Creative reading

Do you want to improve your creativity? Being more flexible in our thinking allows us to innovate and create connections between disparate sets of information.

To enhance this skill, creative reading might be the answer. Perhaps it’s already a technique you employ instinctively, but in this article, we’ll cover exactly how to develop the skill and use it to your advantage.

What is creative reading?

We can’t define creative reading without first touching upon critical reading, which forms part of the critical-creative reading process.

Critical reading is the analysis and interpretation of the text in order to test its accuracy and validity, judging perspectives and synthesising various topics into a congruent whole. It’s a method which allows us to evaluate arguments and draw conclusions.

  • This is step one in the critical thinking process.
  • Step two is creative reading, which is required to make use of this analysis.

Creative reading is based upon imagination, innovation and originality. It’s taking what you’ve read and evaluated through critical reading and using creative writing to build upon it, developing new ideas and problem-solving approaches.

Why is creative reading important?

We can’t simply stop at analysing the information we read, judging its veracity and understanding it. Although these are essential skills, we must put this information to use.

Why?

Because we use information to solve the many daily problems that life presents.

Creating innovative solutions from what we read is, therefore, an essential skill.

Although many educational systems fail to adequately prepare students in this core component of creativity, the success we experience in life appears directly correlated to our critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

How to practice creative reading

For me, creative reading is an essential part of reading non-fiction and self-help material.

Although many people might use the genre as a form of escapsim, it’s often more useful to approach it from a problem-solving mindset.

The problem-solving exercise covers the following three creative reading activities, an assessment developed by Johnasson in 2010.

  1. Finding the problem and the root of the problem
  2. Planning and executing at least three alternative solutions
  3. Expressing the best solution in the form of creative texts

Finding the problem

Starting with number, one it’s important to find the root of your personal problems. Some primer questions that might help with this are:

  • What problems do you face in your life? E.g. Is it that you feel stuck or directionless, with a lack of life purpose?
  • What goals do you want to achieve? E.g. Do you want to start your own business?

The answers to these questions probably aren’t clear or straightforward and the exact solution or steps involved to make progress are ambiguous. Writing these down ahead of time is good practice.

When you read a pertinent non-fiction book, it’s good to have these questions in mind and even in a notebook by your side.

Planning 3 alternative solutions

A useful technique to drill down to the essence of these issues is to keep asking ‘why’ after you produce every question, until you can go no further, before then asking a what and how.

  • Why do you feel stuck? Because I don’t like my job
  • Why don’t you like your job? Because I don’t have enough autonomy
  • Why don’t you have enough autonomy? Because of the bureaucracy in the workplace

The for the what and how:

  • What is the solution? To secure a role with more freedom
  • How can I do this? To start my own business on the side and try to develop a full-time income from it

You can perform this exercise for each of the primary problems you identify.

Creative texts

Now it’s time to get your creative cap on. If you’ve read other articles on this site, you’ll know that I’m a huge proponent of journaling.

I feel that long-form handwriting can unlock elements of your subconscious that can provide valuable hidden insights.

The key here is to relax enough to switch off your analytical mind and allow your creativity to take over.

You’ve identified your problem and the solution, so simply write anything around the topic that comes to mind in a stream of consciousness style exercise – don’t censor yourself.

Silence that inner critic initially, as your writing isn’t intended to be perfect on the first attempt – the work can always be polished later.

The result

What you will find from this exercise is that you uncover new and novel ways to address your problems.

You might approach these issues from various angles in your creative writing piece, probing the potential solutions to identify which is most suitable.

And it needn’t simply be constrained to writing – if you’re a more visual person seeking to develop your artistic skills, you could adapt the technique to include doodles or sketches.

After all, as Austin Kleon says in his book, Steal Like an Artist,

“Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.”

“If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

Summary

Creative reading is an essential technique that many people might not have been taught in school.

But it’s never too late to develop the skill and become a flexible thinker.

By reading the right books, we can unlock the answers which already reside within us. Let me know how you get on!

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