If you’ve been told you aren’t a ‘creative type,’ I gotta tell you…that’s a load of crap. I don’t care if you hate your job, or you haven’t practiced your art in longerthanyou’dcaretoadmit. We’ve all got something that makes time slip away unnoticed. Wikipedia defines creativity as the “invention or origination of any new thing (a product, solution, artwork, literary work, joke, etc.) that has value.” So go ahead: assume that people would value what you create* and see what happens. Hell, I’ll go there: I value what inspires you. A bold statement, perhaps, but I’ll take the risk of being mocked by fearful fools if it means more people will join me in a reach for honesty. Bring on yo’ bad creative selves, as long as you’re ready to work for it.
Now for the falsehoods:
1. Some people are creative, and some aren’t. Pshaw, I say. So many sources perpetuate this myth, I can’t even remember when or where I first understood it. Negotiating with your boss on how to best implement your proposal is creative. Trying to stay alert through the afternoon doldrums can yield some interesting creativity.. ;). Even figuring out travel routes can be creative, it just depends on your approach to problem-solving. That’s all creativity really is: an open-minded approach to wrighting or resolving conflict, depending on your preference.
2. It just happens, you can’t control it. Yes, inspiration strikes at odd times, but there’s a lot you can do to put the conditions in place to foster creativity. Pay attention to when you feel really on your game, like you can rule the world with all the awesome work you’re doing. Set yourself up to do work during those times, and steer clear of the times when you barely have the energy to keep your eyes open. Go with the flow, baby, and she’ll treat you just fine.
3. Creation only happens in isolation. Thoreau-style hermitage is an outdated model. In the Information Age, two years of total seclusion might bring you enlightenment, but it would leave you high and dry as to how to communicate that knowledge. You may have heard people saying, “Collaboration is the new competition,” and I couldn’t agree more. No matter how awesome and brilliant you are in your head, there will always be things you haven’t thought of, holes you didn’t fill in, and perspectives you can’t consider all on your lonesome. Share your ideas, invite people along for the ride. Then when it works, you know that it works.
4. Structure gets in the way. Whoa, whoa, whoa: creativity loves parameters. Have you ever been racing against a deadline, only to find your mind in Brilliant Hyperactive Mode? Exactly. Deadlines and structure are bomb-dot-com when it comes to creativity. That being said, inspired wandering is a gift. You’ll know when the time is right. Have no fear, the universe is here.
5. *Creativity begets beauty. An initial creative spark might eventually turn into something beautiful, but creativity usually brings up a whole lot of ugly before it starts looking good. It depends on the eye of the beholder, and the creator is often his or her own harshest critic. What comes out of your handsfingersfeetbody when you surrender to your Muse is very rarely ‘pretty.’ The raw materials of creativity are a total mess, often leaving its human channel at the bottom of a very large pit of WhatTheFuckJustHappened. Or you think it’s awesome, and upon review, have serious doubts as to whether you were sane during the process. That’s why the ‘perspiration’ is so important (Thomas Edison may have said “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration,” but there are variations all over the place. The hardest part of ‘being creative’ is the work of focusing, reducing, and refining the generative madness from a good sesh. But don’t give up. In a bizarre skill-set combo, have faith that it will work, and analyze the shit out of your product. Genius doesn’t just ‘happen,’ but if you’re lucky, you can sculpt the figments of your imagination into something incredible.
Looking for more tips on creativity? Come have fun with Smurk Media + Nepalli Strategic Consulting at our workshop on how to be productive and creative in your most valued projects. Pre-register here, keeping in mind that space is limited. See you there!