Start Being Creative: Get in the Right Mindset

16 08 2011

Last week, I talked about how being a creator is more important than being creative. Being process-oriented rather than results-oriented frees the act of creation from stress, judgements and fear and refocuses on what it should be: a fun, expressive and productive activity.

In this blog post, we talk about being creative in the most traditional sense, in terms of artistic expression. The types of hurdles we face during these kinds of projects, however, can be applied to any new life endeavors. Just like a bodybuilder has to gradually train to be able to bench press 250 pounds, we need to gradually build up what it takes to make significant changes in our lives. Learning to overcome anxiety, insecurity and fear when undertaking personal side projects exercises the same qualities required to conquer those bigger goals.

We all have some artistic or creative dream we’ve always wanted to accomplish: be an amateur photographer, finish an oil painting, write a novel, play the mandolin…etc. These hobbies or artistic projects are usually a low priority compared to our careers, family or friends. But if it’s an interest that you’ve kept in the back of your mind for years, it’s worth dusting off and really taking a stab at. Here are some tips to get you in the mindset to start being creative.

Cut the Excuses!

No more saying that you lack the time, the materials or the knowledge to start a new project. Claim you don’t have time? Just chip away at it bit by bit. If you can spare an hour to watch a TV show or mindlessly click through StumbleUpon links, then you have the time.

Oil painting requires paints, brushes, palettes, an easel, canvases, paint thinners and varnish and those can cost a lot. So practice sketching in the meantime. Study up on technique, color mixing, composition and perspective while you start to gather up all the other supplies.

You say you lack the knowledge? Well of course you do, you haven’t started yet. Remember, creating is a process. Van Gogh didn’t conjure up Starry Night with a snap of his fingers. For that matter, Van Gogh didn’t conjure up the talent it took to create Starry Night in an instant either. The knowledge is there for you to take in as soon as you decide to start. The more you create, the more you’ll learn.

Celebrate your imperfection!

If ever you are discouraged from even starting something new (whether it’s being creative or trying a new career move or starting a new relationship) the reason is typically fear. We are afraid of not doing things right or of not doing them well.

I remember in middle school I convinced my dad to buy me an electric bass guitar. I quit after 2 weeks because I still sounded like I did on day one: like crap. Of course, having the short attention span of a 12 year old didn’t help either, but what ultimately made me quit was the self-consciousness of not doing well. I didn’t even give myself the chance to gain a little skill so I could start being creative with it.

So don’t be afraid if your first painting of a horse looks more like an elephant. Don’t be afraid that you’ve been practicing just one guitar chord for weeks. Embrace it! Own the fact that you are the best horse-elephant painter alive. Write a simple song with just one chord and make your friends sit through a concert of it. Being creative is about expression and having fun.

The best motivational quote I’ve heard for being creative is: “A writer is not someone who is published, a writer is someone who writes everyday.” The same goes for being an artist, a musician, a cook… It is important to first focus on the process of creating rather than on the quality of the thing created because being “creative” requires that you’ve made something in the first place.

Creativity Exercise: Make your own box to think outside of

Ok, so now you have the confidence to begin creating….but still feel stuck? Here’s a tip based on science, that’s right, real science to help you out. You see, absolute freedom of choice actually makes us anxious. We are anxious that we will make a poor choice, that there is some better choice or that by choosing one thing, we lose out on all other things. So if this anxiety about choosing the right way to proceed is paralyzing your creativity, then practice imposing restrictions on yourself.

Paint a picture with just one color. Try creating as many new recipes as you can with just 4 ingredients. Take pictures of just one type of object or theme for a week. Try nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) where the objective is to get 50,000 words down on paper in a month, no matter what or how good those words are. The restrictions can steer you when you get stuck. They can also force new perspectives and new approaches which will let your creativity flourish.

What project do you have sitting in your garage or in the back of your closet? What’s keeping you from picking it back up?

We’d love to hear your comments and tips for creativity!

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NaNoWriMo – get writing!

28 10 2009

Aspiring novelists need a deadline.  If you want to change your notions about finally writing that Great (insert country here) Novel, read on.

Chris Baty started the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) movement in 1999, with the belief that a seemingly insurmountable task of 50,000 words in 30 days is not only possible, but will release budding writers from their dastardly inner critic.

The emphasis is on quantity, not quality.  Whatever the outcome, no matter how ridiculous the eventual plot twists and character development , you’ll have a draft by month’s end.  And you’ll be better off, and more experienced, than when you started.