In our modern work society, more and more jobs are requiring the one thing computers can’t give us: creativity.
Almost completely gone are the days where humans are needed to work in factories or on assembly lines. While I see many people worried about computers replacing their jobs – which I can understand the concern – I think that overall this is a good thing. Having computers and machines to do the monotonous, boring, repetitive work frees humans up to do what we are really designed for – creativity and problem solving.
I can already hear the shrieks from some of you – “I can’t do it! I don’t have a creative bone in my body!”. You know what? I don’t buy it. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have thousands of years of creative, problem solving ancestors who lived before you.
I understand that when people think of creativity they tend to think of the fine arts – things like painting, music, dancing. Or maybe you think of Artisans who throw clay or knit intricate sweaters or create delicious confections. And then you think about how you don’t do any of those things.
However, creativity isn’t reserved for the arts. There’s unbelievable creativity found in writing code or designing a customer service strategy or managing an unwilling team. It just usually doesn’t manifest in what most would call a “work of art” at the end.
But I bet your peers would understand. I bet another computer programmer might examine the code and see the amazing way you got around a problem.
This is the beauty of creativity. It’s not limited to certain mediums. There is no requirement to apply your creativity with a paint brush or a guitar or ballet shoes. You get to apply your creativity wherever you need and want to do so.
And, like so very many things in life, there’s always a catch. Just as we don’t always feel motivated to do things, we aren’t always in the most creative frame of mind. Anyone who has set out on any creative venture knows that feeling uninspired and getting stuck are all part of the process.
But what do you when you HAVE to be creative? What happens when that project deadline looms, or the team won’t get along, or that blank computer screen stares menacingly back at you?
Here are some ways to rustle the creative muses when inspiration seems nothing more than a distant memory.
DON’T JUST WAIT AROUND
As tempting as sitting around waiting for your muse to strike seems, doing nothing is not going to jumpstart your creativity.
This is NOT to say that you should park yourself in front of your project and force yourself to work on it until it’s done. While this is sometimes an effective strategy for non-creative tasks, it generally just leads to nothing but frustration for the creative ones.
Creative procrastination is totally a technique. Sometimes you NEED time away from creative endeavors to let the current ideas percolate and have new ones come to you. But what this doesn’t mean is sitting around binge watching mindless tv or other avoidance type behavior.
What works best is engaging in something that will help expand your mind and give you a new perspective on things. Take a class, spend time with different people, try a different medium.
If you’re a painter I would say go play with some charcoals or learn how to fold origami. These are still visual arts, but they will get you thinking differently about paints and paper.
If you’re a computer programmer working on apps, go take a class in a different language or try coding a video game.
If you’re a manager with a difficult team, go take an acting class or go to a conference that’s in a wildly different industry than yours.
You want to pick something that is loosely connected to what you’re working on – so that you’ll be able to notice similarities but that will really stretch the way that you think about your problem.
SEEK OUT NEW ROLE MODELS
The old saying of if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got holds true of the people you spend time with as well.
Just as seeking out new people to hang around with is helpful for sparking your creativity, so is looking for new mentors and role models.
You don’t even have to know these role models for this trick to help you. You can study them at a distance and emulate their best qualities.
Even a fictional character can affect the way that you see the world. I recently watched a show where a character was so full of wonder that it made me see the world differently. Emulating him gave me a new perspective on my world. Brought me more mindfulness and a more present way of being that I had been lacking in life.
All this from putting myself in his shoes.
You can do this one of two ways. Once you have your new role model you can imagine having a conversation and asking her all your pressing questions and seeing what she might say. Or you can imagine that you are that person and ask yourself what you would do now with this new perspective.
Whichever works for you will bring you a new angle to work on your project.
NARROW YOUR FOCUS
I find this has to be one of the most difficult misconceptions about the arts – that the artist is limited only by their creativity.
Part of being creative is putting limits around what you are working on. By simply choosing to work with paper and paint you are limiting yourself. By putting a production in a certain time period the director limits their choices.
Limits are a necessary part of the creative process.
We constantly talk about thinking outside the box, but you can’t do that if there’s no box in the first place. When we are presented with boundless choices our brains head into overwhelm and we shut down.
If I go into DSW with the intent of just browsing shoes, I will probably get overwhelmed and leave with nothing. Too many choices and no specific criteria were there for me to narrow my interest. But if I need a pair of black heels, now I’m on to something and I can focus.
This is true of any project. A team of theatrical designers would come up with a mess of a production if the director did not center the show around a concept.
A symphony would be chaos if each musician chose their own tempo and style for it.
Our creativity must be constrained in some way so that we can focus it.
When directing your attention to a creative endeavor, avoid allowing yourself too many choices. Make some early decisions about how and where to focus your attention. This will save you from landing in overwhelm and giving up before you start.
MEDITATE ON IT
Meditation seems to be good for everything these days, and that truth extends to creativity. A short 10-12 minute meditation switches on our ability for divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is how we get outside of the box.
It also improves your attention. This allows you to focus but also helps you to distinguish which ideas are novel and useful, and which aren’t going to cut it.
And it helps you be more resilient. Meditating strengthens your courage and resilience in the face of skepticism and set backs – which are a regular part of any creative process.
USE WRONG THINKING
There is an exercise that can be done before working that can be extremely helpful in boosting creativity.
Try to come up with the WORST idea possible.
If you’re imagining some ways to boost morale for your team, imagine trying to come up with the worst work environment ever. Write down all the ideas that come to you about how you can just ruin everything and make everyone miserable. This activates your brain in a different ways than trying to think of the “right” answer to a problem – thus activating your creativity.
You can also activate this wrong thinking concept by changing the rules of how you function. If you’re the boss, put someone else in charge and be their assistant for the day. Or give everyone equal investment in a project and see how the dynamics in the room change.
Wrong thinking is about changing your perspective on the problem to allow your brain to look at it in a new way. Oftentimes a new angle or a tweak in perspective is all we need to land on that amazing idea that changes the whole game.
Creativity can also be bolstered through coaching. Coaching is a wonderful way to get into a resourceful state and access new perspectives on any situation. If you’re stuck, send me a message and we can talk about how coaching can help you.