Have you ever noticed how those creative geniuses you see on TED videos or Creative Mornings videos, almost all use Macs?
Ironically, none of them are embracing Steve Jobs’ mantra, “think different.” Instead, they’ve joined the same predictable design cult. They stand on stage, eager to share how uniquely original they are, creating from the same limited tool kit as their fellow creative thinking gurus.
I find that odd — odd, limiting and narrow minded.
Thinking different with different tools
As well as pencils, pens and paper, I use 2 Macs, a Windows PC, a Linux PC and a number of android devices. Each works differently. Each has different software.
Each causes you to (literally) think differently, when you use them.
Maybe a more useful way to come up with creative ideas, is NOT to limit yourself to one hardware or software platform.
I wonder how Warhol’s art would have been limited, if he’d followed the crowd and insisted on using only oil on canvas? Think about that for a moment!
One of the keys to problem solving, is to learn how to stick with the challenge for long enough to find the answer you need.
Einstein famously said: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
I think we can all agree that Einstein was one of the greatest minds in history, however, his decision to stick with a challenge and work on it for a long time is something we can all benefit from.
Creative thinking requires effort
Over on my marketing blog, one of the most common phrases I see in the comments section when I make a suggestion, is a variant of; ‘It’s not as easy as it sounds.” Most people seem to be programmed to seek the easy or lazy answer by default. Then, if the answer doesn’t come easy, they quit. This places a very low ceiling on their potential, as there’s only so far someone can go if they are not prepared to think deeply, when required.
If I have a challenge that’s proving a tricky nut to crack, I employ a few strategies before I decide it’s beyond me:
- I take the problem for a walk. Ensuring I have a way to record any answers that come to me. This is the best thing I have ever found for developing creative ideas. Almost every challenge I have is resolved this way.
- I clearly define the challenge at the top of a sheet of paper, then write as many answers as possible. I allow my mind to flow and write down everything that comes to me. I also make sure the question is written correctly.
- I talk to someone with expertise in the area, where my challenge resides. For example, if it’s a design problem I’ll talk to a designer – even if their field of design is different.
- I talk to someone whose opinion I respect, yet who has no expertise on that area. This outside perspective has proven to be a goldmine of creative answers, as their feedback directs me to look for answers in a new, often fertile direction.
- I then give the challenge as long as required, before deciding the answer is beyond me.
Some challenges come with a hard deadline, so there is a set time frame within which the answer is needed. However, in most cases the deadline is more flexible than that.
In short: For us to stand the greatest chance of getting an above average answer, we should stick with it for longer than the average person.
When was the last time you showed your appreciation, to an artist whose work you enjoy?
The reason I ask you this, is that artists rely heavily on the feedback they receive. Whether that feedback is in sales of their work, tickets to their performance or messages of encouragement, feedback is what shows them who values their work.
Why your feedback matters
I remember talking to a guy once, who almost quit writing his blog because he got so little feedback from it. I took a look at his work and was extremely impressed. I asked him if he had any analytics software plugged into his blog, to count how many visitors or readers he attracted. He said that he didn’t. So, I installed an analytics package and told him I would go through the results with him in a week.
When we analysed the activity on his blog, it was clear that hundreds of visitors were connecting with his work every day. Quite an achievement for a pretty niche blog.
Without that feedback, the writer was about to quit. As much as he enjoyed writing, there seemed little point blogging if no one was interested. He now has several thousand daily readers and a professional publishing contract.
All art is based on human connections — between the artist and those who connect with their work. If you want your favourite artists to carry on creating, you have an obligation. Your obligation is to feedback to them, either through financially supporting their work, telling your friends about them or by letting the artist know you value their work.
In short: If you value an artist, give them a hug!
It’s extremely common for clients to try and rush creative professionals. They want projects finished fast… often too fast. This is usually because they are ignorant of how the creative process works.
If only there was a way to explain to them, that creativity takes time.
Well, now there is!
The video above runs for just 2 minutes, yet demonstrates with great clarity, why creativity should not be rushed. It shows how the quality of creative work diminishes, when people try and complete a project too quickly. The example they use is both funny and extremely powerful.
So, the next time someone tries to get you to produce your art too quickly, show them this video!
If you want to be more creative, more often, this quote from Stephen King is a great starting point:
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work!”
Be your own muse
Don’t wait for creativity to appear… command it to appear. Decide that it’s time to create and then get to work.
If you wait for the perfect time, you will seldom create anything.
Photo: Custom USB
If you want to improve the quality and quantity of your creative output, I may be able to save you a huge amount of time and money.
The most creative minds in history
When we study the most creative minds in history, we find that they have one thing in common, which is indisputable. Einstein, Socrates, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Beethoven… none of them used the technology, which people today think of as essential to the creative process.
- When John Lennon was writing lyrics, he used a pencil and paper. Would his songs have been better if he’d used a writing app instead? I doubt it.
- Would Andy Warhol have been more creative, if he’d used an ultra-high resolution monitor? I don’t believe so.
- Would the books of Hemingway or Melville have been more compelling, if they’d written them using a MacBook Pro? No. It’s not about the tools.
Written on the back of a flyer
The most successful project I ever launched was a marketing blog. I got the idea for it in 2008, after a long walk in Sherwood Forest. I bought a pencil from one of the gift shops and started scribbling my ideas down on the back of a discarded flyer. It was a series of bullet points, which were the core ideas that allowed me to produce a unique type of blog.
The blog went on to become one of the world’s most popular marketing sites, even though it was conceived on the back of a scrap of paper. It’s not about the tools.
I’m a huge fan of technology, both new and old. My studio contains a few Mac’s, lots of pens and pencils, stacks of recycled paper and a shelf full of notebooks I have written in over the years. The thing is, these tools are not the source of creativity. They are simply things I use, to get an idea out of my head or published. It’s not about the tools.
In short: We are never one amazing app or gadget away from becoming a creative powerhouse. The tool we need to sharpen, feed and nurture, is our mind!
Here is a superb audio presentation by the BBC, covering Dylan Thomas in New York. It was a very different setting for the Welsh genius.
Listen to the sounds of Thomas’ New York and hear the great poet himself, read from Under Milk Wood, in this 4 and a half minute piece.
Thanks to the BBC for making this available for resharing.
For more information on Dylan Thomas, his life and his work, check out the official Dylan Thomas website.
Don’t compromise your art (work).
The moment you do, it’s no longer yours.. and it’s no longer art.
The very best art doesn’t follow the latest trends. It isn’t diluted, by having the fashion of the day injected into it, to gain wider acceptance. It stands the test of time.
If you want your art to lose relevance quickly, follow the current fashion.
If you want your art to carry on making a difference, don’t follow anything. Lead!
I’ve visited the room where Dylan Thomas did much of his writing and also the tiny shed where Roald Dahl wrote. Something that struck me about these amazing writers, was how extremely typical their surroundings were.
Nothing fancy. Just a space to create, where they could think and work.
The mechanics are secondary
Often, we get caught up in the mechanics of creativity. What software to work with… which type of computer to use.
I think to a lesser or greater degree, these are stalling tactics. Find the mix that feels right for you, then create.
The rest is largely unimportant.