Tag Archives: how to be more creative

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?

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?