in Uncategorized

3 Tools to Become More Creative – Balder Onarhiem


What I like:

  • He starts by admitting that he can’t teach it all in 20 minutes
  • He gives us 3 solid, useful tools
  • He focuses on creativity as a tool for anyone, especially in business, rather than for artists

What I’m not so sure about:

  • Too short. This is actually a compliment, but now I have to find more of his work and videos to watch
  • Yeah, that’s really it.

I like the 3 tools he offers because they are actually doable by anyone. IN fact, I’m going to be using the Wikipedia one today.

What did you think? Leave me a comment, and have an amazing day!

The Creative KeyRing

I’ve read a lot of different thoughts on the topic of creativity, and it seems that each one has a different angle. From how to be creative, motivation for creative thinkers, how to make money from your creative work, what the creative process entails and even multiple definitions as to what creativity means.

I started this project in an attempt to figure out and define creativity once and for all, but I’m beginning to think that might be a fool’s errand. No matter how well thought out my findings, there are bound to be a horde of people who simply say I’m wrong, and that they’ve got it figured out in a different way.

The goal of The Functional Creative has always been to help you use creativity to get stuff done, whether it’s an art project, building a new business or simply organizing your workspace. We are all creative, and that’s proven by all the creative approaches to the topic.

So, now I’ve change course.

There is no single key to creativity, at least none that anyone has been able to prove is the one true key. Instead, there are a host of keys, and I’m going to start collecting them here.

This series “The Creative KeyRing” will be focused on individual attributes that contribute to creativity. Don’t expect any one post to be complete, or even correct, but rather a starting point for you to find tools that help _you_ to boost your own creativity, motivation and productivity. I’ll be adding more keys to the ring as I go along, so stay tuned!

As always, I look forward to hearing from you on this topic, and hope that this proves useful as you strengthen your creative muscles and move forward on whatever wonderful endeavors you have before you.

Thanks, and have an amazing day!

The Key to Creativity is Endurance

-This post is part of a continuing series, The Creative KeyRing

“This is just too hard. Forget it. I’m just not creative.”

Have you ever felt that way? Nearly all, if not all, people who have tried to get better at something have. Maybe they didn’t think it had anything to do with being creative, but the feeling was the same. Stephen Pressfield  called this feeling “The Resistance”, and it’s a force to be reckoned with for sure.

It wears you out to keep working at something that isn’t getting the results you want. When your project simply doesn’t come together, all of the pieces of the plan won’t fit into place and what did fit gets messed up by unforeseen events. Or, you try to learn how to play the guitar, and you hate the way you sound. Your fingers just won’t move fast enough, or you can’t quite press down right on that chord. It can really be discouraging, and make you want to quit, to move on to something more familiar and comfortable, like watching TV or surfing Pinterest. The tool against the Resistance  that will keep you creating is endurance.

Endurance is more than simply putting up with something, it’s a tool that helps us to accept the situation we face, and decide to keep moving forward, confident that we will make progress if we just keep trying.

Isn’t that a bit silly, though? What if we keep trying and there is no progress to speak of?

While that can be true for some things, for most of our endeavors (especially in the realm of creating) there is almost always progress. The thing that gets in our way, and convinces us that there will be no progress, is our mindset. For example, we love to read, and can just picture ourselves as a writer, pouring out our ideas, thoughts, imagination onto the page in gripping, engaging text. So we sit down to write, and after a few sentences, paragraphs, or pages we read what we’ve put down in horror. It’s dull, lifeless. It has no flow, nothing to captivate the reader. So we conclude that “I’m not a writer. I’ve tried, but I just don’t have it.”

In truth, we just don’t have it yet. Some of the best athletes in history claim that when they started, they were not good at their sport. But by repeated practice things changed. If that works for athletes, and everyone else for that matter, it will work for us. Let’s take a look at how to build creative endurance.

Have you ever watched a baby eat? She ends up with food all over the place with a small portion ever ending up in her mouth. But does that stop her? no, she just gleefully flips more food towards her face and gurgles.

Eventually, she learns to eat with utensils and usually puts all of her food in her mouth. But what if she gave up and stopped trying? Restaurants would be a messy place, indeed! But, no, she keeps going, heedless of her progress. She got enough food to be fed, and that’s all that really matters.

By continuing to work at something, or even just to play at it, we improve in our abilities. The fact is, if we do something often enough, we almost can’t help but to improve. It’s simply the nature of the repeated effort.

So, be the baby. Dive into your art, work, project, whatever, heedless of results. I’m not saying to stop trying to improve, just stop worrying so much about preconceived measures of success. The real goal, especially when we are starting, is improvement, however incremental. Like our messy baby, when we keep at something, preferably practicing at least daily, we will  see improvement.

Ira Glass has a great discussion on the topic. He makes note that every artist goes through a period of time when their work stinks. but he makes the point that being able to know that your work stinks is actually a good sign, because it indicates that you know what good is, and that you have the ability to modify your own work, over time, to bring the quality up to a level that you can deem good.

So, do yourself a favor and record something of your work right now, a drawing, a recording of yourself playing your instrument, print out your current project plan or business proposal, whatever it is that you are creating. Save this aside for a year and keep working. Check it from time-to-time and notice how you’re getting better. If you really want a boost, don’t check it until a year from now. Compare the quality of each, and prove to yourself that you have grown in your creative ability.

It takes time, and work, but it’s time well spent, and it works.

Thanks for your time, and have an amazing day!

The Key to Creativity is Perspective

-This post is part of a continuing series, The Creative KeyRing

Physically or mentally, where you stand changes how you see things. Simply shifting your position a few inches can give you a completely different opinion of reality.

Perspective changes everything. If you are afraid of dogs, and you see a large, menacing dog on the path in front of you, you will most likely at least stop moving forward. You may even start running away. But, if you take a step to the side and realize that it’s actually just a couple of bushes that lined up just right from that angle to LOOK like a dog, you will start to relax and continue on your way forward. Then, as you walk, you see a $20 bill under the bush, you will probably move forward even quicker to claim your prize.

Perspective changes what we can see, how we see it, and even how we act. But how does it relate to creativity?

A great piece by Thomas Medicus shows a wonderful example of this. A glass cube shows four different images, but only when viewing a side of the cube from a direct, straight-on angle. Otherwise, the images scramble into a chaotic mess. It’s a great analogy to our own perspectives. Depending on where you are looking at something from, it will look different. In fact, when two people stand side-by-side and stare at the same thing, they both get different views. Their field of view is different, if only slightly, and the actual angle of view is shifted, sometimes enough to deliver a completely different experience.

How can you use this? At least two ways: Physically & Mentally


– Change the path you take to work every day.
– Ride in the passenger seat of a car, and try to look at the road through binoculars. Do your best to keep them up to your eyes when it looks like you’re going to crash.
– Listen to your favorite music through a cheap speaker and try to appreciate the nuanced differences without being critical of them. Take notes.
– Make glasses out of prisms, or those dragonfly eye toys. Wear them while you work and see how it changes the way you interact with the world.


– Imagine yourself as a different person, someone whose work you admire. Approach your project pretending to be that person. How would they do this? What would they do differently than I usually do?
– Repeat the above exercise as someone whose work you hate.
– When things go wrong, take ten minutes to write down all of the benefits of the event. If there seem to be no benefits to write, take 20 minutes. You’ll find them
– Consider the quality of your work 5 years ago compared to today. Likely you will see how much you have improved. This perspective is much more motivating and encouraging than comparing yourself to others.

Try these things out, and other ideas you come up with. If you find a great way to change your perspective, leave me a comment on it, I’d love to know!

Thanks, and have an amazing day!

Let’s do the Twist

Yes, that’s right, I’m doing a twist and a turn. As I started to dive into this project, I realized how big it is, and also that I’m not equipped to do quite what I intended yet. So, our plot twist is that I’ll be building this a bit more slowly, and changing the format until I get it right.

One of the things I’ll be doing is offering curated content on the topic of creativity, along with my thoughts as to the veracity and value of said content. Let’s start with this tasty tidbit from PBS:

What I like:

  • I love the fact that we get multiple perspectives from various walks of life.
  • Tools and prompts are vital, and the talk about personalizing them is so helpful
  • “At some point you have to do the work” – brilliant.
  • Neuroscience, and incubation
  • The importance of collaboration
  • Kirby’s comments about how everything is a remix

What I’m not so sure about:

Honestly, nothing. I found this to be a lovely little package of information, motivation and inspiration. I’ve written on man of these points before, and will do so again.

What did you think? Leave me a comment, and have an amazing day!

Hope for the “Non-Creative”

So, you wish you were creative, but you just aren’t the creative type.

It’s not that you don’t like the idea of being creative, but you’ve never been able to “get there.”

Is creativity something that some people have, and others don’t? Is it something some lucky people are born with?

It sure seems that way sometimes, right? The good news is that you are a creative person, and it only takes a bit of work to start to focus that ability to create in a direction that is exciting, fulfilling and lets you see just how to grow as a creative.

If you don’t believe me, that’s okay. You don’t have to. You can stop reading now. But if you are still reading, the chances are that you are holding out hope that I actually have some secret that everyone else has missed that will allow you to instantly be able to draw, sing, compose, dance or whatever else comes to your mind when you use the term “create.”

Well, I’ve got good news. Not NEW news, just good news. Everything I’ll be sharing is already something many people know, so it’s really no big secret. However, if you want to be able to express yourself creatively, I will be showing you how to understand the way to do so effectively.

It begins with understanding the question. You are asking how to be creative, and that’s a fine question, just a bit incomplete. It’s like asking how to be good. How to be better. How to be the best.

Good at WHAT? Better than WHAT? The best WHAT?

TO be creative means that one creates. Creates WHAT? Well, that goes back to you. What do you WANT to create? A drawing? A dance? A building? A sonnet? A garment? A process? What?

But, let’s say you’ve answered that, you want to create a painting, for instance. Then you need to ask the next question: Why?

Do you have an emotion that is not being fully expressed, but you feel a painting will express it? Who are you trying to communicate with? Will art be the best form of communication with this audience, or should you try something else?

Do you want to sell paintings for money? Then, aren’t you actually trying to create wealth? Then learning to paint may be just getting in the way of your true desire.

Do you find yourself moved by paintings in a way that brings you to tears, fills you with joy, sadness, exuberance and/or emotions you find hard to describe, and you feel compelled to want to respond in the same medium? Well, then, perhaps you’ve found what you want to create.

So, before you start creating, and definitely before you decide that you’re not creative, it’s good to ask yourself the questions that clarify why and what you want to create.

If you’re thinking “What’s with all the introspection? Just grab a brush, some paint and start painting!” Then the likelihood is that you are already comfortable with the creative process, and this write-up isn’t for you.

If you’re thinking “I’ve already figured out what and why, and I’ve tried to do it, but I simply can’t put onto the canvas what I feel inside!” then take heart. There’s something you can do about it, no matter where you are in the process.

In fact, there are a number of things that can get in the way of being creative, if we let them, such as:

Lack of talent
Lack of ideas
Lack of motivation
Lack of resources
Lack of self-confidence
Lack of direction
and more

Don’t let these things worry you, though, they are only challenges, not deal-breakers. If you want to be creative, I’m here to tell you that you already are, and I can prove it. If you want to be MORE creative, I’ll be sharing many thoughts, perspectives, techniques and tricks that will help you boost your creativity, as well as showing you how to work around all of the obstacles listed above, and many more.

If all of this sounds like something that you want to share in, then great. Stay tuned. I plan on putting out a post at least once a week, and hopefully more as this project gets rolling.

If you have any specific questions, or would like advice on any aspect of creativity, feel free to let me know, and I’ll do my best to give you clear, functional advice.

Thanks so much for your time, and have an amazing day!

It would sure do me good to do you good

For years, the tagline on my business/resume site has been “I just want to help” or “I’m here to help” or something quite close. The idea is pretty clear, I love to help.

That’s why my most recent revelation is so exciting to me. I believe that I have finally landed on the purpose  of this website. And, no surprise, it’s about helping people, but in a very specific way.

I want to help anyone who is interested to be creative. I plan on doing that by demystifying the creative process, and clearly outlining the simple steps involved.

That’s the deal. That’s what this site is for now. I’ll be doing my level best to have at least one good post a week (hopefully more), and by “good” I mean useful, practical, something you can sink your teeth into and use right away. While the following agenda may change, here’s what I have planned for the next posts:

  • What it means to be creative
  • Why desire is the first step
  • How to have a clear vision of what you want to create
  • Overcoming the myth of “I’m not talented”

I hope very much that what I share will, indeed, be helpful. If you find that it is, please let me know.

Thanks for your time, and have an amazing day!



I’m taking the time for a number of things

I found a file I was putting together for this project from several years back, and I was surprised that what I had taken note of was mostly encouraging and potentially useful. IN particular, I like the encouraging tone of what I’d written. It reminds me that the way I talk to myself can move me forward, or stop me in my tracks.

Anyhow, below is the entirety of the file. Feel free to comment on it, correct my thinking, swipe my ideas and/or generally use this to mock me mercilessly. It’s okay. Doggone it, people like me.

Creativity: An Owner’s Guide
– How to learn it, how to use it, how to teach it

~The screaming of a thousand muses

~write chapters as talk outlines:
-intro (get attention, illustrations, stories, set up topic)
-body (logically developed, practical, usable)
-conclusion (summarize, call-to-action)
, then develop the “talk”

~keep the tone conversational. write so that an 8 year old can get it, but don’t patronize, either

~don’t fear. if you get it wrong, discard what’s wrong and fix it. if it needs editing, edit. if it needs re-writing, do it. time is on your side.

~don’t try to incorporate everything you know into one grand Unification Theory. just use what really fits. additionally, realize that the first edition may be seriously flawed or deficient. that’s okay, who’s gonna get hurt?

~make this information practical and usable. think GTD for creativity.

~what about creating toward a goal, for a desired outcome?

creativity involves: perspective (viewpoint), perception (filters) and processing (ABCD). Oh, and a lot of hard work, too.

A – Alter
B – Blend
C – Copy
D – Discover

Modesty involves knowing our limitations. By modestly admitting that we, as humans, don’t create in the true sense, we free ourselves to focus fully on what our capabilities are.

So, this is a very sketchy outline of what I’m trying to accomplish with The Functional Creative. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I think it’s going to end up being worth it. I look forward to seeing how this shapes up, and from hearing from anyone who is helped by this, or who can readjust my approach.


As always, thanks for your time, and have an amazing day!

It took me so long to find out

I have just discovered that I don’t seem to be able to turn my head in one direction and my eyes in the opposite direction simultaneously. Cool.

Of course, this could be a well-known thing, there may even be medical papers written on the subject. Heck, there may be entire blogging communities devoted to the subject. Or, it could be that most people actually can turn their head in one direction and look the other way. Maybe I’ve got some neurological issue caused by an unknown bacteria or toxin that’s damaging the motor-function chunk of my brain.

Or, maybe I’ve been binge-watching too much “House”.

In any case, the important part of all of this is that I discovered something. “Why is that important?” one might ask. “Are you the first one to discover this? Can you profit by it? If not, who cares?”

I care. And you should, too. No, not about my discovery, but, about your own discoveries. 

When we discover something new to us, it energizes us, awakens our brain cells that hunger for new information. And it gives us a new point of reference on which to build, allowing for more creative output. 

For example, when you discover the little arrow next to the fuel gauge on your car’s dashboard, and realize that it points to the side of the car where the fuel cap is, not only is your life easier (no more accidentally parking on the wrong side of the fuel pump,) but you can also start looking for other shortcuts you may not have noticed. Or, you can use the idea of that indicator arrow in a project of your own. 

Perhaps more importantly, paying attention to your discoveries can activate the part of your brain that looks for things, namely new discoveries, opening up a wealth of tools you didn’t have on hand before.

Discovery is one of the 4 foundations of creativity (I’ll talk more about that in later posts, I promise.) Therefore, it needs to be held in high esteem. By dismissing our discoveries too quickly, we minimize our accomplishments and devalue not only our work, but far too often, ourselves.

Why not try keeping track of your discoveries in a journal, or text-message yourself when you make one? This can be a great way to keep the juices flowing, and strengthen your skills as a creative explorer.

Thanks for your time, and have an amazing day!

Yes, creativity CAN be taught

This article was originally published on September 29, 2014, on Linkedin

Of course creativity can be taught!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Last week, Jason Thibeaultposted an article claiming that creativity can not be taught. Now, I’m not saying that it’s easy, in fact it can be a tremendous amount of work, but impossible? Not even close.

And there’s a good reason why, which I’ll get to in a minute. But first, I’d like to point out a fundamental flaw in most of the arguments I’ve seen regarding this topic. No one agrees on a definition of what creativity is. Which is odd because, even accounting for variations, the dictionary seems pretty clear. For example, here are three definitions that are quite clear: (as posted in Jason’s article) – “The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.”

The Oxford online dictionary – “The use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.”

Webster’s online dictionary – “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas”

Most of the “definitions” I’ve read in other articles tend to imbue creativity with a sort of magical quality, an ethereal, intangible something that can’t quite be put into words. Even Jason headed in that direction when he leaned too heavily (in my opinion) on the importance of the word “transcendent” in the definition of creativity. I can understand that, because when we look at the results of truly creative thinking, it can be awesome. Not “this smoothie is awesome“, awesome, but rather “this work of art is so majestic, compelling and frighteningly beautiful that it leaves me trembling within myself” awesome. There is something absolutely amazing about the results of masterful creativity.

As creative as buttered toast.

But look at the definitions again. At the root is ‘the ability to create’. If you want to add the qualifier that the created item must be new and/or transcendent, that’s fine, but it should be noted that both new and transcendent are subjective terms dependant on context. For example, the first time someone thought of toasting bread, and added butter to it, something new was created, and many people will agree that a good piece of buttered toast can be transcendent. However, if you don’t care for toast, there’s little transcendence. Or if you’ve seen toast before, it’s not new, although it may be for the person who discovers it for the first time in their life.

Anyhow, for the sake of our discussion, whenever we speak of something created, we’ll assume it is also new, and transcendent.

That being the case, teaching someone to be creative is like teaching them to talk. It’s a natural ability that we develop as we grow, and master consciously later in life. We don’t teach babies how to talk. We surround babies with examples, we encourage them, we show them how we talk, and hope that they mimic us. When they get older, we send them off to school to learn the alphabet, basic sentence structure, and so on. Then we can teach poetry, story writing, and narrative. We can extend their training with voice lessons, and acting studies. All along the way, we offer examples, and try to get them to follow along. That, put over-simplistically, is teaching someone how to talk, from the first time they say “mama” to when they move audience to tears with a powerful soliloquy in a Broadway play.

So, then, why can’t we teach creativity?

We can. And, we do! We surround children with colors and shapes, and praise them for the things they come up with. “What a lovely picture! Hey! Look at you hitting that drum! Listen to her sing, isn’t that sweet?”

Often, sadly, the training stops far short of what we put forth in training math, english, and so on. But to say that it can’t be taught is frankly lazy. It’s a way of getting us off the hook for not teaching people how to think creatively. If we continue to surround a person with examples of the creative process, encouragement to try and praise for their efforts, we will be teaching them to be creative.

Jason and I went back and forth a couple of times on email after his article, and it turns out that we agree on quite a bit. The biggest difference is that he seems to hold that we mustn’t try too hard to be creative in fear of blocking the very thing we are trying to achieve. I contend that we can all be gardeners of our creative minds, working the soil, mixing in nourishing compost, watering, weeding and in general, taking care of it. Then, as with any other thing learned, our brains will process the seeds we plant and we can enjoy the fruits of creativity.

If we fail to do that, then we are just wandering through the forest hoping to find a piece of fruit growing somewhere there. And that’s a good way to be hungry more than you want to.