I found this beautiful poster designed by Islam Abudaoud on my Tumblr feed yesterday. I see these clever graphics all the time, but this one jumped out to me at the right time. I’d just finished a teaching lecture – When Did You Realize Your Creativity Was Missing? – about the ways we passively let our creativity fade in understandable ways. Here’s where my speaker notes coincided with Abudaoud’s poster.
No. 20: Take risks. As we get older, we tend to repeat familiar tasks and behaviours every day – partly because it makes life easier and partly because it’s unconscious. We’re trained by both society and culture to be repetitive. In fact, we applaud adults who are steadfast and consistent. But with routine comes safety. They are as interlinked as yin and yang. Content to remain as is, we become less interested in breaking out of our self-imposed boundaries to try different things. The key here is to remind, if not force, ourselves to search out the different. Try to improve a response, action or task in any way. Take no answer for granted. Creativity and innovation never come from repetition.
No. 2: Carry a notebook everywhere. / No. 26: Write it down. To no one’s surprise, the world is a faster place every day. The volume of things to do is out-numbered only by the volume of things to remember. Amongst all the mental gymnastics we perform every day, a bright little flash of an idea can pop out of nowhere. Like the research which says we forget 90 percent of our dreams 10 minutes after we wake, our creative idea will disappear like a soap bubble if we don’t find a way to remember and retrieve it for later on. The key here is to stop and write down the idea – on paper, on your smartphone, or a table. Don’t let the spark of a brilliant idea die because you’re sure you’ll remember it after you come back from getting a venti vanilla latte. At least write it down while you’re running to pick up your V.V.L.
No. 15: Practice. / No. 14: Don’t give up. / No. 29. Finish something. Ira Glass once said creative people have better taste than most people, but they get easily frustrated with their output and frequently give up before they truly create something unique. His quote doesn’t say anything about the rest of the population, but I’d venture that his point applies to anyone. There’s lots good to say about the digital revolution, but most sane people don’t disagree that it’s also increased our attention deficiency. As Glass suggests: “It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.” So, don’t worry that every idea is brilliant. The idea is to create as many ideas as possible.
No. 4: Get away from the computer. / No. 17: Go somewhere new. There are plenty of times when it’s appropriate to keep digging a metaphorical hole in the same spot. (No. 14: Don’t give up.) But other times – creative times, in particular – we need to dig our hole somewhere else. God yes, we’re busy. We live in our cubicles so much that sometimes it feels more like home than home. There’s another post to read on Facebook. Another person to follow on Twitter. Instead, I think we need to step away from anything which could be put in the broad category of ‘Device.’ Go outside. Experience life. Go somewhere else, both physically and mentally.
No. 10: Be open. / No 13. Collaborate. / No. 11 Surround yourself with creative people. Last week over lunch, a friend jokingly said she didn’t have time for anymore friends. I laughed because I thought the same thing the week before. But with the isolation we create by circling our wagons around ourselves, we also cease to invite different points of view into our lives which help expand our thinking and perspective. Yes, sometimes the opposite point-of-view is challenging, if not confronting. But at the same time, it also enriches our knowledge and experience. I also think we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just other ‘creative people.’ Sometimes I find the most creative people are the ones who are simply naïve to my problems.
No. 5: Quit beating yourself up. / No 25: Stop trying to be someone else’s perfect. I put this last because to me it’s the most important to building (or regaining) creativity. I could put all 29 creative actions and more into play, but I’d undo everything if I allowed myself to listen to my negative inner voice. Our self voice is a very believable perspective, but it’s also not always the most accurate perspective. In workshops for example, I hear people apply their self-criticism solely because they’re trying to live up to the expectations of someone else. They worry about what other people might think, much less what they actually do think. I’ve learnt this about ‘Quit beating yourself up.’ We never live up to our creative self if we allow other’s opinions to be more important than our own. As my Grandma Eklund used to say, “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.” Besides, it’s much easier to be ourselves than to constantly create a facade of what other people expect. Our creative self will flourish if we simply allow ourselves to be true, open, collaborative and positive.