First, I haven't actually used any of the steps, only passively read (two-thirds so far) the book. The books specifically states that creative people are prolific, although that sounds a bit like a truism. Anyway, I definitely need to dig in and perform the tasks described. There are a few techniques given but all start with a problem statement or a focus phrase or idea.
Now, "problem statement" makes it sound like a part of the scientific method. And that brings up my second concern. Michalko (the author) goes a long way to demystify how creativity works. He is not completely successful and I'll visit that point soon, but lets look at where he has succeeded. The steps he gives are clear and pragmatic. I am currently reading about how to properly brainstorm.
Here is a short summary. Start with a problem or focus for your brainstorming, then starting writing down whatever you think of. It is not exactly stream-of-consciousness but you definitely need to not hold back - this is not the sorting or selecting phase. It can be hard to start thinking of ideas so setting a goal and a time limit is recommended: 20 ideas in five minutes, for example. After creating the ideas, it is time to sort. Typically, one needs to throw away the first few ideas as they are the most cliche'ed or stereotyped. They tend to be the result of reproduction rather than production, you are repeating things and ideas you have already learned rather than created anything.
I think this would work (again, I have not tried it yet), but I am concerned about my reaction. The process has been demystified and I feel let down. This is strange and irrational, I know. I deliberately chose the book and spent money to get it so that I could understand creativity better. Now I am complaining that I don't like it? What did I expect?
Well, that last doesn't have to be a rhetorical question. I expected or hoped for tricks and easy routes to creativity. Here is an example:
A study in the scientific journal Brain and Cognition suggests that increasing the "crosstalk" between the brain's left and right hemispheres can increase creativity. Researchers from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey ran an experiment on 62 people to gauge creative thinking. After a first try at the task, some of the participants were told to shift their eyes horizontally back and forth for 30 seconds, an exercise that boosts the communication between the hemispheres.
Now, I know the value of hard work and I have experimented somewhat with meditation (another discipline that appears to be easy, but requires, almost by definition, fierce and tiring concentration) but I guess I wanted a magical answer.
Earlier, I wrote that I would return to the point that creativity is still mysterious. As I have described on this blog, the actual ideas still appear seemingly from nowhere. When I wrote my story about Russell's teapot, which didn't win the contest, by the way, the focus of the idea sprang nearly complete in my mind. The sudden appearance of these ideas is still wonderfully unexpected for me.