“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
– Stephen King.
“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
– Stephen King.
“The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live. Be a man before being an artist!” — Auguste Rodin.
The world is full of general advice on how to think more creatively. The challenge with general advice, even from a trusted source, is that it’s seldom exactly what you need. After all, no 2 people are the same.
There is a way to make general advice work for you, though. You need to adapt it.. to play with the ideas a little. That’s what this article is all about.
Here’s an example of how I played with a general idea, to find a super-effective way to boost my creative productivity.
I once read a book that said listening to classical music whilst working, made you more creative. It went into heavy detail regarding the impact of classical music on the mind. As a lover of funk, electro and punk, classical music just made me sleepy. I stuck with it for as long as I could. I listened to the great classical composers and found that I loved Tchaikovsky and Vaughan Williams.
However, the beautiful music just made me restful and unproductive.
Then, I decided to adapt the idea a little. I tried listening to my kind of music when working on a creative project. I immediately found that it DID work. It had a direct, positive impact on my creativity and productivity. Often when I find myself writing, I will listen to the same album over and over again. It helps me stay in the zone. It seems I’m not alone. Years later I read an interview with WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg. Mullenweg said that when writing code, he would often loop the same music track and listen to it over and over again.
So, whilst I didn’t find classical music helpful for creative productivity, it did inspire me to try working to music, which I have done for the past two decades. By playing with the general idea, I was able to adapt it into something that has been a huge help to me.
The next time you see advice from a source you trust, even if the whole picture doesn’t fit, have a play with the general idea. Steal like an artist. Look for elements, which have the potential to work for you. You may be surprised what you end up with!
People often ask me for advice on how to cure writer’s block. They note that I write extremely regularly and want to know my secret. Whilst there is no secret, I can tell you how I have avoided writer’s block for the past 25 years, with 100% success.
Here’s how it works.
I heard a writer on the radio once, who claimed to have a serious case of writer’s block. She went on to say that the thought of a blank screen filled her with so much fear that it made her sick to her stomach.
The chap interviewing her immediately responded with; “So, why don’t you just start writing something, so there are some words on the screen? You can always edit it later.”
There was a silence for a few uncomfortable seconds, before she replied; “I never thought of that. I’ll give it a go.”
I have no idea whether the writer tried the common sense suggestion from the interviewer or not. However, if she did, she would find that it cured her writer’s block.
The way to cure writer’s block… is to write.
Writer’s block is more about fear, than the inability to think or write. How can we be so sure that this is the case? Simple: Writing is just like speaking and we can all speak whenever we choose.
If we can speak, we can write. If you can say it, write it down — goodbye writer’s block!
Here is maybe the best kept secret of the world’s most successful writers.
You don’t wait for inspiration to arrive… you command inspiration to arrive!
As the author Peter De Vries once said: “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at 9:00 every morning.”
Here are some more thoughts on inspiration, from Steve Jobs and Picasso.
I was reading one of those lists earlier, where someone details the writing habits of famous authors. The thing that immediately struck me, was that no 2 people had the same secret sauce — each had their own idiosyncratic habits when writing.
What sets the best writers apart from the rest is not their routine.
It’s their writing.
Picasso famously said; good artists copy, great artists steal.
The fear of criticism is one of the major blocks to creativity. In this article, I am going to share an effective way to handle fear. I will also show you how to stop fear from getting in the way of your art or work.
Even if you do nothing, people will criticise you for being lazy!
The moment you create anything, it’s there to be praised and criticised. For example, in addition to writing for this website, I also write a blog. The blog is pretty popular and has attracted over 20 thousand comments. Because blogs allow readers to comment on everything you write, I get comments from people who love what I do and a small number of comments from those who question it or criticise it. That criticism is also very public, as all my readers get to see it.
Whatever you create, it will be criticised. If you choose to play it safe and put generic work out there, it will attract less criticism, but it will be largely ignored – making it pointless. So, those of us committed to expressing our creativity need to figure out how we are going to deal with the fear of criticism.
Do we shield ourselves from criticism or do we learn to face it? Let’s look at those options.
Criticism has always existed, but not on the level that exists today. Just 20 years ago, a fearful author could cocoon themselves from negative feedback, by refusing to read the reviews of their book. Today, it’s a lot harder for people who are fearful of criticism, to cocoon themselves. However, it is possible.
Here’s the best example I have seen. It’s from the business author, Seth Godin. Now, Seth could be a fearless writer for all I know, however, his approach cocoons him from criticism.
Here are just a few of the things he has done:
That approach means Seth can be controversial or say something that confronts a popular viewpoint, without fear – because he has blocked people from confronting him, where he and his readers will see it. Seth’s approach shields him extremely well and is an alternative for others, who prefer to avoid criticism rather than deal with their fear.
So, as Seth’s example shows, it is possible (to a degree) to shield ourselves from our fear of criticism. However, I don’t believe that it’s the best way to deal with our fears. It’s like taking painkillers in response to toothache, rather than having the dental work done. The underlying problem still exists. The fear is still there and it will negatively impact the quality / uniqueness of our work.
In my experience, you have to look fear in the face and just do it! Then do it again and again and again…
I believe that anyone can conquer fear by doing the things he fears to do, provided he keeps doing them until he gets a record of successful experience behind him.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
As a boxer, I was fearful before each fight, but with every fight I had, the fear became less and less. Soon there was just enough fear to stop me being careless. As a blogger, I was fearful of what people might say when I published my initial blog posts, but with every new post, the fear became less and soon disappeared.
Fear is an essential element of creating the kind of art, which makes a difference. In fact, if you are working on a project and you feel that tingle of fear, it’s almost always a sign that you’re about to create something special.
Today’s article is written by my friend, Jane C Woods
I work a lot with people undergoing change in their lives, voluntary or otherwise. Quite often they have not come to my sessions of their own volition and initially regard me with suspicion.
Their suspicions deepen when I produce a huge bag of coloured pencils and felt tips and talk about being creative! But I can honestly say that by the end of the session they are happily scribbling away with abandon – even burly guys!
I’d like to share with you an exercise I often use, which taps into people’s innate creative thinking ability. It’s also a creative alternative to making a list!
One of the first questions I’m likely to ask is about how much support people have. Change can be very hard, especially when imposed upon us by something like redundancy, a major reorganisation, or a personal change like divorce. Who or what is around to help you? Are you (literally) well grounded?
The object of this exercise is to take a look at what you are giving out in terms of support, friendship – personal and professional, caring for others etc, and what you are getting back in. I use the analogy of a tree as it is a very visual representation of where you are at, at this moment in your life. You’ll need as many coloured crayons as you can lay your hands on and at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time just for you.
Take a sheet of paper (A4 will do) and fold it through the middle, then open again.
The fold represents the soil line so if you feel inclined indulge yourself with some pretty fronds of grass, and maybe a few daisies poking through. The aim is to really let yourself go and tap into your creative mind which will mean you come up with some surprising stuff-I promise! The more you doodle and play the better your thinking will be, honestly! Let out that inner child for 15 minutes.
If you want to go really wild draw your roots as longer, shorter, stronger, fatter, etc according to how important the support is. I’ve seen some amazing sketches once people have thrown off the idea they are being judged as artists. You’re not; this is purely a creative exercise to help you think about balance in your life. No one is judging you. It’s just for you. You can do a line drawing if you prefer. Put the name of the person on each root.
So now we have your base, it’s what holds you up when the wind blows or the sun shines (I‘ll try not to over-milk the metaphor!)
You can get really creative now as we’re looking at what you give out; the part of your tree on show which produces fruit and blossoms for others to enjoy and benefit from.
Draw the top half of your tree in any way you wish, and then add either flowers or fruit to it. Or both! The flowers and fruits represent people to whom you offer support. Some of them will be the same as your roots, that’s normal. Some will be folk you are happy to offer support to, people who are having a bad time. You may be getting nothing in return but that’s OK, because of the circumstances. Some though, may be the drains of your life, people who regularly take from you, who leave you feeling depleted and drained. They will probably never feature in your roots.
Once you’ve finished your tree take a long look at it.
Don’t worry too much if it looks a bit unbalanced; that happens to us all from time to time. However, if you repeat this exercise in a month or two and your tree still looks out of kilter, maybe it’s time for a re-think.
About The Author: Jane C Woods runs Changing People and is a personal development specialist, who focuses on helping women achieve their maximum potential. Jane also writes the Changing People blog, named after her hugely successful coaching and consulting business. Her site is packed with interesting articles and interviews for professional women and if that’s not enough, you can also sign up for Jane’s popular newsletter too.
Photos by Tech109 & Tim Green
The tools you use, to help yourself think more creatively are important. However, their job is purely to facilitate your thinking.
It’s important not to fall into the trap of believing the tools are what matter most, when it’s the result that counts.
For example, there are countless videos on Mind Mapping, which focus almost exclusively on how pretty the mind map looks, with little if any emphasis placed on the whole point of a mind map, which is to help you think.
Then there are people, who will only think on paper, if that paper happens to be their Moleskine and their favourite pen is to hand. I am a Moleskine user, but many of my best ideas were jotted down on scraps of paper, using someone else’s pen.
Yes, if you happen to think better, when making beautiful mind maps, then make your mind maps look great. If, like me, you carry a Moleskine and wonderful writing pen wherever you go, then use them. However, don’t let your lack of design skills stop you making great progress with your mind map and don’t allow your missing Moleskine to stop you thinking on paper.
Otherwise, the tools simply get in the way of the very process they were designed to assist you with.
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