Tag Archives: creativity

3 Tricks for Silencing the Self-Critic

I got my camera remote working yesterday which of course meant I had to play around a bit with some self- portraiture.

To be a bit transparent the result at the left here is about my fourth or fifth attempt. Every previous attempt had something I didn’t like about it, lighting, color, pose… the self-critic was in full effect as I sought to expose him through photographic imagery. (I’m not even sure I like THIS one the best but I had to just shut him down.)

Having just been through the battle against the self-critic I thought I’d share a couple tricks for defeating that nagging voice that stifles creativity and oft times leaves us staring at a blank page.

Trick #1: Dust
I find it incredibly difficult to come up with ANYTHING creative when my office is in a shambles, the state in which it most typically exists. It’s funny how much more easily the ideas start to flow when I have a clean desk. Even funnier that the process only gets better if the floor in front of my desk…which I cannot see when sitting there…is clean as well.

There is something about a well organized environment that frees up the mind to focus on being creative. In case you’re in need of a pithy reminder: Cleaning up your space allows the mind to race.

Trick #2: Doodle
Far too often we get focused on creating the specific outcome we’re after that we get bogged down at the start. Looking for just the right word, or chord, or color combination. One of the best ways I find to give myself a kick start is just to doodle.

Now, to be fair, I am a doodler. Most of my class notes, meeting notes, notebooks are filled with doodles. Doodles don’t take thought, they just take shape.

In this case though I don’t necessarily mean drawing squiggly lines. Doodling could be writing down bits of dime-store-novel-like dialogue. It could be putting on a piece of music and playing along with it. It could mean editing a photograph that has nothing to do with your current project.

Don’t let the critic tell you you’re wasting time doodling…you’re stirring the creative juices. You’re bouncing out of the rut you’re stuck in to get a different run down the path. The creative freedom of expression in doodling loosens up the log jam and get’s you going.

Trick #3: Drink
No, I didn’t pick this one just because it starts with the letter D, and yes, I know some people might find this one mildly offensive, but any college student can tell you that the first thing alcohol consumption does is lower your inhibitions. Guess what the self-critic is? An inhibitor!

There are actually studies that show that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol results in people engaging in more creative problem solving. Somehow loosing the inhibitors loosens the creative juice.

I’m not advocating getting sloshed, just a glass of wine or a good scotch will do the trick. But hey man, it’s science!

Next time you find the assembled self-critics yammering in your ear try these tricks to get them to just BACK OFF!

What other trick would you suggest for silencing self-criticism and getting a creative project moving to the next level?

Think You’re Not Creative? Guess Again…

I enjoy creative endeavors. I draw, paint, sculpt a little and dabble in computer graphic art.

I’m a musician, song writer, photographer, writer, and speaker.

I’ve done radio, television and theater and I’ve even dabbled in stand up comedy a time or two.

I’m the guy that gets the “creative” tag. I’m the guy that is expected to think outside the box. (Truth be told I lost the box years ago.)

More and more regularly I find myself coming across people who say, “I’m just not creative” as though they’re leaving that bit up to me. They always say it with a hint of sadness in their voice as though they WISH they were creative but, it just isn’t their bag.

If you’re one of those people who think you just aren’t creative let me let you in on a little secret…that’s crap. Let me provide three proofs:

Proof 1: The first man
As a Christian I believe man was created by God, in God’s image. When we’re told that in the Bible the only “image” of God we have is that of a creator. If man is created in the image of God then man is created, all of us not just Adam and Eve, to be creators…to be creative.

Proof 2: The foundational job
Pastors tell us, and the Biblical record supports this, that the first thing God gave Adam was a job.

Genesis 2:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

Now we know Adam didn’t have to tend the ground for food, that comes later, he was a vegetarian at this point, he was naked and unashamed so he didn’t have to make clothes,  so what were his jobs again? Decorative gardening, ornamental horticulture is you will, and coming up with creative names for the animals. HIS JOB WAS TO BE CREATIVE!

Proof 3: The forgotten tree
We always remember the tree of the knowledge of good and evil being in the garden. You know, the apple tree? But we too often forget the tree of life was there too. Supposedly eating from the tree of life made it possible for Adam and Eve to LIVE FOREVER. That was why they were kicked to the curb by the way, so they wouldn’t live forever in their post apple eating state.

So in other words…

God created man as a creative being, gave man a creative job, and gave it to him in a place where he was supposed to be forever. That means we’re all BUILT to be creative!!!! If you think you’re not it is only because you’ve forgotten how!!!

I hate the fact that there is a growing trend, in churches and beyond, to refer to a certain select group of people as “creatives” Yes, I know it easier than saying: musicians and artists and writers and painters and, and, and…

But if we call one group the creatives then the other group is the “not creatives”. I really do believe this subtly reinforces the notion in many people that they are not creative.

But if God created all of us to BE creative, and we start to tell one group of folks they’re not, whose message are we spreading there?

What is one creative activity you can engage in today that will produce a tangible result?

 

 

You Are What You “Eat”

The events of the week here in Colorado Springs have been traumatic for a lot of people. The impact on the area will be felt for quite a long time. Of these things there is no doubt.

Having spent the last few days OUT of the area though I think I have experienced some immediate, tangible evidence of what we probably all already know. Our daily attitude can be, and for many IS, drastically shaped by the media we ingest.

Between our social media connections, email, texts, 24 hour news channels, tweets, grams, pins and pokes we’re bombarded by information and if we don’t turn it off from time to time it works like a hammer and chisel slowly shaping us into some sculpted form we may or may not have chose on our own.

Being in Southern California the last couple days took me out of the direct of influence of media about the fires here in Colorado.  Sure, CA has it’s own problems, but I was on a limited diet of media due to my schedule.

The mood that had pervasively taken over my psyche while I was here at home was decidedly lifted, even though circumstances at home hadn’t changed, my perspective was given a moments rest from the constant barrage of images and messages and I began to emerge from the funk I had been in.

As I watch our nation become more or more polarized around issues of politics, religion, and money I wonder if the constant hum of media in the background isn’t largely responsible. After all isn’t it the job of every new producer to turn molehills into mountains?

I’d like to suggest three practices, habits I’m going to try to build for myself, that I believe will help us take a few steps back from the brink that is eroding at our feet through constant media bombardment.

1. Disconnect from media inputs
Easy to say, harder to do. In this case though I don’t mean some sort of media fast for a few days. I mean regular scheduled intervals during the day where you just disconnect from media input for a minimum of three hours.

I choose that amount of time because I find that if I take a 3 hour flight somewhere my brain starts to think creatively on issues OTHER than what I’ve been hit with in media. It also cracks me up how fast people dive for their cell phones when a 3 hour flight hits the tarmac.

2. Develop a hobby
Yeah, sounds trite I know. What I strongly believe though is that when we engage in acts of creativity we turn on different parts of our brain. Rather than just analyzing information, chewing media stories down to the grisly bone, thumping away with the analytical side of our brains we need to engage the rest.

Developing a hobby that results in something tangible, a picture, a song, a poem, a cross-stitch, a doodle, a wood carving of a toothpick…leaves you with a reminder of the creative process. Sure, hobbies like running, biking, hiking etc are good but I’m after something that leaves me with that tangible evidence, that shareable fruit of my labors.

3. Dialogue with someone
This doesn’t mean argue and it doesn’t mean commiserate it means honest discussion about topics that interest you. Dialoguing broadens our perspective and opens up the possibility for new points of view. It also build relational bridges, far too many of which are being burned daily from what I can tell.

I really believe this combination can work as a prescription for changing moods and finding some relief from media created stress. I’ve gotten somewhat regular at 1 and 2 above. I need to practice 3 more often…any takers?

How much do you think media inputs effect your daily mood?

P.S.
Thanks to all those who’ve been praying for Colorado. The last few days have brought some stability, we’ll see how we go from here.

 

Innovation = Invention+Problem+Connection=Solution

I’m currently traveling in Australia for work so I really have no idead when this post will…post. It is entirely possible that I will post it Monday night for publishing Monday morning.

As part of our endeavor to connect our body clocks to our wrist watches today we had an interesting conversation about innovation and connections. The example we used was weaponry and the simple challenge of putting a hole in a man.

The progression went something like this: rock – knife – sword – spear – lance – bow – gun – drone.

Each step recalls not onthe the original problem but it makes a connection between that first problem and the evolution of the next level problem.

  •  A rock will put a hole in a man but it takes a lot of effort
  • To use less effort put a point on it, you get a knife
  • But you still have to really close, so create a longer knife, sword, or strap a knife to a stick, spear.
  • But as armor evolves the sword or spear needs more thrust.
  • To get more thrust ride a horse and use a lance.
  • But what if you could start the same distance away and NOT have to ride at the man? You get a bow.

You see how it works? The innovation is really just evolution in response to a specific problem.

Too often people sit down to “be creative” and come up with something “innovative” and completely miss the key ingredient…the problem they are trying to solve.

This little exercise/conversation leads to a set of simple steps for innovating.

Step 1: Capture the original challenge: In the case above, how to put a hole in a man. We’re not creating something from scratch here, we’re looking at a next generation innovation.

Step 2: Identify the problem to solve: Above it is how to put a hole in a man from a greater distance. So you don’t wind up leaping to a new thing, you put a small amount of distance into the equation.

Step 3: Solve the step-wise problem: To often people kill the sword idea, no pun intended, as being “not far ENOUGH away” but it DOES solve the problem. You might choose to jump to the spear as a kind of “yes/and…” to the sword.

The key is to remember that all three ingredients are equally important. If you leave out step one you may drift too far from the original problem/solution match. If you leave out step 2 you risk getting into the creative weeds or go the wrong direction again. If you leave out step 3 you don’t land on anything.

Where are you trying to innovate? What is the original problem and what is the connected problem?

What will make today different?

For those who missed it I’d like to briefly share the history lesson from the 15th:

It is a little known fact that the term “March Madness” is borrowed from the madness that ensued when Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of senators, including his friend Marcus Brutus, (Et tu Brute?) on March 15, 44BC. This is also the reason the tournament starts on the Ides of March, “the day the madness began.”

In another interesting twist, the first time the term “March Madness” was used to describe the spring basketball classic, the tournament had a corporate sponsor: Brute aftershave.

Feel free to amaze the entire bar with your knowledge of these facts as you watch the tournament, just don’t bet any money on them. 😉

This was an insane week.

My iPhone all but died Wednesday. I had to do a factory reset. Took multiple attempts. Thought I’d lost everything. Fortunately my contacts and pictures were saved even if my ringtones and apps have to all be reloaded.

My work laptop died today. This is the second laptop death in a month. Fortunately I am scheduled to get a new one in a few days anyway…but several urgent documents are now trapped in a digital no fly zone ensconced in heartless black plastic.

On top of it all I feel like I’ve been stuck in about a 4 week rut. Been sick for most of that. You ever have a stretch like that?

Tomorrow it all changes.

Why? Because I decided it will.

You see today I set the stage. I edited about 100 photos that were sitting on my home computer while on a conference call. I finished the rough draft of a white paper for work. I created about 6 ringtones from songs I’ve had stored forever. And that was just the warm up act.

In short, I created.

When we create…anything…we tap into that bit inside us which desperately wants to stay out of ruts. When we accomplish, even small feats like creating a ringtone, we put a notch in the creativity belt.

The picture above is from an all day meeting. Oh MAN do I dislike all day meetings. We had the table full of “creativity” goodies, silly putty, colored pens, pipe cleaners. Some people get into that sort of thing. I tend to immerse myself in it. Why? Because if you want to “think outside the box” on the work stuff you can do it by moving WAY beyond with the creative goodies. It’s funny too how far other people started taking their creations after I had “given them permission” by being so oddly out there.

So if you’re stuck in a rut, or feel one coming on, what will you do TODAY to get out of it? Not later, not when (fill in the blank) happens, not when you get time…today, now.

Drive a different way to work, go without socks, create a fake history lesson, ANYTHING different and moderately creative will tap the keg on your creative juices.

Don’t wait, do something different today. The first thing that comes to mind? That thing you just dismissed? Do THAT one.

What will you do different today that will spark your creative energy?

3 Keys to Unlocking Creative Energy

Image created using Bryce and PhotoshopI confess I am a deadline guy. Looming deadlines seem to spur the creative juices.

I hate it.

Why you may ask? Because I generally look at what I create just in time to meet the deadline and come up with a hundred ways it could be better. If I had finished it sooner I could have made the fixes!!

Truth be told different folks have different methods for getting the creative juices flowing but I believe there are three keys that pretty consistently serve to unlock the valve, if not the floodgates.

Key #1: Emotion
There are studies that show a direct correlation between positive emotion and creative problem solving. This is no surprise. When we’re happy the world and possibility seem to expand, it’s all big and bold and good.

Interestingly the same studies show a direct correlation between negative emotions and focus. This is no surprise either. When things are going downhill quickly, like when our lives are threatened, a heightened sense of focus comes in handy.

So which emotional state is best?

I land on anything that is deeply felt that does NOT instantly create a fight or flight response. Fear and anger, both negative emotions, generally produce flight or fight responses but deep sorrow or longing, also potentially “negative” emotions tend to produce reflection.

Anything that you feel deeply that doesn’t make you want to instantly sprint or destroy is an emotional state that can unlock the door to creative endeavor.

Key #2: Motivation
My love hate relationship with deadlines is a motivation thing. That extra blast of “have to” helps get me going even if I haven’t had a solid idea working prior to crunch time.  For a lot of folks who claim to have trouble “being creative” the problem is not creativity but motivation. Ask yourself ‘why?’ Why is it that I am trying to create something here?

Ask me to come up with a commercial jingle for toothpaste as an assignment for a class and I’ll deliver something passably good. Ask me to write one to win my kid a college scholarship and I’m primed to go. EVEN IF THE EFFORT I PUT IN IS THE SAME!

If I sit down to write a blog post because it is Tuesday and I need something for Wednesday morning that’s low motivation.  If I sit down to write a blog post that I think will get re-posted and think about how it might help the folks who regularly read my blog the motivation is at an even higher level. If I believe I’ve come across a unique perspective that is a game changer the motivation goes through the roof. Don’t take your motivation for granted, ask yourself why.

Effort counts, don’t get me wrong, but checking your motivation and getting THAT right helps the juices flow.

Key #3: Path
A lot of folks have a creative process…which feels like an oxymoron to me…or a place where they create. Those processes and places become part of a path to delivering the goods. But lets take an example from physical exercise. Studies show that over time your body gets used to the same types of exercise and thus your return diminishes.

The places and processes that form our paths can also become hindrances over time. Sometimes we need a different perspective, we need to take a different route, perhaps change our surroundings just to shake things up a bit.

Starting out down a different path leads to new discoveries which become the fodder for creative inspiration.

Emotion and Path are usually pretty self evident but how do you handle the Motivation question?

5 Rules that Build Creativity

 

Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re one of those people who think creativity exists “outside” the rules. “So”, you ask,” how can there be ‘rules’ that build creativity?”

Since I could probably write a couple weeks worth of responses to that one silly question I’ll settle instead for just giving you the rules and let you sort it out for yourself.

Rule 1: Stop Forgetting
You were “created in the image” of God. You remember God? The CREATOR? That means you ARE creative BY NATURE. It’s funny how creative a room full of four and five year olds can be. Creativity doesn’t start being forgotten until later in grade school when the strong desire to “fit in” takes over.

So Rule 1 is: stop forgetting that you ARE creative and always have been.

Rule 2: Stop Criticizing
Once the desire to fit in kicks in the inner critic shows up. The inner critc shuts down ideas before they get anywhere. The inner critic tells you you’re not (full in the blank) enough.  Shoot that dude. The inner critic kills ideas at the idea stage. Learn to muzzle him.

So Rule 2 is: stop the inner critic. Sometimes the best ideas grow out of a chain of bad ones that you just run with.

Rule 3: Stop Comparing
I find it interesting that we label a whole group of people as “creatives”. What does that mean? Bill Gates is creative but would he be labeled A creative? Does the title refer solely to people who make a living at pursuing artistic endeavors?

I’ve known some people who have creative positions who aren’t.

The trouble with the label is that it segments people. Now the whole “fit in” thing is applied to a non-creative category of people who aren’t “creatives”

So Rule 3 is: Stop comparing and labeling yourself.

Rule 4: Stop Hesitating
Your brain is insanely fast. Generate enough ideas and you’re bound to find a good one. Too often the inner critic stops the flow. Fast and furious free association is a great way to generate ideas. Don’t try to get the final thing all at once, lets the bits flow, sort through them and pick the ripest ones.

So Rule 4 is: Let the ideas roll, even the bad ones.

Rule 5: START
Being creative doesn’t mean learning to paint, or write music, or sculpt. It really just means doing something in a new enough way that it catches someones attention. THAT CAN BE ANYTHING! It can be the way you hang tools in the garage. It can be the way you dress. It can be the way you schedule. Find something you have a passion for and start there.

So Rule 5 is: Pick someplace you’re comfortable, think creative expression, and start there.

As someone who is often labeled as creative but who doesn’t make a living as a creative I really enjoy helping people who are either labeled as non-creatives or who make a living as something others than a creative re-discover that they are in fact creative.  🙂

Exercise:
1. Picture your inner critic as a person. They do NOT look like you because you ARE creative. So what do they look like? In detail.
2. Your inner critic needs to be subdued. Based on the detailed description you created of this villain what creative method will you use to dispose of them?
3. What are some of your favorite activities? Incorporate one of them into your method for stifling the critic.

Skate Knight – a children’s book

A bit longer post than usual today. This was/is my attempt at a children’s book designed to teach kids about synonyms: words that sound the same but have different meanings. Enjoy.

Skate Knight

Young Nate was a knight
Who would skate after dark
In the night he would skate, yes he would
He would skate from his gate
Down the hill past the grate
Which he passed on a gadget he’d made out of wood
The maid helped him make the great gadget of wood

The wood was old beech
From an oar they had found
In a boat at the beach by the sea
An old ore cart provided
Four wheels that glided
And made the creation quite something to see
Not fancy or fine but still something to see

These big iron wheels
Had springs in between
To help them to bounce and to roll
From the tip to the tail
Ran two springy rails
That let Nathan steer and keep things in control
Which of course meant they played a significant role

Never bored when he rode
On this board with no brake
Nathan thrilled at his dangerous feat
At speeds that would break him
It still didn’t shake him
If it looked like he’d crash he could jump to his feet
Like a toad landing safely on steel toed feet

Every night down the hill
He would race through the mist
Through the fog that the wind sometimes blew
Still he missed every hole
The whole way to his goal
For the sight was not new to his eyes of bright blue
It was surely a site that his eyes of blue knew

At the end of the road
(And the end of the fun)
Was an inn that was owned by his aunt
Every night she’d yell, “Cease!”
“Will you give me no peace?”
“If you crash every piece will be small as an ant!”
“Ride your horse. It is safe. And don’t tell me you can’t.”

Then young Nate would reply
With a gleam in his eye
“Now, there’s no need to fret like a nun.”
“You will yell yourself hoarse”
“I am quite safe of course”
“You’ve no cause to be coarse with me auntie dear, none.”
“Besides this goes faster than horses can run.”

So night after night
Every night the same way
The poor lady would pour out her pleas
Voice ringing in mourning
Hands wringing ‘til morning
She never thought once to ask nice and say “please”
Instead she spent most every night on her knees

Well, the fateful night came
Out of nowhere it seemed
Just the way fateful nights often do
When the hour was right
Out skated our knight
But the price of his dangerous daring was due
He would pay it before he saw dawn’s morning dew

Down the first hill he soared
Like a sword straight and true
To the grate and the bridge at the creek
And just ere he got there
He launched a huge air
When he landed his springs gave a terrible a creak
Only one week before he had thought them too weak!!!

For the very first time
Nate felt fear in his soul
One sole moment he froze in a daze
If he finally crashed
Then his board would be trashed
And he didn’t want that in the worstest of ways
For tonight was a night he’d been planning for days!!

He’d invented a trick
That tonight he would try
And tonight that new trick would be thrown
So our young cavalier
Paid no heed to his fear
And he chose then and there to be brave to the bone
He would face down his fears like a king on his throne

He threw caution away
And raced down through the town
Gaining speed he bent low at the waist
Yes, tonight he would land it
The Back-side Knight Bandit
“If I don’t”, Nathan thought, “then this night is a waste”
“Holy Cow, land it dude or it’s wholly a waste.”

Not pale or nervous
He jumped a large pail
The rushing wind started to whine
Laughter filling the air
He kick flipped a stair
Then he grinded the rail on a wagon of wine
From the cellar the seller stared up at his wine

Nathan’s hair stood on end
As he turned toward the Inn
Going fast as a hare at full speed
When his aunt shouted,” Hey”
Nathan looked down her way
And saw that the yard was quite crowded indeed
It was all full of animals, hay bales and feed!!

Nathan took in the scene
And then almost cried
For he knew that his night had gone foul
His aunt, the town crier
A nun and a friar
Were all chasing two ewes and a flock of wild fowl
You’d cry too if you’d seen all those fowl on the prowl

With no brakes and no choice
He sped into the yard
Where he tried for the Back-side Knight Bandit
Just missing the friar
Nate took a huge flyer
And soared through the air different than he had planned it
HIS backside would be sore when they caught him and tanned it.

When he hit a hay bale
He smiled at his luck
Still hoping to survive this mess
He thought he had won
Then the hay hit the nun
And she let out a terrible cry of distress
This was the worst bail he had had was his guess

Well the friar came running
To help the poor nun
As another wail came from the sister
Tripping over a fryer
He too took a flyer
For he’d tripped on his shoes and had only just missed her
With a whale of a dive he had just about squished her!!

The town crier chuckled
Then he pointed and laughed
When the chickens quite suddenly flew!
They tried to avoid him
Which nearly destroyed him
Then a ewe with the flu sent a mess his way too
And the scent of that mess made him holler “P-EEEWWW”!!!

When up out of the reek
And the stench came Nate’s aunt
Like a bear rising up from her knees
She could bare it no more
So she let out a roar
Making everyone there almost instantly freeze
“You will wreak no more havoc tonight Nathan. PLEASE!!”

Nathan’s aunt was as mad
As an angry bee hive
When she hauled him back onto his feet
Pulling him in her train
By a handful of mane
Back to the main hall of the inn to be beat
His poor aunt was so mad she was red as a beet

Now there’s no need to know
What his punishment was
For you know that it had to be bad
And for four months and more
Nathan did extra chores
For his aunt and the nun and the friar and his dad
He did every last chore that the lot of them had

And the gadget of wood?
It was given away
To a man who sold whistles and lutes
Nathan’s night skating fun
Was all over and done
Down the road Nathan rode on a horse called Old Toots

That was only until he fit wheels on his boots!!!

How many synonyms did you find?