Productivity 105: How Creativity Works

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Productivity 104: How To Be Organized

Creativity is literally being able to create, and usually implies imagination or original ideas

  • Creative minds are trained, not born, to be creative
    • Creativity is not intelligence
      • Creativity is simply finding an unconventional solution to a conventional problem
      • Genius combines intelligence and creativity, but anyone can be creative if they learn a few new ways to think
    • Creativity is not a mystical process derived from pure contemplation
      • Creativity actually takes a lot of work and has specific characteristics
        • It always starts with a perceived problem or failure
        • It is, fundamentally, nothing more than a response
        • The response is always to remove obstacles, minimize challenges or add previously nonexistent value
      • Frustration is not an interruption of the creative process, it actually is the process itself
    • Innate talent only determines how easy it is to be creative, not whether it is possible
      • The most important motivator for creativity is curiosity
      • Nobody in any creatively driven endeavor needs a formal education for it
        • Most people who aspire for creative career fields either do work that isn’t in line with their desire or don’t get paid enough to make a living
    • No matter the creative medium, there are still rules that need to be learned
      • The medium itself has to abide by certain shared standards of quality
        • Even avant-garde and experimental works are acknowledging these rules by intentionally defying them
      • Marketing the art and conveying it to others is based on what people want, not simply based on feelings
  • There is a natural state of being that generates creativity
    • Self-loving to the point of being at peace with oneself
      • Allowed to make mistakes
      • Diets and exercises correctly
      • Gets plenty of rest
      • Overall happy and peaceful
      • Self-accepting
    • Critical of all ideas, from self and from others
      • Looks for constant constructive feedback from others
      • Re-evaluates values, goals and ideas on a regular basis
      • Spends more time disagreeing with ideas and finding flaws in theories than brainstorming about “new” ideas
    • Naturally open to new things
      • Intentionally alternates between caring what others think and not caring
      • Lives fearlessly
      • Ready at all times to commit ideas to writing
      • Willing to break the rules
    • Productivity-minded
      • Avoids complaining or feeling entitled
      • Chooses decisive and good enough over indecisive and perfect
      • Fights the fantasy of perfectionism
      • Focused on mastering one thing at a time
      • Takes advantage of boredom for routine and uninteresting tasks
      • Organized
      • Persistent and disciplined
      • Structured

Being creative is a very straightforward process

  1. Gather
    • Find something you’re passionate about, which can often come from any creative work simply by making a connection to the passion
    • Pull together tons of raw information from everywhere you can
      • Browse all sorts of information, from general topics to specific subjects
    • Brainstorm with different exercises
      • Mass Brainstorm – write out 100 ideas quickly irrespective of whether they’re good ideas
      • Reverse Brainstorm – identify ways of causing the problem or pick the worst idea
      • 30 Circles – draw 30 circles on a piece of paper, then doodle inside them with a time limit of 3 minutes
      • Zentangle – draw a curvy line across a paper, draw a pattern along the line, build the patterns up stroke by stroke until you’re finished
    • Question literally everything
      • Ask dumb questions and find new answers to them that are unconventional or different
      • Step outside of your field of experience
      • Add these notes to the other information you’ve collected
  2. Digest
    • If you can, consolidate the number of “containers” that hold your information
      • Keep all the scraps of paper that get used for brainstorming in one box or cabinet
      • Only use one digital service, like Evernote, a cloud storage system or OneNote
    • Sift and sort through the gathered materials and look at them from different viewpoints
      • Lotus Blossom Technique – start with a central idea and expand outward with solutions
      • Mind-Mapping – draw circles representing ideas and draw lines to connect them with other ideas
        • There are many softwares available to help with mind-mapping, such as bubbl.us
      • Try an unconventional method like Wordle
    • Try combining things together and seeing how they are or are not connected
      • Write cards with phrases and combine them together
      • Swap out the 6 Thinking Hats
        • White Hat – looks at information and data
        • Black Hat – exercises judgment and caution
        • Red Hat – covers feelings, emotions and intuition
        • Yellow Hat – finds reasons why something will work
        • Green Hat – alternatives, proposals, provocations and changes
        • Blue Hat – process controls, looks at the thinking of the subject instead of the subject itself
      • Create limits and constraints
        • Arbitrary limits can inspire new ways of seeing the exact same method
        • Scarcity and deadlines can create clarity
      • Think about what other various successful people would do if they were in your situation
  3. Turn off your thoughts
    • Don’t worry about the “blank page”, since it will happen when it happens
      • Let your impressions and thoughts unconsciously fade away
      • Drop the problem completely and turn to something else that stimulates your imagination
  4. Wait for the spark
    1. Continue carrying on with life and doing creative things in other avenues
      • Do pretty much anything, as long as it’s involving
        • Add to your daily routine right before you want to create
        • Make your life more memorable to get more ideas
      • Do something routine or “small-minded”
        • De-clutter
        • Drink coffee or alcohol
        • Drink peppermint tea
        • Finish projects
        • Imitate someone else’s success
        • Keep up with trends
        • Make lists
        • Meditate or self-reflect
        • Practice silence
        • Take a nap
        • Write a diary
        • Write things down
      • Do something fun
        • Dance
        • Find a new hobby
        • Finesse something you’re already good at
        • Hang out with friends
        • Read books
        • Sing
        • Watch films
      • Do something new
        • Go for a walk
        • Learn a new skill
        • Listen to new music
        • Take a risk
        • Travel
        • Try new food
        • Visit a new place
      • Do something unconventional
        • Ask 3 random people from your phone list about an idea
        • Break your routine
        • Start over with everything, just to see what happens
        • Talk with strangers
        • Try free writing or sketching about something random
        • Visualize being distant from everyone and everything
      • Avoid a few things that can inhibit creativity
        • Though they improve productivity, computers stifle creativity because they’re easy to hide behind
        • Repetitive and boring tasks that don’t need to be done lock the brain out of a creative state
    2. Out of seemingly nowhere, an idea will appear
      • Keep a notebook constantly with you, since it’ll happen when you least expect it
        • Your notebooks are necessary to hold onto good ideas and connect them to other ideas
      • This isn’t a mechanical technique, but is how genuine creativity works
        • Creativity is essentially giving the subconscious enough information to process a profound connection
        • The more you link concepts, the easier the “a-ha!” moment will come
    3. If you’re facing a creative wall and you’re not patient enough, there are ways to start into it
      • Just dive right in and figure it out as it goes
        • For extremely large projects, this will likely cause a lot of rework later
      • Look at your audience and imagine them as a friend you’re creating for
      • Record your thoughts and play them back later
      • Make a routine to stay at the creating station, even if it’s sitting waiting for an idea
        • Even if you’ve only done a smattering of work, it’s still good because it’s a start
  5. Create
    • Most creative people have a problem finishing projects
      • When you make something, have a defined end point if you don’t want to go back to it again and again
        • This is harder to do than it sounds, especially if you desire perfection
    • Don’t start until the spark comes, the creation needs to be from passion and not simply out of duty
    • Get into a routine, especially for larger projects
      • This takes discipline, but will guarantee success
    • Don’t expect anyone else to see your vision
      • Even after you’re done, most people are not willing to accept the changes that a great creative work will inspire
  6. Rest
    • After you’ve finished your work, redirect your mind to something else
    • Creativity is a lot like breathing, and you need to inhale more consumption before you can exhale content
  • This creative process is messy and disorganized, but it’s how our minds work
    • 99% of your ideas will be unused, unfulfilled, lead nowhere or have no relevance
    • This pile of ideas can be periodically purged, but it’s the mind’s natural work-in-process space
    • To become concerned about the scope of the pile will lead to unhappiness, which easily stifles creativity

After you’ve created something that feels like a viable idea, research if it’s possible

  1. Submit the idea to constructive criticism
    • It helps to have others who support you and value your work
    • Be reasonable and practical while you’re considering turning the idea into a creative solution
    • Many times something that is authentic enough is just as good as something fully original
  2. Start creating an action plan on how to do it
  3. If you run across snags, use Unstuck or sub-divide the problems and attack each smaller problem individually
Next: Productivity 200: How To Be Productive With Computers