After a decade studying how creatives do what they do the answer is simple: they work. No one wants to hear this, but it’s obvious. Creativity is best thought of as a kind of effort, not an abstract thing – it’s what goes on when you are trying to solve a problem. The problem could be writing a poem, making a song, designing a website, anything. But no creative person in history was creative independent of working on some kind of project.
The biggest difference between you and Picasso, or Beyoncé, or whoever your creative heroes are is that they out work(ed) you. They spend more time in front of a canvas, or guitar, or computer, working away at applying their minds and souls to specific things.
Want to be more creative? Pick a problem you care about and get to work. If you don’t care about anything, your problem isn’t creativity, it’s apathy. If you start things and give up, your problem isn’t creativity, it’s dedication. Can’t focus for long? Then learn the skill of concentration.
Few people in history that we call creatives today read books or took courses on creativity. Instead they apprenticed with masters in a craft and worked with them. They did the grunt work until they had the skills needed to do more sophisticated work. They learned how to develop ideas and deliver finished work by working. There is no other way.
Don’t believe me? Pick any creative hero, and any creative work they’re famous for, and investigate how many sketches, or drafts, or attempts they had to make to get it right. They may have had flashes of insight here and there, but those came while they were working their asses off. Ideas are cheap, it’s the passion to make ideas real that’s rare.
(Note: originally posted on Quora)