I believe that intelligence leads to overanalysis and inaction. Some people call it "analysis paralysis". Call it whatever you want, it keeps me from getting things done.
Looking back, all the time I spent planning and preparing for new ventures was basically wasted time. It's impossible to predict what will happen when you try something new. Better to just figure things out as you go.
But, "just do it" isnt going to cut it. That’s where creativity comes in.
Creativity allows a person to combine existing elements in novel ways. You may have heard of the term “Mindfulness” or “Cognitive Science” lately. These are related areas of study that bring together aspects of psychology, philosophy and cognitive science.
My interest in “mindfulness” was piqued when a 21 course Stanford course crunched 150,000 student records and showed that deep focus and problem solving are turned on by reducing background noise. You may have heard you should reduce your ambient noise and distractions. That’s exactly it. If you can reduce your internal clutter then your brain will be able to focus on a single problem.
These days I go about my business knowing that if I’m getting into a stressful situation or panic mode, some aspect of my cognitive stew is probably out of balance. I don’t mean to say that sometimes you shouldn’t use your brain. As we all know, there is a time and place for everything.
Recently I was lecturing to real estate agents on how to improve productivity. One must have been curious and nail in a nail, as he asked me, “What do you do to be creative?” I thought about it for a few minutes, and came up with this response. “Creativity is the ability to lose yourself in the task.” - Charles Limbergh
Now we can get a bit deeper into the subject.
Mindfulness is about balancing consciousness. Any activity, including creating, accessing intuition, and decision making, will flow more freely in its appropriate environment. Any activity requires three things: time, space, and method. Creativity most often comes from something entirely new. Thus, a new environment for the project is generated externally, when the creative person literally steps outside his “usual environment” where he expects or predicts things to be.
I recently met a seasoned entrepreneur who said her startup team goes into a room once a month and has a creative session. They ask themselves such disrupting questions like “Who are our competitors?”. She jokes that its so annoying she no longer comes up with similar questions to ask the team. I can’t do that within my own team, as the questions may seem obvious in hindsight, but we’re already too far down the road in our thoughts, opinions, and certainties. Thus, I really do have to shift environments, step out of my comfort zone, and be willing to be wrong.
In day to day life, I like to step out onto my terrace to connect with nature, shift reality for a moment, and open my mind to new possibilities. I also like to change environments when listening to music while running, or being in a park full of identity or meaning.
Throughout history man has looked for several locations for creativity to state. A few find order in an organized environment, while others need chaos to remove patterns. Herman Hesse (author of “The Glass Bead Game”) writes about a man entering a state of total serenity, being able to create out of nothing through emptiness, by going to an empty building that symbolizes a room obstructed from the eyes of the world. Song writing is meant to be done in a room with white, blank, and serene labels. I would argue that painting on white canvass brings the artist to a state where the memory of the colors no longer subconsciously blocks the creation of others.
The key to being creative is to tap into that space where your brain relaxes and removes blocks, consciously accepting your subconscious input- this is not capitulation to your thoughts/feelings, this accepting them as you observe them with detached contemplation.
The second key feature of being creative is time. Most creativity comes from carving out an allotted time to work on the project. This time should be spent reflecting, with a trickle of non-intrusive information coming in if you need it, but you should strive to relax from the rest of life and open up your dreams. Science has shown that generating ideas is associated with the "sleepy side of the brain", a metaphor of purgatory where old and new is exchanged and gratified.
Regardless of how you find this type of emptiness in your life, it must be had. In the context of art, this means blocking your mind from dominating over your hands, blocking the critical voice that could correct the picturesque errors you may make with the brush, blocking your natural tendency to make judgments of others in your field, and more. As Richard Feynman said when he was asked how he did it, "???"
A third key aspect of creativity is method. This isn’t to say you need to learn a specific set of skills, but rather you will access creativity by knowing what drives your brain. Some like to disconnect and relax. I found that being naturally eager and vital, I like intensity. So my method is to challenge myself with a task, so that I leave my comfort area, stretch myself intellectually, react, make mistakes, learn from mistakes, and then feel good about solving a problem. This more “hands on” approach keeps me energized, unconventional, and creative. As Einstein said “Every success from now on is measured by how many times that I can relearn or cry.”
A fourth key aspect of creativity is to build yourself from team players that ignite creativity. Having a creative team is important because being creative as an individual can be a lonely process where your works may go unnoticed. This loneliness dampens your creativity. As Bob Dylan said, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do”. Indeed.
Lastly, thank you for reading! One of the reasons I made this blog is so that I can share what I'm doing on a daily basis. Learn more about me by reading my About Page .