Creative Something

“You think the perfect book is anything written by anyone else. Your ongoing conversation with yourself is: You’re not enough. So whatever you do will never be enough. Every human being has some flavor of ‘not enough.’ You can either be stopped by it, or simply notice it, like the weather.”

Excellent weekend read on procrastination, feeling overwhelmed, and busyness. I’ll finish the dishes when I’m dead

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“In all creative work, there is a balance between what you want to give the world and what the world needs: if you’re lucky, your work is in the middle.”

The always great Austin Kleon in his interview with The Great Discontent.

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Finding the crucial balance of creativity

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Creative insights come as a result of a delicate balance of focus.

Your brain must be focused enough on the task at hand to make progress, but also have enough space from the work in order for new connections and valuable insights to occur. Fortunately we know exactly what affects our ability to focus while still having creative insights occur.

Our level of energy, our motivation, our natural curiosity around the work, our resourcefulness, all impact and drive our creative balance.

Finding that balance is what separates the creative greats from the average Joe down the block.

While the amateur creative struggles to find a balance between overwhelming exhaustion and unproductive drive, the professional simply works hard enough over years to know exactly where his or her balancing is at best.

The professional knows when they need a full night of sleep versus when they can risk an all-nighter to produce their creative work. The amateur has to take a gamble and learn from the experience.

Unfortunately the balance that creativity requires is unique for every one of us. It’s not something you can read about online or in a book and instantly understand. Nobody can tell you when you need more energy or when you need to rough it out. You can’t be told when you need to be more resourceful or when you need bigger or better tools.

You have to figure it out on your own.

The good news is that it’s fairly easy to find your own balance by doing creative work, experimenting, and being mindful of what drives you and what makes you feel unbalanced.

If you haven’t been paying attention to when you’re at your best or when you’re at your worst, today is a good time to start.

If you have an iPhone, here’s one way to do just that.

Photo by Heiko Brinkmann.


“The first rule of creative work: expect to be rejected…No matter what you do, if you’re making something, many people won’t like it. The only approval you need to create something is your own.”

Scott Berkun on what to do if the world hates your idea

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What really matters for having ideas, and why it’s not the color of your room

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Much of the science and research behind creative thinking seems to be more fluff and placebo than actual fact. At least in how it’s presented and interpreted.

The result of this misinterpretation is that we end up believing things about creativity that simply aren’t true; and these beliefs hurt our ability to seriously be creative.

For example, fairly recent research says you should paint the walls of your office blue. Why blue? Because blue supposedly reminds your subconscious of the vastness of the open sky which, in turn, results in bubbling spring of ideas.

Is this not an absurd notion? Blue walls may very well make you feel “limitless,” but without a whole bunch of other factors, simply seeing blue isn’t going to help you spark any ideas.

There’s more.

There has been a recent surge of interest in brain training and thinking exercise games in hopes of boosting creative thinking abilities. I consider brain training to be the most prolific baloney around creativity as of late.

Science has shown that brain training doesn’t work just as much as alternative research indicates it does. So what should we believe? In my opinion, it brain training make our mental senses a little sharper, but it’s not going to make us more creative or more intelligent.

This is easy to understand. Creative exercises make us feel good because they’re a game, and – like any other game – the more we play them the better we get. Because we’re improving on the game, our body releases endorphins, which make us feel like we’re actually accomplishing something. But these creative exercises and games don’t make us any more creative.

Then there’s the notion that working from a cafe, with the unique and subtle background noise you get from them, works to put us into a type of creative flow.

An entire business model has been made on this idea that coffee shop noise boosts creativity.

But, after digging through some of the research, there doesn’t seem to be much actual data behind that idea either. Like brain training, coffee house buzz is baloney.

The fact is that we’ve been so misled by attempts to link brain data and poorly translated science that we’ve lost sight of what really makes creativity work.

We’ve tried to make creativity something like a solid emotion or tangible muscle. But creativity isn’t like that.

This shouldn’t really be surprising, yet I’m wagering for many people it is. Primarily because we want to believe that we know what is going on in our brain when we talk about creativity. And yet, America alone is spending $100,000,000 in an attempt to figuring the brain out.

Truthfully, some of this stuff may work for you. Some of it may not. Some of it may simply be the placebo you need to get yourself into the right mood or mentality for creative insights to occur.

But that’s the point we need to emphasize anyway, regardless of pseudo-science or actual science:

You don’t need to change the color of your room, or work from a treehouse, or rely on doodling to be creative.

Instead, we need to focus on building the core aspects of creativity itself.

In this sense, creativity is easier to look at for what it is rather than what we want it to be. It’s more of a secondary affect, not something you can work towards directly. It’s fueled by other elements and countless attributes, not directly.

Fortunately the aspects of creativity are much easier to work with from a scientific perspective, far easier than trying to work with the overwhelmingly ambiguous term that is “creativity.”

Therefore, to have more creative ideas we need to evaluate not the color of the room or the size of our notebook, but instead whether or not we got a full night of sleep, what motivation we’re dealing with, our level of interest and curiosity, our ability to tinker and experiment, and whether or not we have the resources to not only fuel ideas, but to work with them as they arrive.

This is what creativity is about, not the color of a room or the sounds around us.

Those things may impact our creativity somewhat, but at the end, if we want to seriously have creative ideas, we must look at the aspects that drive creativity: our confidence, curiosity, energy levels, how mindful we’re being, and so on.

If you’re feeling creatively stuck today, look to adjust those aspects. Not noise levels or the color of your office.


“You are bound to be wrong quite often. And the only way to succeed is to surround yourself with very smart/talented people with shared interests. [But] if you lack self-awareness, you will fail to leverage the resources around you.”

AMA happening now with Scott Belsky, founder of Behance and 99u

Posted at 12:42 pm by