Where does creativity come from?
Over the past year I have been exploring creativity in a few different ways. It wasn’t planned as an exercise in inspiration or a test of how creative I could be.
It actually started more than a year ago with this blog. I like to write and have long enjoyed the exercise of putting words on paper and refining those words and sentences to express an idea. All of my jobs since university have had writing as a component from marketing to speech writing, advocacy and political communications.
More than two years ago I started writing this blog as a space to express ideas, explore parenting and ideas around gender, sexual health, feminism and masculinity. Well it didn’t actually start out covering all of those topics. They evolved through writing and whatever moved me at the time. Sometimes I have been a prolific writer and at other I have had nothing to say or at least nothing to say that didn’t in some way conflict with my professional life.
At other times – like the past few months – writing has taken a back seat to other projects and family life generally.
Sources of Creativity
Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that Daemons (Greek) or Geniuses (Roman) were the source of creativity and not individuals. These were external minor deities that lived in the homes of artists and provided the new ideas and the artists merely interpreted and translated those creative ideas. Elizabeth Gilbert Author of Eat, Pray, Love argues that we should return to this idea as it takes the onus and ownership of the creative idea off of the individual. This concept shares the fear of failure with your friendly local genius.
Western Europeans carried this idea of external inspiration forward from the Greek and Roman eras with the idea that creativity comes from God. Some see the sources as the One Mind or the universe.
It was during the Renaissance that western civilization shifting from believing that people were inspired by an external genius to looking to the individual as the holder of an internal genius.
Finding Creative Outlets
Last fall after some thinking and searching for a business idea I launched a small woodworking business and began creating products in the realm of children’s toys and decor. I had hopes – although no ready supply – of making everything with scrap and reclaimed wood. Initially I was using wood from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Unfortunately they no longer stock the lumber I was using. I have now found sources of scrap hardwood and old shelving and damaged furniture that I am repurposing and converting into a variety of products. It is very satisfying to be able to convert an old bookcase destined for landfill into useful products.
This particular bookcase has been turned into 9 balance boards, two narwhals, one giraffe clothes tree, two elephants, two dump trucks, one custom monkey and the final pieces are now being turned into a couple of rockets and a custom Nemo clown fish.
The trick to getting inspired is to not try to get inspired. Creativity flows best when we let our brains wander.
Go for groggy – or maybe a little drunk
When we are unfocused, our mind makes connections we may not have otherwise have considered. It turns out that we are more likely to come up with creative solutions to challenges when we allow our brains to wander.
Focusing our energy on our physical body, frees our mind to wander and get creative. Hope on the stairmaster, lift some weights, stretch it out, all will help release your brain and get the creative juices flowing.
Sleep on it
Some people (like me) solve problems and develop ideas in their sleep, others are more creative in solving a problem first thing in the morning after their brains have had an opportunity to rest and make connections. I can’t remember how many times I have woken up in the morning only to realize I have a solution to something I was trying to develop the previous day or discover that I have made a decision on a tough issue. Sleeping on it is actually a pretty solid tool for getting inspired and not because we are necessarily more creative when well rested.
Schedule time for creativity
Make space in your daily and weekly schedule to be creative. Give your self time during the day or week to have unstructured space to let your mind wander. Exercise, sleep on it or get a little drunk – perhaps not in the office though…
An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail - Edwin Land.Click To Tweet
Write It Down
Creativity strikes at the most unexpected times and places. No matter how much we tell ourselves that we will remember our brilliant idea, we don’t. Write it down as the idea comes to you or as soon as possible. Carry a notebook, email yourself or use an app to keep track of your inspired ideas.
Some ideas are risky and totally unworkable. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful. Accept those risky ideas and examine them fully for the opportunity that lies within. Don’t discard them when you first realize that implementing them comes with challenge. Seek the value before disposing of your creative thoughts.
Exercising Creativity Leads to More Learning
Both of these adventures, writing and running a (very) small business, have led to other learnings and exercises in creativity.
I have learned how to build websites – with plans for changes to my blog and Thomas Woodcrafts sites – just as soon as I can make time some time.
Lessons in online marketing to promote my blog and business. I have had to learn about photography to improve product images, which is still a work in progress, and adding better images to my blog posts, especially for all of my Pinterest peeps! Feel free to follow along and pin my posts and products!
Those learnings have led me to writing on other sites and helping others to enhance their online efforts.
Prioritizing and Refocusing
What happens when you have more ideas than time?
So now I am figuring out how to prioritize my various projects, not to mention my day job and most importantly – my family – and perhaps some more sleep.
I’ve learned from the constraints I have placed on my woodworking products. I have a narrow focus on the products I make, which has made it relatively easy to design new ones and focus my creative efforts. Now I need to do the same for my blog now that it isn’t my only creative outlet. Over the coming months you will see a tighter focus on
- Gender issues
- Kid Stuff
- Sexual health
- Current Affairs as they relate to these general themes
I am also conscious of the fact that my kids are getting older and my oldest two daughters are getting to ages where I need to be more respectful of their privacy. I have been drifting away from writing about them specifically for a while and now it will be a more deliberate effort to protect their privacy. That will mean fewer images where my oldest two are identifiable. As I mentioned I will also be slapping a new coat of paint and maybe moving around some walls on this site once I find some spare time. I certainly welcome your feedback on what you would like to see in terms of blog topics and design before, during and after I go through this transition.
I am looking forward to a more refined focus, some deeper dives into these themes and a refreshed look and feel to my blog.
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