How to set up an effective creative session in 3 steps
You can talk all day about whether or not you are a creative person, but if you WANT to be creative, all you have to do is get to work. And creating is work. Fortunately, it’s fun work that will leave you invigorated and enlightened.
So, how do we do this? We’ll discuss a three-step process that I think you’ll find is quick and easy to implement, and it will yield great results.
1. Change something
2. Set parameters
3. A definitive timeline
If this sounds too structured already, don’t worry. We’re actually just giving your creative side a way to work, a framework on which to build, a canvas to be painted on. Let me explain…
1. Change something.
What do I mean? Well, if you’ve been having trouble getting creative, this is actually a bit easier in some ways. Simply by picking up a paintbrush, guitar, keyboard and mouse or whatever tool you want to use, you may have already made a change. You have moved from someone who wishes they could be creative to someone on the verge of actually creating something. You have a new tool in your hand, a powerful tool for work. What do you do with it?
If you are more experienced, picking up your tools will not be a change, so something more is needed. Change your environment, perhaps. Work in the dark. I mean REALLY dark. block the windows, shut the lights and put black tape over the LEDs in your equipment. Immerse yourself in darkness and start to work. Or, simply move things around so that they are not where you are comfortable with them. If you are right-handed, use your left or visa-versa.
In each of these cases, you will notice something happen. You will FEEL. Maybe it will be fear, or anxiety. That’s okay, those feelings are often signs that you’re close to the power-source of your creativity. Don’t fight the feelings, allow them to be there. Work with them as part of your new environment and feel the difference. Notice how your muscles actually respond to the anxiety, and take note of the difference.
At this point, you are in uncharted waters, and that’s the point. You can’t be creative if you do the same thing over and over. There needs to be a change of some sort. Make the most of this new experience by paying close attention to the process and the results. If you like even a small aspect of the results, then you have something new to work with, to add to your repertoire. If not, next time you do this exercise, what can you change to get closer to your desired results? This conscious analysis will help you to purposely move your creations in the direction you want them to go while opening up new vistas to explore.
2. Set parameters
This seems counter-intuitive to many, but by setting parameters for your session you will actually prompt MORE creativity. Think of it as the MacGyver Effect. Until there is a challenge, there’s simply no need for a solution, so nothing that would overcome the challenge is likely to be created. On the other hand, bring on the killer robots and a person has to start thinking of ways to avoid, well, death and other bad stuff.
If you can find some killer robots for your session, excellent! But for those of us with more limited means, our parameters will probably have to be more modest. How about painting with only two colors? Or, take 30 photos, all different, but you can’t leave the room you start in. Prepare a meal that is comprised of food that is all served in small glasses, but make it tasty and exciting. Write a story without using the word “And” or perhaps “The”.
What happens is that you have to think about what you are doing in a new way, and this will cause you to challenge your presumptions and evaluation the very purpose of your creative endeavors. With a clearer view of what you want to accomplish, you will feel a surge of energy, although it may feel more like fear or frustration.
3. A definitive timeline
Too little time will do you too little good. Too much time, and you will never finish things.
Choose a set amount of time for your exercise, and stick to it. If you set your timer for an hour, really work at the project for a full 60 minutes. Don’t give in to the temptation to do something else, even answering the phone or going to the bathroom. Really, you want to fully engage in the exercise for the amount of time you agreed with yourself to take.
Also, when the timer rings, stop. Just stop. Don’t keep on going just because it’s working, you may wear out the magic and find yourself less desirous of trying again, and you do want to do this again. So what do you do when you stop the creative exercise? Analyze your results. And I mean all the results, not just what you played, painted, wrote, baked, or whatever, but also how it made you feel and thing. What did you learn? What do you want to try again? What did you like or hate about it? Why?
If you simply look at the resulting product, it is more than likely that you will decide that this was a silly waste of time. But you will also have missed the point. It was never about making a masterpiece, it was about stretching your mind and heart to see how to do more and different things that will later be used to create the masterpiece(s). This was the push-ups and jumping jacks that are used to get you ready for competition, not the event itself.
And, most importantly, it makes you think about what you are doing, and that gives you power over the creative process.
It’s also important to realize that these are simply suggestions for one approach to this exercise. Feel free to break the “rules” here, but I would suggest that you at least TRY to give it a shot first. And, of course, your mileage may vary.
Please, leave a comment on your thoughts, or better yet, the results of your experience. Ask me any questions you have, and I’ll be glad to make up some answers.