In 1666, one of the most influential scientists in history was strolling through a garden when he was struck with a flash of creative brilliance that would change the world.

While standing under the shade of an apple tree, Sir Isaac Newton saw an apple fall to the ground. “Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” Newton wondered. “Why should it not go sideways, or upwards, but constantly to the earth’s centre? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.”

And thus, the concept of gravity was born.

The story of the falling apple has become one of the lasting and iconic examples of the creative moment. It is a symbol of the inspired genius that fills your brain during those “eureka moments” when creative conditions are just right.

What most people forget, however, is that Newton worked on his ideas about gravity for nearly twenty years until, in 1687, he published his groundbreaking book, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. The falling apple was merely the beginning of a train of thought that continued for decades.

Newton wasn’t the only one to wrestle with a great idea for years. Creative thinking is a process for all of us. This concept requires our brains to make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. So, I question, is this a skill that we are born with or one we can develop through practice?

In the 1960s, a researcher named George land conducted a study using 1,600 five-year-olds - 98% scored in the ‘highly creative’ range. He re-tested each child during 5-year gaps. At 10 years old, only 30% of the same children scored in the ‘highly creative’ range. This number dropped to 12% at age 15 and just 2% at age 25. As the children grew into adults, they effectively had the creativity trained out of them. Rather than learning to be creative, in the words of Dr Land - ‘non-creative behaviour is learned’.

Similar trends have been discovered by other researchers. For example, one study of 272,599 students found that although IQ scores have risen since 1990, creative thinking scores have decreased.

This is not to say that creativity is 100 per cent learned. Genetics do play a role. According to psychology professor Barbara Kerr, “approximately 22 per cent of the variance [in creativity] is due to the influence of genes.” This discovery was made by studying the differences in creative thinking between sets of twins.

Certainly, some people are primed to be more creative than others. However, nearly every person is born with some level of creative skill and the majority of our creative thinking abilities are trainable. By adopting simple habits - constraining oneself, writing more, broadening knowledge, sleeping more and embracing positive thinking- will allow us to develop creative thinking (step-by-step).

Yet, it is not easy - it is a development and a struggle. You have to work through mental barriers and internal blocks. You have to commit to practising your craft deliberately. And you have to stick with the process for years, perhaps even decades like Newton did, in order to see your creative genius blossom.

Creativity is a process, not an event.