Monthly Archives: August 2016

Creativity’s Dirty Little Secret

creativeThose who make their living in a creative profession don’t like to admit it, but here’s the truth: everyone is creative. Everyone. It’s like singing—anyone can sing, it’s just about putting some work and concentration into it. With creativity, it’s the same thing—you just have to adopt the successful traits and utilize the right techniques.

In fact, the main reason I fell into a creative role is completely ridiculous: I was born left-handed so everyone told me “you must be creative.” I also liked that it made me seem a wee bit special, which sometimes got me girls.

But here are two facts that will put this randomness in perspective: while the creative world has a disproportionately large number of lefties, you know what other profession does? Hockey players. Something like 60% of hockey players shoot left (truth be told, I have no idea what the real stat is, but I’m sure it’s at least 60%). And yes, some of them are actually right-handed, but when I look at my teammates, at least 25% of us are bona fide lefties—a far higher percentage than those of us who have all our teeth.

So how are creatives different? Here are some of their traits and techniques:

  • We creatives allow ourselves space to dream and don’t censor ourselves until the very end. We know other people will criticize our ideas anyway, so self-censorship is completely unnecessary. The only reason we pick favorite ideas when presenting is because:
  • We can only present so many ideas (I prefer three).
  • We discard the ideas we know won’t fly, unless we truly believe in them (after all, even creatives don’t want to be seen as idiots).
  • It’s a lot of work to make an idea presentation-ready, and work cuts into our screwing-around time.
  • We creatives also know two axioms:
  • There is quality in quantity. If you want good ideas, you have to let the bad ones out. That’s where the work comes in. You have to pan through a lot of mud to get to the gold.
  • Don’t fall in love. Everyone loves their first good idea, but creatives press on, furiously filling notebooks and decorating walls with Post-its. You must keep creating until you drop, which actually doesn’t take long if you do it with intensity and purpose.

All the best creatives have a process. The legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp wrote about process in her book The Creative Habit, where she outlines her technique flawlessly. You’d think she just starts dancing until it comes to her, right? Nope. Like a true professional, she puts in the work, and reading her book is a revelation. She also agrees with me that everyone can do it. Here’s how she puts it:

Whether it’s a painter finding his way to the easel or a medical researcher returning the laboratory, the routine is as much a part of the creative process as the lightning bolt of inspiration (perhaps more). And it is available to everyone. If creativity is a habit, then the best creativity is a result of good work habits. They are the nuts and bolts of dreaming.”

Here’s the last dirty little secret for today, something we touched on earlier: at least three-quarters of creativity is just making things simpler. I can’t count the number of times my ideas have been called “creative” when I never made it past the simplicity stage. So if you read chapter 8 in my soon to be published book “Get to the Heart” (and put it into practice), you’re already 75% there.

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