Creativity and invention is much more about seeing a problem and finding a novel solution than it is about suddenly mashing bits of junk together with SCIENCE! We don’t invent things in a vacuum. That movie genius who glances at a handful of pages and abruptly sees the Answer of Awesome….yeah, he doesn’t exist. Even true visionaries are part of a context of their lives and their problems. So how do you become that creative person?
Well, you get involved in your field of interest. Deeply, deeply, up to your neck involved. That’s the entire point of a PhD program – to force you to become versed in the entirety of some tiny subfield to the point that you can see the walls enclosing human knowledge. When you can see the barriers, then you can begin to formulate ways over, under, and around them.
Without knowing the limits or the zeitgeist, your solutions are trite. They’re movie solutions. “All we have to do to fix health care is pay doctors less!” Well, that sounds great in front of Congress, I’m sure, and sends the AMA into frothing rage…but it doesn’t fix the problem. That simple, soothing solution ripples out into the real world in a million directions. Doctor pay goes down – maybe less people want to go to medical school and endure eight years of crap and $200,000 in debt for the privilege? Reimbursement rates go down – maybe as many doctors as possible switch to concierge medicine? I’m not an expert on the medical field; the point is that, as someone outside of the field, I cannot properly predict the true outcome of broad stroke changes or inventions. Neither can our strawman armchair genius. Inventions require familiarity.
(The difficulty of finding the correct solution, knowing its the correct solution, and then convincing people who have no freaking clue about the problem that it IS the correct solution….is one reason why governance and popular discourse over science are both such travesties.)
There is an upside to this, though. Simply put: just because you’re smart does not mean you can or should simply sit down in front of blank paper and suddenly whip out the next Internet. No amount of frantic self-loathing will cause you to produce the next American masterpiece. You’re not capable of it, and neither am I. So. Stop. Worrying. You can’t seem to instantly generate the Most Awesome Idea ever for a screenplay? Go watch some movies! Go read some books! Go enjoy media, consume it, take part in the cultural conversation. Then have a small idea, and build it religiously. Every novel is just a string of words, and every billion dollar start up is a string of code. Solutions to small problems that happen to catch fire, or ideas for one cool scene that a million people agree are totally rad, dood.
You are not smart enough to change the world by giving yourself a headache. Moreover, no reasonable person should expect you to be. Give up trying to be Einstein (who you may notice was neck deep involved with physics and started asking simple questions about narrow experiments of the times). Its okay not to burst the seams with world shattering ideas.