The best of Creative Something 2010

As the year 2010 comes to a close, January 1st, 2011 will mark the three year birthday of Creative Something!

Over the past three years I have been blogging about creative inspiration, ideas, and philosophy. For over three years this blog has grown into a powerful resource of creativity and thinking. Thanks to readers like you, who simply by reading these words inspire me to write regularly, Creative Something is now the #1 source of creative inspiration on the web!

Before we officially jump into the New Year however, I wanted to look back at 2010 and share with you some of the most popular articles from the past year.

1. What does it mean to be creative?

Being creative means solving a problem in a new way. It means changing your perspective.

2. John Cleese explains the secret to reaching a creative state of mind.

Watch this video of the English actor, writer, comedian, film producer, and all‒around creative genius, John Cleese explaining what he’s learned about creativity, writing, and problem solving.

3. How to Avoid Being Creative.

One short, but powerful, list of ways to avoid being creative.

4. Creativity on the decline in America.

There’s a problem with creativity in America. It’s disappearing. In what Newsweek is calling The Creativity Crisis, studies are reporting that creativity in America is declining.

5. Designing a space for innovation.

For the past six years, students and faculty of d.school have tried to figure out what it takes to design a space for innovation. The school wondered if creating a place to inspire creativity and making ideas happen was even possible.

6. Pause for creativity.

Have you ever been driving down the road, or gone for a run, or taken a walk, and suddenly found yourself struck by creative inspiration?

7. One of the most powerful and easy creative thinking techniques.

It’s a technique that creative thinkers have used for hundreds of thousands of years, and it works so well that doing it has changed nations, fueled entire revolutions, and will continue to inspire and motivate the world forever.



Why you need power and a child-like mind

tumblr_ldu5nf92wR1qz7sw8o1_400.jpg

“The perfect state of creative bliss is having power (you are 50) and knowing nothing (you are 9). This assures an interesting and successful outcome.” – Tibor Kalman

Imagine a high‒powered executive of a large international business. At any time she is ruffling through hundreds of important documents, making world‒changing decisions, and managing hundreds of thousands of people.

Now imagine a child playing in a sandbox, free to create (or destroy) literally anything that his imagination can portray in his mind.

While the executive has a lot of power to control elements in their business, they don’t have much say when it comes to creativity and innovation (they can’t, they have a business to run after all).

Then the child, who is free to use their creativity in limitless ways, can’t actually create anything with the sand that would be useful (have you ever seen a functioning jet made from sand?).

You, realizing the difference between power and creativity, should be aiming for somewhere in the middle. Gain power, but never lose your child‒like wonder.

That’s something they won’t teach you in school.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt.



You and your passive creativity

tumblr_ldqrgldF6E1qz7sw8o1_400.jpg

Sometimes thinking creatively takes a bit of work.

It requires the right attitude, the correct amount of light in the room, the people or objects that surround you to be open and encouraging, the training and preparation to carry through.

But the opposite is sometimes true as well: sometimes creativity takes no work at all.

Like when you’re sitting and suddenly an idea strikes in your mind, causing you to find the solution or idea you’ve been searching for. You could be anywhere, at a restaurant or in the shower, you could be doing anything, and suddenly you get an idea.

For today, and the rest of the week, pursue that passive creativity. Stop worrying about coming up with something original or truly creative. Relax and enjoy your day, experience your surroundings in the fullness that only you can. Creativity may strike when you least expect it.

Photo by Carles Rodrigo.



On fear and failure

fail.jpg

Edwin Land once spoke of an essential aspect of creativity as being “not afraid to fail.” Being a talented scientist – and co‒founder of the historic corporation Polaroid – you may assume that Land knew a few things about both creativity and failure.

However, is being unafraid of failure, as Land puts it, really an aspect of creativity? When we look at the facts – what we do know today about creativity and how the human mind works – we find that failure itself, not the absence of it, is an element of creativity.

Failure isn’t something that should be avoided. When you were young, you likely touched a hot stove (metaphorically or literally), attempted to fit the square peg in the round hole, or received an unsatisfactory grade on a school assignment. Failure is a part of life, especially in early years when so much of the world is foreign to us.

When we fail, we learn.

Even with the knowledge that we can learn from the experience, failure can still be painful and becomes frightening almost instinctively over time. Knowing that failure can hurt makes us want to avoid it as often as possible.

We don’t want to fail.

By fearing failure, we lose a bit of our freedom to explore the world, to think creatively, and to do things that have never been done before. From this understanding of failure we can again reference Edwin Land and his powerful wisdom: “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”

If you aren’t afraid to fail, you’re more likely to try and – as a result – more likely to succeed.

Still, embracing the fear of failure and even trying to fail, are powerful ways to expand your thinking and become even more creative or find alternative solutions.

As we understand it: when you take an opportunity to fail, you learn. Failure often has consequences, but there is hardly ever a time when the act of failure doesn’t build up additional ideas in our mind through those consequences. Take the time to see which pieces don’t fit together in a puzzle and you will eventually solve the puzzle.

Failure in creativity isn’t necessarily failure, it’s learning. In‒fact, the process of trial and error in creativity isn’t failure at all, it’s education.

If we were unafraid to put that square peg in the round hole as a child, we might have forced a belief in ourselves that it was possible, that it could be done (and I’m not one to say it couldn’t be done), but if we embraced failure and continued to try different shapes we would have eventually got it right. Fear and failure are all a part of creativity, the more we know the more creative we can be.

So, in conclusion, don’t be afraid to fail, but also don’t try to avoid the fear or the joy of stumbling, of falling, of failing.

Photo by Nima Badiey.



Consider this…

tumblr_lcuxhsHpSy1qz7sw8o1_500.jpg

When you want to buy something from the store or via the internet you are entering an ecosystem that made it possible for you to obtain the item you are purchasing.

There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who work together (sometimes unknowingly) in a unique ecosystem that allows you to buy the things that you need and want. The same is true of ideas.

Any item you buy has taken a lot of steps to get to you.

Consider the person who delivered the package to you or to the store directly, they likely had to drive a truck to get the product from point A to point B. Then consider the pieces of that truck that allowed the delivery person to make that delivery, somebody had to create the tires and the frame and the engine of that truck.

Go even further, consider that somebody had to create a factory where the tires for that truck had to be built, and there was definitely somebody who created the walls of that factory, and somebody before them who had to create the materials for the walls of that factory.

When we do something as simple as purchase a product we owe it to a very large ecosystem of people and materials and tools that made it all possible.

Ideas are the same way, they come from a powerful ecosystem that uses hundreds of tools and references and materials.

A great ecosystem for ideas involves as many different thinking methods and tools as you can get. A notebook for ideas, a quiet environment, and creative strategies all help form a system where ideas can grow and form.

So think about this: do you have an ecosystem where ideas can come to you? What is the state of your creative ecosystem today?

Illustration via Frits Ahlefeldt‒Laurvig.