Creativity is a buzzword these days. Every artist, businessman, executive, manager, professional, etc. wants to be creative. In other words, creativity is a virtue today that is at the crux of every job profile. Creativity, unfortunately, can fall prey to lack of inspiration, disillusionment, doubt, be susceptible to dry spells, and even creative blocks.
Keep Going (2019) by Austin Cleon is a push to all those needing to fall back on creativity, whether personally or professionally. It is a guide to fuel, rekindle, and persevere when there is a shortage of those creative juices. It helps all those who need to keep their creativity fires kindled and burning, and even to understand when they need to be put out!
The Daily Routine
Many people take the concept of the ‘daily routine’ lightly. They don’t fully understand the importance of it.
For many creative minds, their creativity is like the ebb and flow of the waves – sometimes gushing out or at times, out like a flashbulb for days! While these ups and downs of creativity cannot be controlled, one can surely control making the most of it!
Establishing a daily routine, a schedule, or even a habit that triggers – irrespective of whether the creativity is gushing or trickling – is the best way of harnessing whatever creativity one has. For example, Sylvia Plath always wrote in the mornings, early, before the family was up.
On the other hand, Franz Kafka found his creativity after the family was in bed, at night. An example of establishing a habit, John Steinbeck would sharpen a dozen or so pencils before writing and Goethe needed to smell rotten apples. There is really no ‘one’ solution that fits. Where creativity is concerned, routines vary from person to person, suited to their own personalities, needs, and circumstances.
Often, establishing a regime seems off-putting, arduous, and frustrating to some. However, one needs to remember that routine isn’t intended to sap-off freedom, but to give one the freedom and the specified time to pursue creative interests, without having anything else disturbing that time.
Time, Space And No Intrusion
To be creative, time, space, and no intrusions are very important. However, with a million distractions bombarding our senses every second, it is very difficult to get the much-needed peace and quiet.
Literary scholar and writer Joseph Campbell used the concept of a ‘bliss station’, a quiet and isolated place where one can sit and work without any disturbance or distractions. This ‘bliss station’ can be a place like a study or a garage, or if one has space constraints, it could be a scheduled time of the day or week, when one is alone.
Once the ‘bliss station’ is identified, one has to ensure that there are no disturbances of any type. This essentially means that one has to get into the ‘Airplane Mode’.
Just like our smartphones enable us to turn on the ‘Airplane Mode’, one needs to create an environment where distractions such as emails and messages are turned off. Additionally, one can use earplugs or earphones to keep sounds and other distractions at bay. Another addition to the ‘Airplane Mode’ is to disconnect oneself from the daily news that can make the mind wander away from the tasks at hand.
Sleep, Tidy-up, And Make Lists
There are a million ways to get organized. Making lists, or to-do lists is one of the ways that one can use to help enhance creative thinking. While it is a known fact that many creative people are disorderly, many others tend to get not only distracted by chaos but also lost without order.
Visual artist David Shrigley maintains lists of things that he wants to draw. Therefore whenever he gets to work, he never wastes time thinking and always had ideas at hand. Steven Johnson, the writer writes and reviews his writing lists every few months for inspiration, and the rock band ‘The Wire’ have a list of the things they wouldn’t do – like ending their songs with a chorus, do solos, or rocking out.
Mary Kondo the tidiness expert has revolutionized the war on clutter and mess. Yet, at times, some amount of mess can be conducive for some creative people, especially when it comes to creating interesting juxtapositions inspired by the unrelated mess. However, there is a limit to ‘messy’, and it should never come to a point where one’s tools get lost in the mess.
Tidying-up can be a great inspiration to creativity, especially when one experiences a creative block. Many use tidying-up to contemplate and reflect, and even to look for inspiration in some old lost things and ideas.
In addition to tidying-up one’s workspace, creativity flows when one de-clutters the mind. The most effective way to de-clutter one’s mind is to get a good amount of sleep. Many creative people find that they get refreshing new ideas when they have slept over them. The famous Salvador Dali used to sleep as an effective way of refreshing the mind and getting great ideas.
The Perils Of Monetizing And Popularity
In today’s world, ‘doing what you love’ is the new mantra. It has also opened up the world to pursue careers in creative interests. Many even consider it as a dream job come true. However, at times, pursuing careers in creative interests can backfire, and one can end up hating their passions, simply because of the pressures of monetizing them.
The joy of a creative interest can get crushed due to the fact that it simply becomes a job to sustain the roof over the head, rather than what one loves to do. Therefore it is essential to keep a job and a passion separate. However, if one still intends to pursue a passion for a living, they should avoid monetizing their entire creative output and do some creative work simply for the love of it.
In addition to money, obsessions with popularity are perilous to creativity as well. The need for social gratification in today’s times, such as getting more likes, shares, and followers can make creative people lose focus. It is therefore essential to ignore social media metrics from time to time.
To keep one’s creative-self grounded, one can use the method of gifting. This essentially entails using one’s creative skills to create something and gift it to family, friends, or even an online follower. For example, A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit were actually written for their children. These ‘gifts’ are world-famous today!
Do Creative Vs. Be Creative
‘Making it big’, ‘Arriving officially’ or, ‘finally being best’, are measures of success that many creative people fall prey to. Whether it is a writer, artist, photographer, or singer, people in the creative lines focus too much on their creative titles as nouns rather than as verbs.
To put it simply, people tend to focus on becoming the nouns (dancer, painter, singer, writer, etc.) rather than focusing on mastering the verb (the actual activities – dancing, painting, singing, writing), making it counterproductive. Additionally, when one focuses too much on being the noun, they simply restrict themselves from trying on other things. For example, if a painter is too invested in being a creative painter, he might not explore other avenues he could be better at, such as a good interior designer.
Many creative people tend to forget that being creative isn’t a journey from point A to point B (or from being a painter to becoming the best A-grade, certified painter on earth) rather it is a never-ending, forever-learning journey. At the end of every painting, the painter should be able to ask himself, “What’s next?”
Therefore, it is essential to understand that focusing on ‘doing’ is more important than ‘being’.
Enjoy Your Creativity
Since ‘doing’ is more important than ‘being’, it becomes essential to understand how to focus on ‘doing creative’ than ‘being creative’. Let us take an example of children indulging in art. They never focus on becoming artists. In fact, honing their art skills is the last thing on their minds. They truly enjoy the action of drawing, and hardly care for the final outcome.
Why and how are children so indifferent towards their creative skills? The answer lies in play. They consider art a form of enjoyment, play, or fun. External considerations such as money, popularity, or fame are of no consequence to them. This is exactly what the author realized when he saw his son Jules drawing. It simply didn’t matter to Jules if his father tore up his painting or hung it in his study!
When one attributes external considerations to their creative work, they get lost in the worry of whether their creative work is good enough for others or not. It is therefore essential to incorporate playfulness in creative work. It helps in letting the creativity flow with abandonment, helping the creator to detach from the outcome and actually enjoy their work.
One can even indulge in playing with kids or playing like kids. Lawrence Wechsler, the writer would play with a set of kid’s building blocks to help unleash his creativity.
How To Be Extraordinarily Creative
What really makes people extraordinarily creative? Is it having an extraordinary life, or an extraordinary job, workplace, or friends? If one had to upgrade one life to extraordinary, would it help in making their creative work more creative?
Many people tend to think that if their lives were extraordinary they would be better. They think that the ordinariness of their work holds them back from being extraordinarily creative. However, it isn’t so.
There are many extraordinarily creative people living ordinary lives, finding magic even in the most mundane things. Everyone can, in fact, mine his or her ordinary lives for that magical, creative element that can transform ordinary work into extraordinary.
Harvey Pecker noted comic book writer is a perfect example. He worked in Cleveland as a file clerk in a hospital. He used excerpts from his experiences at his mundane job to create his comic content. Thus, one has to find creativity in life by paying attention to the details in one’s surroundings.
Our fast-paced lives today, however, do not allow us the time for paying attention to detail. Therefore, we have to slow down a little to observe what is around us.
When To Step Away From Creativity
What does one do when their actions make them or those around them unhappy? Change it, right? The same goes for creativity. If your creativity is causing you or someone around you pain and misery, it is time to re-evaluate it, or even step away!
Many creative artists believe in the myth of the ‘tortured artist’. The myth states that some form of unhappiness or misery is warranted, can be used as an excuse, or even be compensated for great creativity. This myth, however, is simply a myth.
Any form of creative work serves but one purpose – to make lives better. However, if it’s causing anyone unhappiness, it is always better to re-evaluate or even step away from the creativity that is causing harm. Take a break, try another job, do something mundane and totally disconnected.
It is essential to understand and know when to, and when not to ‘keep going’.
All creativity is subject to ups and downs. Creative people can use certain tools to enhance, promote, and revive their creativity, by establishing routines, habits, maintaining tidiness, avoiding distractions, and using the help of lists.
Additionally, one can use creative inspiration from the details in the most mundane surroundings and incorporating play in their work. Finally, all creative people should bear in mind that creativity should make their lives better. If not, then it’s simply best to step away!