Two Creativity Two-Steps

Aug 28, 2018 | Better Writing

The dance of creativity is a lot like a two-step. In fact, it’s like two two-steps. Understanding them can help you write a better book. And, like dancing a real two-step, it should be fun.

Creativity is a lot like dancing. It’s rhythmic and it’s rewarding. Here are two forms of creativity two-step. Enjoy them both.

Divergent and Convergent

Sometimes what you want is to get lots of ideas and lots of ideas about ways to shape your ideas. That’s divergent thinking. Sometimes it happens in a group, like brainstorming. Sometimes it’s done by an individual. How you do it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get a lot of ideas.

Save the criticism and evaluation for later. Get stuff out. What if we…? I wonder if…? Here’s a thought…

Divergent thinking should be exuberant, but make sure to capture the ideas that you get. I like recording brainstorming sessions, either in a group or when I’m working by myself. I found that I’m more likely to capture lots of good ideas that way, when I don’t have to worry about my notes keeping up with my brain.

Once you’ve got a pile of good ideas, you need to do something with them. Evaluate the ideas. You’ll probably throw out some ideas and combine others. When you’re doing the convergent part of this two-step, you’re narrowing down the ideas and refining what you’ve got.

As you work your way through a project, you will probably use both kinds of thinking often. Most of the time, it will be a true two-step. You’ll do some divergent thinking and then convergent thinking, and then repeat the process.

That’s one creativity two-step. The other one is like dancing, too. Sometimes you hold on to your partner, and sometimes you let go.

Hold Tight, Then Let Go

Your brain is an amazing organ. You’ll get the most out of it if you let it do its thing from time to time. That’s what this creativity two-step is all about.

The first step is where you’re really concentrating, focusing on the work. You’ve got your project front and center, and you’re doing the work to make it better. That’s great. It’s just not enough.

Sometimes, you need to step back and let your brain do its thing. Leave the project alone and go do something else. Maybe work on another project. Maybe do something where your body is on autopilot and your brain can roam free. I’m talking about things like taking a shower, or taking a walk, or doing the dishes.

You may have left your project alone, but your brain hasn’t. It’s still on duty. While you’re off doing something else, your brain may send you flashes of inspiration, ideas that you can use. Be sure to capture them so that you can use them the next time you’re concentrating on the project.

Bottom Line

If you want to get the most out of all your creative power, you need to do the two creativity two-steps. Use divergent thinking to get lots of ideas, then use convergent thinking to get rid of the bad ones and improve the good ones. Repeat. Do concentrated work on your project to improve things, then let it go. When your brain sends you more good ideas, capture them so you can use them when you return to concentrated work on your project. Repeat.

Further Reading

Adam Grant’s book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, has an excellent discussion of what Grant calls “strategic procrastination.” You can read my review of the book here.

My post, “Improve Your Writing with a Process Based on Research,” has more on the second two-step.

Sign Up For Blog Posts Via Email