Going Digital

In a talk given by Anastasia Salter, I realized there was more to creativity than I thought. She emphasizes the importance of games, stories, and devices like iPads to trigger creativity. It was very interesting although I’m against using any device for reading other than a book. As cliche as it sounds, a book is a book, its words not only push imagination levels and takes you to another place, but gives you a certain satisfaction that I can’t explain. She also talks about comics and compares digital to non-digital ones, underlining Scott Mc Cloud’s “infinite canvas” theory, and I agree with her, because comics are meant to be interesting, engaging, thrilling. But is it exactly stimulating? I also have to admit that I was impressed with her Prezi work, because not only was I unfamiliar with how to use it, but I now am keen to know how it works and how one could achieve so much with it. It also caught my attention because you can tell stories and give people details about certain aspects in a story through a series of images or the like, something that is far beyond printed text. Yes, these tools do help us conceptually grasp ideas, but I believe we need to give the mind a space to wander. Salter, also brought my attention to something that I had totally boycotted for a long time: games. I stopped playing games on any electronic device (I’m addicted to Scrabble though) because I thought it’s a waste of time and energy. Turns out there’s a whole new meaning for the word game, that she puts forth, so brilliantly. It basically means a set of rules and a target that you aim to reach, within those rules. And she gives the example of education and our progress in it. So I’ve come to realize that a playful environment with certain types of games, is an excellent intellectual tool. I think this talk was an eye opener to me, and despite the fact that I didn’t agree with a few points, I think there’s so much potential to the digital world and its contribution to making the community experience wild ideas.

This video was one which I randomly came across but which has helped me a lot.

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Refusing to be put down

Let me take you back to 2011, when I, after careful thought, decided that I want to pursue creative writing and writing for children in Arabic and English. And my decision wasn’t only based on passion but my big aim was to educate every single Egyptian who walked this country. I wanted to open schools, change syllabuses, re-innovate the system so that every individual could use knowledge as a tool to unleash their ideas and to foster. I had ideas, plans, maps and a belief so strong in myself, so much that I took my IGCSE subjects on that basis. I sat First and Second Language English, English literature, First Language Arabic and later on sat for an A-Level Language and Literature exam.

Fast forward to 2013, my graduation year, when my aunt was casually asking me about my goals. With all enthusiasm and pride, I confidently laid out my plan. What happened next was, however, demolishing. On so many levels. Because she looked at me and laughed hysterically. After recovering she said crudely, “This is reality, not a fairy tale. Grow up and get over these childhood thoughts. You’re old enough to know this won’t work, and young enough to understand that there’s a lot you have no idea about. And you want to major in writing? What are you gonna do with that degree? Unless you want to sit at home and be a pathetic housewife, don’t chase void, Ayah.” And with that, she got up and left me and I could never get over what she said. And yes, one of the reasons I changed the course of my studies was her.

And although it was all depressing for a while, I stopped writing for almost a year, and I couldn’t mingle with others for a long time, I now push myself to keep my motive alive. In a practical sense, I am minoring in creative writing. On a mental and emotional level, not only do I avoid people like her, but I’m always reading, trying to debate ideas with people, and getting into discussions. I think getting your thoughts out, is important, getting feedback is crucial. And this video was a reminder that I can be creative, and that I shouldn’t be scared of not being one. I could relate to the stories he was saying because I’ve experienced fear, loss of confidence, and at a point I did feel like a failure. And I was intrigued to read about Dr. Doug Dietz. Not only because it’s immensely powerful to help a child come to like a medical tool that used to be painful, but also because he in turn inspired the speaker, who is playing a major role in creative confidence, that I believe we all need.

The question arises: are some people capable of exhibiting more creative ideas than others?

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The concept of ‘us’

This may sound a little off topic but I’ll explain why it’s not. My all-time role model is Sir Magdy Yacoub. This man had a personal impact on me as a person and I wrote about it (you don’t have to read it) here. Seeing his success in saving so many lives, the element of creativity must have been essential in rescuing so many people with so many different heart conditions. But he wasn’t born a Sir, let alone a Doctor. He was born in an Egyptian family and grew up pretty much like any of us, if not less. So, his success is an end product of time, effort and coming up with good ideas to save his patients. Let’s compare Yacoub’s performance in operations 20 years ago vs. now. He’s probably more efficient now. Why you ask? Not only because he’s experienced, but because he uses tools and equipment that make his work easier, faster and more accurate. He’s probably had more research findings now as compared to 20 years ago because of the internet and his ability to stay in touch with all cardiac surgeons from around the world.
In an article, his dream as a child, was becoming a cardiac surgeon, and here he is. His motive was the death of his aunt, and aspirations to become like his father and now, he works with a team of experts, who help him in many aspects. And this is really the essence of it. He started off with an inspired dream, slowly worked hard towards it, and used wisely the technological advancements and the invention of the internet (note to self: instead of being distracted by it), along with the support of other experts and professors to develop his ideas, silver them. And this immensely stirred me. To have the patience and will, to use resources carefully and intelligently, to dynamically work in teams and bring people together to achieve a certain goal. This is what we all should be aiming for. On other note, I think emotions play a role in idea generation and where they come from, if something negatively affects you in person, you will do everything possible to try to change it, if you’re happy with a group of people at work, then you’re likely to be successful and so on. Positive vibes bring positive output.

Check this clip out, to see how cooperation and utilizing available resources can help save lives. And even if it was fiction, the director definitely promotes the idea well.

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A starting point

As I progress through this course (Creativity and Problem solving) I’m more and more impressed and enlightened. Through the readings and videos, I’m discovering a lot about myself and others, and how to achieve creativity. This video personally really touched me, because not only was I charmed by Tina Seelig’s, (the speaker) passion but I found what she said immensely relatable.
There are internal and external tools that aid our journey to creativity and they’re all related to each other. Internally, we have:
-our imagination
-our attitude and
-knowledge.
And while schools kill imagination, we’re here to bring it back.
Think about a joke. The key to a good joke is rephrasing and playing with words, and this increments imagination levels. Also, combining haphazard ideas together and making connections between them creates interesting ideas, and although this comes across as challenging for me, the skill could grow with practice. And lastly challenging assumptions, meaning that surprising or unusual problems have a variety of correct answers. Being an engineering student, the idea of many correct answers wasn’t familiar, but with time I figured that approaching problems differently is a route to coming up with many correct answers. Of course we have to be passionately willing to explore a variety of answers and this is our attitude towards problems. You have to be wholehearted and dedicated, and things will surely come about.

Knowledge is well explained in this video , where it’s important to be thorough about something to be able to play with it, and this comes, unexpectedly, through scrutinizing the world around us. A writer has to have a rich background in vocabulary to be able to weave stories or describe scenes for example.

Externally, we’ve got:
– Habitat
-Resources
-Culture

And I’ve understood why we changed our class location when habitat came up because the new room is spacious and flexible allowing for more freedom, as compared to boring chairs and desks. Resources are important in the sense that we should make the best use of the potential we already have to come up with something new. Culture, like Seelig said, is the “background music” to all of this. A community has to have the right attitude to tackle problems and this is what links these two together. I’m hoping that after I’m done with this course, I can do anything to change the negative attitudes of Egyptian people. Because this would contribute greatly in development and social change. And also because, the right habitat stimulates imagination and vice versa and that is the beauty of it!

Start with whatever you have, but get started!

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Ideas inspire, combine, and reproduce … just slowly.

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I want to first credit the name of my blog, the liquid network, to a term coined by Steven Johnson as I heard it in his 2010 TED talk in Oxford, England.

Let’s start by looking at the words: innovation, invention, breakthrough, ground-breaking idea. All these closely related words reminds us of either our own achievements, or the lack of it.

But what does not differ from person to person is that it usually reminds them of these words too: eureka moment, lightbulb moment, “Aha!”, flash of insight.
It was always that we as individuals or as a society portrayed an idea as a single thing, something that just happens in a wonderful illuminating moment and if you had just been a second earlier or late you may not have been in the right moment to receive your dose of enlightenment.

Well, I argue the opposite, that ideas develop slowly through hard work. You see an…

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The common misconception

I must admit that I’ve always had this romantic idea of creativity in my mind. Reading this article, I realized that what I thought was a myth; that creativity is not this moment were everything magically pieces itself and comes into existence.

I thought creativity was a God-given gift, and that it was somehow not granted to the mass. I thought people like Mozart, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo had super powers or abilities that I, Ayah, could never attain.

But I was wrong. These people, yes, had talent, but it took them a lot of persistent hard work to get to where they were.

To come up with these amazing harmonies, Mozart worked – yes, worked – day and night, struggled and faced problems. Things weren’t always bright and sunny for him, and people of the time (including me before reading the article) certainly overlooked that.

This gives me hope too that – although it is challenging- coming up with something creative, is achievable, if one works hard enough without a fear of failure; because people we now call great, are human. They make mistakes, they’re flawed, we all are. But they used everything that they had, they set their goals clearly in front of them and made their way to the top, genuinely, with very little sparks of inspiration or outlandish moments of eureka.

And I think everyone should see creativity in this light, to have the motivation to accomplish anything in life.
If society keeps painting an image of creativity as sudden outbursts of novel and amazing ideas, the essence of creativity will be lost. Take people who were responsible for great leaps in technology, do you think they just dreamt it into existence? Probably not. These once so-called “crazy” ideas, are ones that we can’t live without now. It took a lot of perseverance and will to bring these ideas into the light.

We have to stop looking at one side of the story only. The people in this video are well-known to us as excellent and successful, yes, but on the other hand, we must keep in mind that they failed, got rejected and went through many difficulties in the process.

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Pave your way to creativity: start from YOU!

A lot of times, people think you need to go through radical change to become creative, when in fact you have all what it takes to be creative, you just have to expose it!

As children, we often questioned everyone everything, we wanted to know how the world worked, and this is one of the things we ought to bring back in ourselves. It’s so important that we don’t suppress questioning anything that we are unaware of. Not only that, but we have to ask several people and employ different methods when it comes to answering the crazy questions in our mind. This way we’ll be able to see things from different angles, we’ll hear different opinions and experience different reactions. And once we have this, generation of creative ideas becomes more likely.

As we grow, we start developing ‘what-if’ scenarios, and this is actually very beneficial. Apart from theories and proven facts, we should and are capable of challenging the norms, and coming up with improved answers .

But keep in mind that for us to come with better solutions for problems, we have to be intrigued to do so. A part of being creative is having an itching desire to make complimentary changes. This should be accompanied by a positive spirit, so that it’s an experience to enjoy.

Speaking of positive spirits, do we know that approaching a problem with a certain mindset, can alter the way we come up with creative solutions? Do we realize that confidently tackling problems, knowing that one way or another, that problem could be solved, is actually a part of the solution? This could include viewing unusual, poor ideas or even problems in a way that enhances their potential, in a manner that is accepting and that looks for what is good about them, because many a times we can extract ideas that may grow to become spectacular and useful. And even if we do fall into errors, we mustn’t feel negatively about it. On the contrary, it’s a great opportunity to know how we’re progressing and what we’re lacking.

So let’s not fear problems! Let’s face them with an open heart and an open mind, with enthusiasm and optimism that through solving problems we are really making a positive change that will ripple, affect everyone around us and leave a mark in the world. Let’s take the idea of creativity to a whole new level!

To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” – Osho
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