Ed Glassman

Forced Combinations Can Create New and Unusual Concepts for the Arts

Creativity triggers come in all shapes and forms. Creativity often results when you make ‘remote associations,’ that is, combining one idea with another. Creativity flourishes best in an atmosphere where all ideas, even bizarre ones, survive beyond the usual Quick Negative Blast.

Please remember that a new idea is like a seed; you don’t know how it will turn out until you allow it to mature a little.

So please don’t shoot (or shout) my ideas down right away. Please allow me a little recklessness and possibly a grand mistake that may offend your good sense, because I am going out on a creative limb now, and I ask that you exercise unusual patience.

Assume you work in the arts … painting, sculpture, fibers, pottery, choreography, short stories, mysteries, poetry, plays, musicals, music, composing, conducting, etc.

Assume further that you are blocked in some creative aspects of your work, and attempts at non-evaluative listing and non-evaluative writing that I describe in my book have failed to get you back on track.

What to do? Fear not. An advanced creativity trigger awaits. However, you really have to want this to work for it to help.

All creativity results from ‘remote associations,’ the combining of separate items in your mind or in the environment to produce a different and useful solution. Let’s apply this concept to your attempts to innovate.

Here’s how. Assume you are a painter, and that your creativity is blocked, and you want to get out of it. What follows can apply to all the arts, sometimes with some major juggling.

Select any two paintings that you like. Call them painting ‘A’ and painting ‘B.’

List what you like about each painting.

Design a painting combining what you liked about the two paintings, ‘A’ and ‘B,’ into one design. Call this new design painting ‘X.’

Select two other paintings. Call them painting ‘C’ and ‘D.’ List and combine what you liked about these two paintings. Call this new design painting ‘Y.’

Now list what you liked about painting designs ‘X’ and ‘Y.’

Design a painting combining what you liked about the two painting designs, ‘X’ and ‘Y,’ into one design that we shall call painting ‘Z’.

Decide which of all these new designs you want to paint, and do so.

This same creativity trigger applies to the other arts with appropriate adjustments. Your creative block might end in an explosion of creativity, provided you want it to, or it might not. STILL, EXPECT GOOD RESULTS. Sometimes it helps creativity to include a 3rd painting in the mix.

Remember that I am on your side even though I do not know what you do, and I am not conversant with your field. Still, the principles I describe in my books and in these columns generally apply wherever you choose.

For example, I occasionally design card magic tricks in a similar way. I combine the ‘beginning’ of card trick ‘A,’ the ‘middle’ of card trick ‘B,’ and the ‘ending’ of card trick ‘C,’ mix them up a little or a lot, and produce a new trick. An even more creative card trick would result if I mixed in an item from a menu from a Chinese restaurant. That would be an example of an extreme “remote association.”

While all this combining is going on, my mental gyrations sometimes, though not always, can produce a blockbuster creative idea. So, combine old ideas into new creative combinations to break out of an uncreative hole to trigger exceptional innovativeness. And to obtain my book about making remote associations, Creativity Triggers Are For Everyone,” CLICK HERE.

Ed Glassman is a retired professor from the University Of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and a former columnist for the Chapel Hill Herald and the (Raleigh, North Carolina) Triangle Business Journal.

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.