Making Creativity a Skill – Noelle Bertuccini

For my senior project, I created a book that combined gaining knowledge about creativity and exercises/activities to work towards developing creativity as a repeatable skill rather than a characteristic.  The original plan was a small book that would help people explore the creativity that had pretty pictures. The revised plan in the end created the rough making of a 220-page (at the moment)  book full of activities, exercises, and writing that help people develop creativity into a skill rather than a characteristic. Although it might appeal more directly to those who work or live in a more creative setting, the book was made to be applicable to people from all walks of life. The book has the working title of  “Creativity for Breakfast” and revolved around  breakfast theme. Breakfast was chosen because like we have to nourish our bodies with breakfast to replenish ourselves physically so must we use creativity regularly to replenish ourselves mentally and emotionally. The presentable product was a rough draft pared down to 50 pages to 

For years I have had different people who know me tell me time and time again that I am creative. I never really understood to the full extent what people meant by that. I like to create things and I like to find new uses for things. I remember being a senior in high school and making flowers for the homecoming dance out of the tops and bottoms of plastic bottles. I have no idea where that came from exactly but everyone told my that it was creative and that I was creative. 

Even though I had these moments of creativity and ideas, creativity was more of a characteristic than a skill. I had no real control over when I felt inspired to create something new or solve a problem or have a new idea.  I have been thinking about this for a long time. How can creativity be sustainable? We often talk about creativity like it is a characteristic. Although some people might grow up in an environment that better equips them to appear as if Creativity is one of their strong characteristics, I think it is more reasonable and effective to think of creativity as a skill. 

All of this led to me thinking about and playing with different scenarios in my head revolving around creativity as a skill rather than a characteristic. When the opportunity came at the beginning of the semester to work on something that we had always wanted to work on, I immediately knew that this was the opportunity for me to create a meaningful project and piece of work that would grow me personally, grow my skill and be applicable in multiple ways to my future. 

This project developed a larger variety of skills and has become more applicable to my future than I initially anticipated. I develop a lot of hard skills in areas like writing and using various adobe programs, mostly Illustrator and InDesign. 

What was more notable to me was the myriad of soft skills I developed while working on this project. This included things like time management, organization, planning, goal setting, prioritizing problem-solving, communication, patience, adaptability, self-management, analysis, brainstorming, decision-making, discipline, commitment, and of course, creativity. Although I expected to grow creatively I honestly didn’t expect my creativity to grow as much as it did. I am of the opinion that my creativity may have been a characteristic previously is now a skill. 

I spent a lot more time developing my personal creative skills than I originally anticipated. I spent about 2-4 hours for 12 weeks actively learning, researching, and applying creativity to my daily life. Although I knew that I would test exercises and share my experiences, I did not anticipate doing so as much as I did. I also didn’t anticipate using the skills I was writing about as much as I did. 

In total, I put in about 70-80 countable hours of work. I say countable because I spent a lot of time I could not count. For example, there were many times were I had less than 30 minutes and I would work on various things like writing random thoughts or sketching a small something. Out of the total 70-80 hours, I spent an estimated 24-32 hours applying creativity-building activities to my life. 

Subtracting the average time spent on applying creativity-building activities my life leaves about 50 hours. These 50 hours were spent in what can be broken down into 4 categories. These are ideation, organization, writing, and design. 

I spent a significant amount of time on ideation and organization. Based on my records, I would estimate about 30 hours. Ideation came fairly easily generally speaking. There were times that involved a fair amount of problem-solving and ideation combination that was harder, but for the most part, I was able to sit down for hours at a time and sketch different layouts, create different mood boards, try out different color palettes, try out different design, develop personas for who I really thought my audience was and of course ideate about the different type of activities I wanted to include. I made a point of trying to be organized from the very beginning by using spreadsheets to organize my activity/exercise prompts and their associated research. I also tried to keep my random ideation thoughts organized as well. This being said, the organization played a huge role in being able to move forward with the project. A little bit past the mid-point of my project, I found that I was having a really hard time pulling everything together. I think this was for a few reasons. One is that I had mentally limited myself to a book that was like 96 pages, maybe 120 at the maximum. This was a problem. As I developed the book more I realized that limiting my page numbers was not the way to go. It felt like I was trying to convince myself that I could fit a golf ball into a pin-sized hole. It was never going to happen. When I eventually let this restraint go and allowed myself to simply create and let it be however large it was going to be made things feel easier and this included the organization. Although I worked mostly digitally, I found that I had enough in my brain that I could not organize more than I already had digitally and so I utilized a giant whiteboard to organize the order of the book. This was my saving grace. I could erase and move stuff around and put it back and try different things to make sure that the way the activities were being worked through made sense. Organizing my thoughts was labor intensive even though they were my thoughts. Trying to reconstruct my thoughts in a way that would make sense to the world and people outside my brain was challenging but I feel that in the end, I created prompts and written content that could be digested and utilized by my audience. 

The writing was a fun part of this project that took about 10 hours to get to the draft used for the first draft. Even though it sometimes took a while, time flew. I think that part of what made the writing easier and dare I say fun was that I had an endless amount of passion for the topic I was writing about. I was originally worried about having written in the book to the point where I wasn’t going to include any writing at all outside of what was needed for the various prompts. I am glad I went ahead and attempted the written portions. In the full-length 220 pages, when completed, there will be 12-20 different written sections that are all about 2-8 pages in length. An example of one of the ones that I wrote (and rewritten a few times) is included in the example 50 pages.

The final part of the process was the design. This can be broken down into layout design and asset design. In the very beginning, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go with any element of design. Very quickly I realized I wanted the type to appear more logical and I wanted to have different sections. I went through about 8 different section label designs before landing on the one I did. I created some that had patterns and some that didn’t, but in the end, I decided on 3 things. I didn’t want it to span the whole page, I didn’t want it to have a pattern and I didn’t want it to have a harsh corner. This combined with my desire to have a journal portion for each prompt primarily drove the layout design.

The other design elements that were primarily the breakfast assets were a little more trial and error. I started by designing just basic shape patterns and then I had this idea of different full-page hand-drawn illustrations and then I had the idea of drawing something related to each prompt and then this and then that and then this and then that. It went on for a very long time. At some point during a free-write (which is an exercise prompt in the book) revolving around creativity, I made this connection to breakfast. The primary thought was that in order to drink from a glass of orange juice you have to pour into the glass of orange juice. If you keep drinking you reach the bottom and it will remain empty until you fill it again. As I pondered more on this thought, that is when I made greater connections between creativity and breakfast and where I sourced my inspiration for the illustrated breakfast assets. I had a little too much fun thinking of different breakfast foods, sketching them, and creating them in Adobe Illustrator.

Overall I am pretty happy with everything and I enjoyed the project. I had someone ask me if I was satisfied with my project. I’m not sure if satisfied is the right word. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I worked very hard on my project and thus far I have put in a lot of hours to get my project to where it is today. That being said I will not be 100% satisfied until I have 100% finished my book and have a printed copy in my hand. My plan is to continue to work on my book until it is finished and publish it to be sold to help others develop their creative skill.