How to Be Creative
By Stephen Bucaro
"amateur artists imitate, professionals artists steal"
Almost everything ever created (and some people would say everything ever created) was
copied from someone else's work, or was built upon someone else's work. The great physicist
Sir Isaac Newton said, "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders
of giants". By that he meant his inventions built upon the work of Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo
Galilei, and Johannes Kepler.
To be creative in engineering, music, writing or in any field, you almost always start
with someone else's work and build upon it. Of course nonfiction writer's always build upon
other peoples work, it's called research. That's why any person who makes a living by being
creative needs to understand copyright and patent law.
One person's work that many people copy from is mother nature. Nature has a certain
combination of order and randomness that gives it great beauty. You can create music by copying
the songs of birds and other sounds in nature. Over the millennia nature has solved many design
and engineering problems that human engineers can copy.
One method of creativity that does not copy other peoples work is random synthesis. Random
synthesis can be accomplished manually by, for example, splashing various colors of paint on
a canvas. Random synthesis can also be accomplished using a computer by, for example, a program
that draws random shapes in random colors.
The problem with using random synthesis is that 99.9 percent of the the results it produces
are garbage. How do you know when the output of your random synthesis is not garbage? Think
of impressionist painting. An impressionist painting is hardly an accurate representation. It
gives you an impression of the beauty it represents, and that makes you feel good. Does the
output of your random synthesis make you feel good?
If you use random synthesis for art or music you'll find the output almost never has
harmony. So the real process of random synthesis involves using the output for inspiration.
Maybe one of the random results will have a look or sound that you can change or build upon
to create something beautiful.
Another method of using random synthesis for creativity is to randomly connect or combine
unrelated elements. For example who knew adding a can of diced tomatoes to a chocolate cake
mix makes it extra luscious? Or how about a random combination of a beaver and a duck? Actually,
nature already invented that, it's called a platypus.
Another method of creativity is to connect or combine knowledge from one area with knowledge
from another unrelated area. One example, that combines knowledge from mechanical engineering
with medical science is the artificial heart. Another example that combines knowledge from
food with mechanical engineering is gasohol, which is made by fermenting and distilling corn
and adding it to gasoline.
Yet another method of creativity is to take something to extremes. Let's say we wanted to
create a unique decorating scheme for a sea food restaurant. One idea is to put a huge fish
tank in the middle of the restaurant. But a rectangular fish tank in a sea food restaurant
has been done. It's not a very creative idea. So lets take it to extremes.
Lets say we take the height of the fish tank to zero and the length and width to infinity.
We end up with restaurant patrons sitting in water. So a more practical solution would be to
make the fish tank into a stream with fish in it that flows around the restaurant next to the
tables. The restaurant patrons would really enjoy that.
Lets say we take the length and width of the fish tank to zero and the height to infinity.
We end up with a thin string of water rising into space. So a more practical solution would
be to make the fish tank into a tall clear plastic cylinder of water that rises from the floor
to the ceiling. Several of these could be placed around the restaurant. The restaurant patrons
would really enjoy that.