Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


5 Comments

Save Your Creativity from the Deadline Stupor

Thinking and Thumb Chewing

Someone up the hierarchy informs you of a deadline. You must produce by a certain time, or else.

What’s the first thing you do?

If you’re Jessica, the first thing you do is look for something to eat. Deadlines always make her hungry.

Then what?

Then you realise you have no idea what you’re going to produce. What do you do when you have no idea? You turn to your Creativity.

And stare.

I can tell you, as a Creativity, there’s nothing quite so disconcerting has being stared at and willed into producing an idea. I don’t know about your Creativity, but I get self-conscious – and quickly mesmerised by the stare. Everything comes to a halt as we wait for someone to blink. Stupor sets in.

Bad start.

What should you be doing?

Finding an Idea

How can you break the stupor and help your Creativity find an idea? Try some of these tips.

Play

‘I’ve just been given a deadline,’ you say. ‘I’m on the clock. Now’s not the time to play.’

Actually, now’s exactly the time to play. In order for your Creativity to produce the ideas and answers you seek, you have to release the pressure a little and play the game.

Doodle. Talk to your Creativity out loud (in a secluded place if you’re worried about wandering psychiatrists). Roll words and phrases around in your head. Fire questions at him/her. Give your Creativity something to work with.

I’m serious about the doodling. Get yourself a notepad and coloured pens. Or try a whiteboard. Something you can scribble ideas on as they come to you.

Don’t be afraid to pursue weird and wacky trains of thought. Let your Creativity wander through different possibilities. You’re on a treasure hunt. Who knows where the idea is hiding. So loosen up and play.

Nail Down the Specifics

Tell your Creativity exactly what you need. Do you need a story, poem, concept brief, article? What’s the genre? How many words? Who is your audience? What points do you need to cover?

This information gives your Creativity constraints to bounce off.

But limit the demands to only what you need. Exclude ‘wants’ at this stage. If there’s a little leeway on some of these questions, then leave them open-ended. Give your Creativity a little wiggle room. You can add the wants from your list as the project evolves. At this point be accepting of different angles.

Encourage Multiple Ideas

At some point during all this, your Creativity will hopefully come up with an idea. Do not run off with the first thing out of his/her mouth. Breathe in, breathe out, and ask if there are any other ideas. Give your Creativity opportunity to pop a couple more at you. The first idea is not usually the best. So wait around and see what else there is.

Once you’ve got your ideas flying, move on to the next phase.

Working the Idea

Now you need to knuckle down and create. At this point the stupor will threaten to set in again. Great ideas usually require work to bring them to fruition. How can you do that in time to meet your deadline?

Write Yourself a List

Work out what’s involved in making this idea happen. List every task. Perhaps it’s as simple as just sitting down and writing. If so, go do!

Most projects require more preparation. Do you need to research? Do you need to outline? Perhaps you have to learn more about your characters.

What is it you need to do in order to make this idea a reality?

The list will not only provide you with a guide to what needs to be completed, but will also inform your Creativity about what you expect to accomplish. Sometimes your Creativity will get to a list item ahead of you, just because he/she knew it was coming.

Find One Thing You Can Move Forward On

Often the length of the list and the size of the project is just overwhelming. And I can tell you from experience, the more options there are, the more paralysed your Creativity becomes. So what do you do?

Pick one thing, just one, which you can manage today – or at least start on. Find something you can make progress on. Focus on that one thing until you’re done. Then mark it off your list. Your project will become like a game of Mahjong. Each move you make will reveal another move. Slowly, slowly you’ll make progress.

Set Aside Time

Don’t let every deadline result in the same desperate, eye-popping squeeze on your Creativity the night before. Set aside regular time in the days, weeks and/or months leading up to the deadline.

Be kind to your Creativity. Avoid procrastination. Your Creativity works hard for you so repay in kind.

And if you happen to finish a little earlier than your deadline, what’s so bad about that?

Eliminate Distractions

Creativities are usually very easily distracted. If you turn the TV on, or start reading an interesting book, we get caught up in what you’re doing and forget what we’re working on. So while we all need time to replenish our Creative sponges, if you’re working towards a deadline try eliminating the distractions and focusing on what you need to accomplish.

And remember, television or a good book is a great reward for completion.

An Important Consideration

We’ve spoken about how to work towards a deadline, but there is one point you need to keep in mind.

Not all deadlines are worth it. Sometimes you have to say no. Protect your Creativity from unreasonableness – either from your boss, or from your own expectations. If the deadline is too tight, you’re just going to damage your Creativity in the process.

Pick your deadlines, and then work together with your Creativity to make them a reality. One step at a time.

For more ideas on staying creative when facing deadlines, read this post over at Bit Rebels.

How do you generate ideas when facing deadlines?

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Advertisements


3 Comments

When Procrastination Isn’t Procrastination

I’ve recently been reading this article.

The article made me feel so much better about myself and my methods. I do feel I incubate my ideas. I’m conscious of them brewing in the back of my mind, percolating into something I will eventually put on to paper or into practice.

This harks back to a previous post about the Creativity Sponge. Time is an important part of the creative process, most times a necessary part. While we want our families and workmates to appreciate our need for incubation time, we also need to respect our own need for that time. This means knowing when not to force something, when to go for a walk, when to leave the idea for a week, a month, until another idea collides with it to take the idea from ordinary to inspirational.

Thoughtful Creativeness

I think the term that best describes this is ‘Thoughtful Creativeness’ – that which comes from time and consideration before anything tangible appears on paper.

We often equate Creativity with spontaneity – loud, unpredictable, surprising etc. But how much of this perception is actually the flurry of activity after a lengthy incubation process?

There will always be those moments of instant inspiration, witty responses right on cue and random ramblings of genius that you cannot prepare for. They just pop out. That’s the creative expression we expect, and is the hardest part of Creativity to predict and quantify. But, Thoughtful Creativeness is something better, more special and, if mastered, far more useful.

How often do we hear a person who has written a book, made a movie or written a song say something along the lines of, “The idea began several years ago when some-unusual-event-or-fact intrigued me. It took me several years before I really knew how I wanted to portray it.” That’s incubation.

How You Can Practice Thoughtful Creativeness

You’ve probably already experienced Thoughtful Creativeness. For example, have you ever been working on a project and suddenly have a brilliant idea for a final touch? The idea seems to just ‘come to you’ or ‘pop into your head.’ But really, could you have come up with that idea if you had not put in the effort and preparation which got you to that point? All the thought that came before incubated and nurtured the ‘flash’ of inspiration.

The biggest part of Thoughtful Creativeness is relaxing to the point where you trust both your Creativity and yourself. When you feel that little bud of inspiration forming in your mind, don’t feel like you have to do something with it straight away. Water it. Keep it warm. Shine encouragement on it. Be gentle and allow it to blossom in its own time. Ideas don’t die from nurturing and patience. They get better, they grow, gradually getting to the point where they open up into beautiful and colourful results that others will marvel at.

Have you ever experienced Thoughtful Creativeness? Do you have any tips on how to develop the skill? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art


18 Comments

How I Ruined a Perfectly Good Pen in the Shower, or The Creativity Sponge

A sponge and bucket surrounded by bubbles.Tivity says I’m being too informative and not entertaining enough. So, I shall attempt to rectify this by explaining how I ruined a perfectly good pen in the shower.

I have long hair, and it takes me ages to wash. And usually, during hair washing, I come up with some of my best ideas. Which is really annoying. Why? Because I have no access to pen and paper. Thinking about it, one could probably scrawl something on the mist covered glass of the shower, but I don’t think that’s the most reliable means of preserving genius.

My method for idea preservation is repeating the idea to myself over and over until I’m dry and can find writing implements. However, on the day in question, I got distracted; probably by shampoo in the eye or someone turning the dishwasher on and instantly relieving me of the hot water.

And so this is why I found myself some fifteen minutes later, fully clothed, sitting on the shower stool with pen and paper trying to mentally recreate the moment I had my idea. That’s also the point where I dropped the pen and discovered ball point down on tiles is not healthy.

(Now do you understand why I’m the informative one and Creativity’s the story-teller?)

This seemingly random story does have a purpose. I get my best ideas and connect with my Creativity the strongest when I’m in the shower. I have a relative who had the idea for a brilliant invention while on the toilet. I have two closer family members who get ideas walking from their desk to the toilet or the water fountain.

What do all these places have in common, apart from the obvious ablution factor?

Notice they are not the desk, or in front of the computer, or while staring at a blank piece of paper, or while being stared at by a boss or teacher or mother. They are alone time. Stress free time. Time when no one is expecting you to fix the situation, to find the solution, to solve the unsolvable. And that’s the time when you get the flash of inspiration.

And this brings me to one of my favourite quotes of all time:

“Your most brilliant ideas come in a flash, but the flash comes only after a lot of hard work. Nobody gets a big idea when he is not relaxed, and nobody gets a big idea when he is relaxed all the time.” – Edward Blakeslee

Why Is It So?

Imagine, for a moment, your Creativity is a sponge. (Tiv says she’s a purple sponge with green polka dots. I’ll leave you to erase that disturbing image from your mind on your own. I’m stuck with it.) Now imagine you are lowering your Creativity sponge into a bucket of special idea-inducing water. She soaks it up with gusto. Now, you pull your sponge out of the bucket and squeeze. Lovely ideas, concepts, jokes, random hilarity etc. drip everywhere. Life is good.

Next, without releasing your hand, stick the sponge back in the bucket. Pull the sponge out and squeeze again. Notice that far less creative goodness comes out this time?

If you’re holding the sponge tightly, no matter how much water you immerse it in, the sponge won’t soak it up – and therefore will not have anything to give you when you squeeze.

Where Am I Going With This?

When you need an idea, you squeeze your Creativity. She bursts forth with all the amazing brilliance you know and love. However, as you become more stressed you’ll notice her productivity begins to drop. You’re squeezing her for ideas, but she’s got nothing left to give. That’s what the dyspeptic haddock look is telling you. You need to let go, give her some breathing room and an opportunity to absorb more idea juice.

How long does that take? It really depends on the Creativity, and the problem. Sometimes it takes minutes. Sometimes days. But relaxing and providing Creativity with breathing room is a very important part of the creative process. Do not rush it, and do not squeeze too early. Be prepared to relax. This is not slacking off! It is giving your Creativity sponge time to refresh. And it is just as important, if not more so, than the squeezing step.

(Note to parents, teachers, friends, employers: If you happen to see your child, student, friend or employee staring into space, or walking aimlessly around when they should be working on a problem, resist the urge to shake them back to reality and force them into a ‘working’ frame of mind. They are most probably communing with their inner sponge…er…Creativity, whether they consciously realise it or not. At times, it’s that little moment of blankness, of daydream, that provides the inspiration for what they’re about to do. Not always, but sometimes. So give them the benefit of the doubt, at least once, and see what happens. You might get to watch that wonderful moment where Creativity sparks and ideas are born.)

What about you? Where or when do you get your brilliant flashes? Please share. We’d love to know.