The inspiration for this post comes from a well-known quote by American actor Alan Alda: Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.
Part of out of curiosity, I did a quick survey of (non-creative) friends and colleagues and found a decidedly non-startling fact: most people come and go to work the same way, every time. It’s efficient, said one. It saves time, said another. I don’t even think about it, said a third. In fact, one person offered a day organised entirely by rote. Same route to work, same coffee shop, same order, same routine at her desk, same place for lunch, etc. “I’m going to get a lecture now on not being creative enough, aren’t I?” she laughed.
When I did the same survey with my creative friends (yes, they’re used to me stereotyping them), I found the opposite. All of them rarely did the same thing twice. It was almost as if their routine was based “what can I do differently?”
Jim justified his “erratic behaviour” (his words) by citing Einstein’s quote: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” He then added the familiar quote: “Besides, Never the same road twice.”
“I’m not trying to do something different, just to be different,” said Maya, an artist. “A different path means a different point-of-view. It might be a different connection or a different role. But hopefully, a new idea.”
“Sameness is the same thing to me as negativity,” said Susan, a writer. “At the same time, doing something different isn’t the end goal. It’s being sensitive to everything that’s new while you’re doing something different.”
This aspect of being sensitive came up over and over. Simply walking home a different route is less important than actually be aware of both what you encounter and your reaction to them. “Take window shopping, for example,” said Claire, who works in PR. “I might look at items in the window, just to get a sense of what’s out there … as much as how I might use or apply what I see. To me, walking home is really a walking brainstorm.”
Raphael – a creative wing-nut if there ever was one – extended Claire’s point further: “I only have one way to go home, so that situation doesn’t work for me. My ‘doing something different’ means I go out of my way to experience something different. I’ll buy a magazine I’d never read normally, or go to a movie I’d never consider watching, or simply do something unusual – just to get a visceral sense of change. I can honestly say I get my best ideas from simply immersing myself in a context I normally avoid.
And so, this might be the easiest brainstorm technique yet: Do something different, and think about what you see, notice and experience.
How else do you do you encourage yourself to do something different? And more so, what affect does it / has it had on you?
One of my favourite websites is Toothpaste for Dinner. And pick yourself up a T-shirt while you’re there.