“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” –Osho
Creativity Comes From Human Capital
Are you denying your creativity?
Do you, like so many others, insist that good ideas do not come easily or often. Do you believe that creativity is endowed upon talented artists at birth, and since you weren’t born a Mozart, Van Gogh, or Da Vinci, then you are not creative?
Deny it as much as you like, the truth is we are all creative beings.
Creativity is not about producing great works of arts or developing transcending ideas in a moment’s notice. Creativity is more expansive and flexible than that. It is about struggle. It is about combating what is old or predictable to make something new and original, using one’s human capital to provide interesting solutions to problems.
Bob Dylan was exhausted after a six-week tour in 1965 and ready to give up music entirely. He felt trapped, empty, and burnt out. As Jonah Lehrer expresses in his book, Imagine, just when he felt he had no more left to give, he went up to a cabin near Woodstock and ended up having one of the greatest creative moments of his life, writing Like a Rolling Stone and other songs.
Mary Shelly was on vacation with family and friends in Geneva, staying in a villa with the famous poet, Lord Byron. The rain kept them mostly indoors, and it was Byron that suggested they all write a ghost story. She came up with the idea for Frankenstein after a bought of writer’s block. She was stuck—until she went to bed for the night, and had what she called a “waking dream” of a “hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion.”
Archimedes, according to legend, needed a bath to think creatively about irregular objects, volume, and displacement. He proceeded to run naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting, “Eureka! Eureka!”
You too have the chance to be creative if you believe in yourself and listen to what your soul tells you. You too can solve problems in interesting ways using your human capital.
Fear is what restrains creativity. Most people fear being wrong. They fear what others will say. They fear being an original in a world of conformity. So they play it safe. They stay with the job they hate. They mail in the usual work with the same-old, predictable answers.
Nearly three decades ago, 61.1% of workers said they liked their jobs. Today, that number is 47.7% according to a report by the Conference Board, a New York-based nonprofit research group.
To be creative doesn’t mean you have to quit your job and become an abstract artist, scrapbooker, or costume designer, unless that is your passion. Instead think of it in empowering terms, you just need to have the courage to try to solve problems in interesting and innovative ways, and that is something we all can do.
How to Embrace Creativity
Listening to your creative voice will bring new satisfaction to your work, make your existence more meaningful, and improve the quality of your life.
To increase your creative output, cultivate these four principles habits of creativity.
- Retain good ideas — Creative people have the ability to make connections between diverse components, forming new ideas. You need a way to recall ideas so that you can put the pieces of the puzzle together. I like using the note card system outlined by Ryan Holiday as well as the Hipster PDA to record what I learn.
- Fill the mind, empty the mind — Good ideas come in unlikely locations — in the shower, while out walking the dog, and in the middle of the night. For Dylan it was upstate New York. For Archemedes it was the bathtub. If you only think about the work with narrow-minded focus, you are not allowing your mind to exercise its full creative potential. You must step away to allow new ideas to foster. There are scientific reasons for this:
- Activities like exercising, listening to music, and, yes, taking a warm shower increase the levels of dopamine in the brain.
- When you empty the mind you are more relaxed and can turn your attention inwards, making insightful connections. Stress does the opposite, creating tension rather than relaxation, blocking your creativity.
- When you are pleasantly distracted your brain can take a break, allowing your subconscious to work on a problem more creatively.
- Break things — You can’t be creative if you fear failure. In a Fast Company interview, inventor James Dyson explained how critical failure was to his success. “I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative.”
- Surround yourself with interesting things, experiences, and people. Lincoln had his team of rivals. Create your own by developing diverse and interesting friends, random experiences, and atypical environments, all to help you develop more original ideas. Take that surfing lesson that you have always wanted to. Pack the car for a spontaneous weekend trip. Sit with a different coworker at lunch. All these things will stimulate new thinking.
How to Produce Creative Work
Once those four principles become habits, you have to figure out ways to take your creative ideas and put them into action. Here are three simple steps you can take to produce creative work, not just think about it.
- Be a Maker — Start tinkering in your garage with the things that fascinate you. Make stuff that is meaningful to you. House of Belonging is just one example of a family that started a successful business by making handcrafted, creative work that people love.
- Start a website — There were roughly 152 million blogs in 2013. There is room for you too. Whatever creative energies you want to channel, you can talk about it, showcase it, or track your journey in the form of a blog. If you want you to use the internet to be something more than a blog, you want it to be the path to a new career, check out Fizzle, which offers the most honest and straightforward development advice I’ve encountered online.
- Create a community — Marketing guru Seth Godin defines a tribe as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” A tribe will foster your creativity, connect you to interesting people, and encourage the flow of creative thinking and new ideas.