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August 20, 2019

Preparing for a creative career


If you're one of those people who would like to have a career doing something creative, I encourage you. That is, if you'd like to do computer animation, or graphic design, or fashion design, or anything like that, yes, there just might be a place for you. The demand for creative people has always been high, and will continue to be so. But it's very important that you understand what "creative" means. If you get that wrong, you're gonna get stuck - a lot of people do.

Being creative is an abstract concept - it doesn't mean being good at a particular software program, or an expertise with any medium, such as paint, or whatever. Being good at a medium is a craft, which is also a valuable skill, but being creative is different. I'll see if I can explain. Let's take a test of your creativity.

Go find a pencil and a piece of paper. If you're already opening a software program, or stressing about what type of pencil to use, or what paper, you're in trouble. Calm down. If you have a pencil and piece of paper, let's begin.

Let's start with a toothpick. It could be anything, but I like those little pieces of wood for this creativity test. Now write down five things that you can do with a toothpick.

OK, stop. Put the pencil down. Yes, I mean it. Please. Put the pencil down and we'll continue. OK, you can write a couple more but then we have to stop for a few seconds. Great.

Now pick up the pencil and write five more things that you can do with a toothpick. Good. You should have ten by now. Ten is a good start, but a real creative person can do more. Go ahead and do another ten. I'll wait.

Got your twenty? Wonderful! How about five more? Oh, you've already done twenty-five? Then keep going.

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I did this every semester in one of the classes that I taught about exploring creativity. I found the exercise in a book, and actually they used bricks. But it doesn't matter - it's about imagination. I found that in the classes as I did this some people would get more and more excited, and some people would just groan. I didn't grade it, and I didn't ask anyone to hand anything in. In fact, no one really had to participate at all. But my really creative people just loved this. After I finally stopped with about fifty or sixty uses for toothpicks, I'd have people volunteer to read theirs. No, I never called on anyone. The wildly creative people absolutely jumped out of their socks for this. The people who had stopped at five or ten would just sit back and listen.

So there you go, all you need for a creative career is toothpicks, and the rest of it is detail.

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