Wish You Were More Creative? Just Pretend!
Reader's Digest US|November 2018
Wish You Were More Creative? Just Pretend!

Thinking you aren’t gifted may be what’s blocking your inner artist

Susie Neilson

I want to ask you a favor. I have a pair of pants. Tell me: How many different ways can I put a pair of pants to use?

Now imagine you’re an architect. Same question.

Now imagine you’re Cher. Bill Gates. A scuba diver. A medieval knight. You still have the pants. What alternative uses come to mind?

What you just practiced—the conscious act of “wearing” another self—is an exercise that, according to psychiatrist Srini Pillay, MD, is essential to being creative.

One great irony about our collective obsession with creativity is that we tend to frame it in uncreative ways. That is to say, most of us marry creativity to our concept of self: Either we’re “creative” or we aren’t, without much of a middle ground. “I’m just not a creative person!” a frustrated student might say in art class, while another might blame her talent at painting for her difficulties in math, deflecting with a comment such as, “I’m very right-brained.”

Dr. Pillay, a tech entrepreneur and an assistant professor at Harvard University, has spent a good chunk of his career subverting these ideas. He believes that the key to unlocking your creative potential is to defy the clichéd advice that urges you to “believe in yourself.” In fact, you should do the opposite: Believe you are someone else.

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November 2018