Creating with clarity and simplicity

In the ever changing realm of creativity, the desire to be considered avante-garde may motivate artists to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. Much to do with art is about making a controversial statement, or expressing the complexity of one’s feelings. But how does one distil the abundance of human expression into an accessible form, allowing others to gain aesthetic appreciation for their creation?

Image by Martina Bulkova

Clear intentions

It can be helpful to develop a clear intention for your art before the creation phase. Sometimes this isn’t possible when inspiration strikes you on a whim, but if you consider for a moment why you are creating and who your intended audience may be, it can guide your creative direction and filter out the noise.

The creative mind is messy. In an attempt to understand the complexities of creativity, Graham Wallas in 1926 published the ‘four-stage model’ of the creative process which involved preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. Wallas’ research has influenced many psychologists and researchers, some of whom have argued that his model is overly simplistic, such as J.P Guildford who in the 1950s created the terms convergent and divergent thinking.

Divergent thinking, in particular, invites one to consider the multiple possibilities when confronted with a problem. Be it a blank canvas or an empty page, creativity without clarity can easily cause a creator to feel stuck when deciding which direction to take.

Cognitive fluency

The human brain loves patterns. When it recognises something familiar, be it a person or brand, it will likely trust it. Anything that is unfamiliar or difficult to process can be interpreted as unpleasant or lead to disinterest from an audience’s perspective. This poses an immediate challenge for anyone trying to create something new and original.

Research by psychologist Christian Unkelbach revealed that how fluently we process a statement, a name, or any discrete piece of information influences our judgement on its truth or credibility.

Cognitive fluency is the ease with which the brain processes new information in order to comprehend it. The level of difficulty in this experience and the associated feelings which emerge can influence how receptive you are to new information.

The concept of cognitive fluency lends credence to the significance of simplicity when attempting to express one’s creative ideas.

Simple yet sophisticated

“To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.”

Aristotle

Simplicity can baffle the creative who subscribes to the notions of struggle and excessive effort in order to feel accomplished. In the past week, I’ve worked with two clients who’ve questioned concepts that made their creative process easier.

Despite the fact that the brain seeks immediate gratification, when a task or exercise feels too simple or easy, it can leave one feeling unaccomplished.

To achieve simplicity, develop a clear intention. What are you trying to express with your creation? Is the struggle necessary, or does it hinder your creativity? Do you associate complexity, embellishment, or ornamentaion with sophistication?

Simple
adjective
1. easily understood or done; presenting no difficulty.
2. plain, basic, or uncomplicated in form, nature, or design; without much decoration or ornamentation.

Sophistication lies in taking something complex and translating it into something simple. There is beauty in such ease and simplicity. Imagine singing or speaking with command yet ease, or writing succinctly yet being able to convey a complex message.

“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”

Ernest Hemingway

Simple is sophisticated when one demonstrates complex technical competencies and presents them to be deceivingly effortless.

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