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Some thoughts on creativity

Let me be perfectly honest – over the past couple of months, until very recently, creativity has personally been more like birthing a child than igniting a flame. The process had become weighty, and a lot more deliberate. Well I can’t have any of that nonsense, creativity is too important to my work and personal life. So I laid out a few thoughts and changes I need to make in my own daily regimen for a creatively-opulent existence. Granted, I wrote the following ideas out as a specific wake-up call to myself, but I think the concepts are broad enough to be applied on a wider scale.

Edit last, not first

Once I heard someone quote someone else as saying something to the effect of (clearly, I have no passion for details): “Those who are waiting to accomplish something great will end up accomplishing nothing at all.” The bane of creative thought is the little voice that says, “this sucks…kill it” before the ideation process can even begin. It’s very rare that an idea is going to come out fully formed and brilliant – that’s why brainstorming was invented. Honestly, duds are crucial stepping stones to a successful (a very subjective word) creation. Consider each bad idea a significant ingredient in the mix. Bad ideas aren’t recommended, they’re necessary. Instead of killing ideas before they start, get them all out there in the flesh…even if its just a piddly sketch on a scrap of paper. Don’t use less paper, use more trash can.

Creativity begets creativity

Like the pet cat your friend trusted you to take care of while they went on vacation, if you don’t feed your creativity it will die. The best way to make creativity happen is to always be creating. If your passion is visual art, then sketch, paint, cut out people in magazines and glue them onto paper doing stupid and obscene things. When asked how to be a writer, author Madeleine L’Engle gave this advice: “Write. Just write a little bit every day. Even if it’s for only half an hour — write, write, write.” It’s also important to take creativity out of the artsy-fartsy box it has been confined to. Creativity can manifest itself in a business plan, a math problem (if Stephen Hawking isn’t creative, I don’t know who is), gardening, singing in the shower, and conversations, among other things. Mike Wagner wrote a great article for Logic+Emotion discussing this, entitled “Draw a picture.” Be intentional about seeking out creativity in the day-to-day.

Dial down the media consumption

I probably subscribe to 200 RSS feeds and 25 podcasts. That is just way too much. We live in the Age of Distraction (a term I thought I had coined, until I did a Google search on it), in which we can be consuming some form of media every waking hour if we choose to. I finally realized that listening to my iPod on the way to the office, arriving and checking my feeds, plugging in my headphones while I work, and then listening to my iPod on the way home was turning my mind into pure noise. Unplug, spend some time not distracting yourself. Your clarity of mind will thank you for it.

A few more for the road:

  • Have more conversations, and ask more questions in those conversations.
  • Learn to love the creative process just as much as the creation.
  • Read more fiction.
  • Listen to more music and less talk.
  • Designers – don’t read so many design books. And put the annuals down.
  • Every once in a while, take some serious stock in where you are and what’s going on right here right now.

Vote Filene 2006

Iran's president is blogging