incredibly valuable self-reflection tool that has helped me as a leader.
Photography: Photography can be a journal as well. Documenting things that are beautiful or that you are grateful for helps to increase your happiness. Challenging yourself to take a better photo every day also increases your skill.
Theatre: I could express myself in a safe space. I could step into someone else’s shoes and see the life from another perspective. I found that I could tell a story that would move people which gave me purpose.
I believe in the power of doodling and it helps my teenage daughter focus and be calm. Also, many successful people admitted are doodlers, like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. What would you say to girls that are criticized for doodling in school?
Everyone should doodle! Drawing helps to not only focus your attention and enter a state of flow but also remember more information effectively. Additionally, drawing provides a simple way to communicate complex ideas. There was a study done that shows that people who doodle remember 30% more than their counterparts who don’t doodle at all. We process and learn information in five different ways, Hearing, Seeing, Reading, Doing and Feeling. When you are drawing and writing down the biggest ideas in the form of visual notes, you are activating four modalities of learning. If you sketch something that makes you laugh and ignites emotion, you are activating all parts of the brain! Why is this important? When you draw or even think about drawing, you stimulate the entire brain, including the prefrontal cortex which is the ‘CEO’ of the brain…it is the part of the brain where we make decisions. Last I checked, making decisions and remembering information comes in pretty handy when we are taking a test, writing a paper, or deciding if we go to a party or stay home to study!
What is your ‘go-to’ when you need to spark your creativity?
Lately, I find myself taking visual notes of Tedtalks or my favorite podcasts. I start drawing out the story and I always write down the key phrase that I don’t want to forget. I find that I enter a state of ‘flow’ and before I know it I am connecting ideas that help me come up with other creative solutions.
Tips and Tricks:
Give yourself a 30-day challenge –
- Choose one creative expression (i.e., drawing, writing, etc.) and practice it every day for 30 days
- You could take as little as 5 minutes in the morning to be effective!
- Don’t pass judgment. Do it for yourself. No one needs to see it
- Most importantly, have fun. That’s where creativity thrives!