Creativity is Learning
Creativity is learning. Learning is creativity. They are brothers with a lot in common. Creativity wouldn’t be possible without learning. Because of that, you have to push yourself to learn and absorb. Before creating an outline, creating catchy chapter titles, or beginning to write your content, you need to learn about your topic. The knowledge you carry may be enough to fill an entire book, but more likely than not, you will need to supplement what you've already learned with new learning. To be a creator is to be a life-long learner. Learning is essential for some forms of creative expression because of the technical aspects. Woodworking demands learning so you don’t cut your hand off using the table saw. Lithography demands learning so you end up with a legible print and you don’t end up with a mess on a stone. Baking requires learning or you’ll end up with flat cake that isn’t supposed to be flat. Nobody likes flat cake that isn’t supposed to be flat.
If you’re going to become a more creative person, you have to be open to learning. You will need to set aside any hesitations you have to putting in time to learn in earnest. If you had a poor relationship with learning from your experiences in school, consider this a fresh start. You get to learn on your own terms, and you will hopefully be interested in what you’re learning. But you will need to be diligent about it. It’s tempting to want to jump right in and get your hands dirty, and in some instances, that is the right strategy - we’ll talk more about that. However, more often than not you will have to put in some time and effort before you can really get started. The more you learn, the easier things will become, both in the short-term, and long-term. The more you learn, the less you need to learn.
Seen above: the (not exaggerated at all) number of books I bought to supplement my knowledge on creativity
There are a few approaches to learning, including learning by doing, learning by observing, and learning by instruction. This is a huge oversimplification of learning, but encompasses three common creative learning strategies. All three approaches have their merits and downsides. In reality, you will be doing all three approaches, but perhaps at different times. Also, it’s worth mentioning that learning isn’t a destination - you don’t reach a point where you can call it quits or ‘good enough.’ Learning is and needs to be forever. The sooner you quit learning, the sooner your work becomes stale and uninteresting. Even after you learn the techniques there is much more to learn. I’m not going to tell you how to learn - that part is up to you to, well, learn! However, I can tell you what has been helpful for me. I learn best by doing. For me, I actually tend to try diving in, with mixed results. Over time, I’ve realized I can save myself a lot of time, energy, and resources, by holding back on that urge and spending some time observing first. If it’s available, instruction is always helpful. You can find how-tos, guides, and videos in so many different places. The tough part is figuring out what works for you. In practice, you should observe or receive instruction for a bit, then try it out for yourself. With practice and learning, you’ll get the hang of technique, form, and principles. With more practice and learning you’ll develop your own style, preferences, and feel.
Learning can be overwhelming, especially when you’re first starting out. It feels like there is a massive amount of work you have to put in just to scratch the surface. I experienced that feeling when I first looked into using Adobe Illustrator. Something that was helpful for me was writing down everything I learned. It not only helped reinforce what I learned, but also gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It is something tangible you can look at that immediately documents your progress. In lieu of creating something such as a drawing, writing down what you learn gives the same level of satisfaction, plus helps with retaining information. However you learn, it’s important to keep at it and adjust as needed. If one style of learning isn’t working for you, try another; there’s no wrong way to learn so long as you’re consistently pushing the boundaries of what you know.
Up Next: Outlining