A creative life means opening a lot of small doors

“Art is the big door, but real life is a lot of small doors that you must pass through to create something new.” — Jean Giraud

To be creative is to be open to the idea your ideas—your way of understanding the world—are limited by what you have experienced.

A simple way of looking at it is: if you don’t open the door, ideas can’t get in. I got a good reminder of the importance of being open recently, of how being close minded or restricted by your beliefs can hinder creative thinking.

I was in Indianapolis talking to students about how to life a more creative life. I’ve been writing about creativity for 10 years, a reasonable amount of time to get my ducks in a row on the matter.

And yet, during the visit I ran into a few people—specifically: adults—who found themselves struggling with the notion of being open as a means of gathering more points from which to form ideas. They wanted to be more creative, they wanted to inspire others to be more creative too, so they asked me how to do it.

My response? I told them what I’ve learned, about helping students be open to new and different things, to change routine for the sake of changing it, taking the time to think about experiences. I mentioned failure and the importance of having small failures and how to overcome setbacks in order to uncover novel and useful ideas.

When I explained all this, a few of the people I talked to looked at me kind of skeptical, like none of the things I was talking about would make any difference.

I can’t blame them for their skepticism, it’s hard to hear anything that might stand in the way of your beliefs, or how you’ve always thought of things.

But I couldn’t help but think: maybe that’s your problem right there. You aren’t willing to consider different perspectives so you end up thinking how you always have. You exist inside a tiny bubble you’ve created for yourself with your own thinking. So when anything sharp comes along—a different opinion, someone who says you should try the thing you failed once at—you run the other way.

It’s no wonder so many people struggle to uncover a really insightful idea, or fail to learn means for overcoming life’s setbacks or difficulties. So stuck in their own way, they can’t see that the easiest way out of a bind, or routine, or block, is by opening up to new and different perspectives.

The quickest route to thinking creatively isn’t protecting your ideas or way of thinking. It’s accepting the fact your ideas, your perspectives on the world, are just one small blip in the much larger scheme of things.

If you want a way out of the monotony of your standard method of thinking: try picking up a book you’d never consider reading, and read it. Talk to people on the other side of the world (it’s easier than ever to do thanks to the Internet), or if you can afford it: go to the other side of the world and talk face-to-face with them. Try the frightening, hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the street. Do anything to broaden your perspectives.