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

Physically:

– 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.

Mentally:

– 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!