Getting Deeper into the Creative Mind

In my last post, I mentioned that I’m going to be making a few subtle changes on my blog. One of these changes is simply that I’m going to be going a little deeper into the subject matter at hand. Expect a few more long posts and detailed ideas.

I’ve always been one to prefer the shorter, more concise blog post. However, there’s something to be said for getting into more depth on any given topic. Instead of just a few simple prompts about how to become more creative, what if we look more closely at the creative mind? What makes a person creative? How can we zero in on the creative part of our minds?

What Makes You Creative?

This isn’t an easy question to answer. Personally, I believe that we’re all born with creative minds, but creativity gets educated out of us as we get older. I think this is especially true in today’s world where we put more emphasis on the practical skills needed to make a living.

If I had to make a list of qualities that make us creative. It might look something like this:

  1. We ask questions: I like to mix things up. Combining musical genres or writing a play using only poetry can lead to interesting works. However, to reach these kinds of creative combinations we must ask a lot of questions. What if I mixed X with Z? How can I create a new musical instrument?
  2. We start at zero: People often struggle with creativity because they have too many expectations of what they want to create at the outset. Great creative individuals understand that having preconceived ideas can kill the whole process. Sometimes it’s best to start with an absolute blank page. This allows you to make fresh connections and interesting combinations.
  3. We screw up… a lot: I’m constantly making mistakes. Sometimes mixing genres and attempting to be original leads to crap. Creatives accept that. We are willing to throw a lot of crap away and start again. I’ve killed as many musical creations than I’ve saved. A few years ago, I wiped out several blogs, including all of the content on this one. I started over… again.
  4. We change our focus: Along with screwing up, we get sidetracked. Because creatives minds are always pondering, we can easily lose focus. I’ve been known to suddenly start focusing on photography in the midst of a music project.
  5. We kill our ego: One difference between good songwriters and great songwriters is the ego. I’m not claiming that all great songwriters have no ego. However, the most honest and talented songwriters often know how to set their egos aside and focus on crafting a great song. The song becomes more important than the self.
  6. We continually learn: Every time you screw up, you learn. With every new project, you gain a new insight. Creatives not only learn from their own work, but we study others’ work, read a lot, and accept constructive criticism as well.

How Do You Access Your Creative Mind?

This is where you have to do some work. Like productivity, creativity takes discipline. There is no magic button. In order to promote creativity, you have to practice a few habits:

  • Brainstorming: Make a point to take time to come up with ideas. Make lists. Remember, nothing is certain. When you brainstorm, do it quickly and uncritically. You can sort things out later.
  • Daily practice: Sorry, there’s no getting around this one. If you want to be creative you have to practice. You don’t have to do the exact same thing every day, but you should do something creative every day.
  • Turn off distractions: If you spend your day, texting and going through your social media feeds, you’ll be too distracted to get creative. Make specific times to work on creative projects.
  • Change things up: Take different routes to work. Walk a different way to the coffee shop. Change your exercise routine. Travel to new places. Variety of experience stimulates your creative mind.

Enough Prompts, Let’s Get Vulnerable

At the start of the post I said I was going to begin to dig deeper into this blog’s topics. So let’s talk about fear and vulnerability. The creative mind is a vulnerable thing. One reason that many people claim that they can’t be creative is simple: Creativity is risky. If you screw up you could appear foolish or wrong.

With every creative endeavor comes the risk of failure, embarrassment, criticism, and self-doubt. That’s tough stuff to deal with. Creative individuals have learned to set those fears aside for the love of making new discoveries and creating original works. In order to truly be creative, you must be willing to fail.

However, instead of looking at failure as something bad, you must lose your ego and look at failure as a direct stepping stone to success.

For every good song I’ve written, there have been several false starts and miserable pieces of crap. But it’s from the trash piles of crappy work that I’ve found the gems to create something great.

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Another thing that great creatives learn to do is to be quiet about their projects. It’s okay to tell a few select people. But the more people you tell, the more pressure you put on yourself. Pressure can backfire, causing you to reconsider the magnanimity of your proposed idea.

It’s true. Something funny happens when we share our ideas with others. We become less likely to follow through. If you come up with a new book idea, don’t tell the world. Talking about your ideas gets in the way of doing. It can confuse and overwhelm you.

Some people will hate your idea. This might cause you to think it’s stupid. Others might get excited and try to help you. Unfortunately, their help gets in the way of your original thoughts and plans. Instead of excitedly telling others, just begin the process of quietly pursuing your creative project. Once you know you’re on the road to completing the book, or the recording, then you can tell others.

Check out this short Ted Talk by Derek Sivers on the topic of being quiet about your goals.

Your Turn to Get Creative

Enough talk. Now that we’ve uncovered a few of the deeper secrets of the creative mind, it’s your turn to get creative. I’d like you to do the following:

  1. Get out a blank piece of paper.
  2. Write or draw the first thing that comes to your mind.
  3. Now write or draw about another completely unrelated topic.
  4. Find a way to connect the two ideas together.
  5. Crumple up your paper and do it again.

Repeat this process until something clicks. You’ll know when that happens. It will lead to a fresh idea, poem, or drawing. You’ll create something you have more confidence in.

We might not be able to force creativity, but we can deliberately use our minds in a way that will promote creativity. It’s our choice to make: Use it or lose it.

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