Creativity Tip # 25: Problems and Puzzles

It could start out looking like a wall. A very tall wall. How do I get over it? Around it? Through it?

Problems are like that, as are various creative challenges that aren’t yet fully explored.

Or that have just been dumped in your lap.

Overcoming them – getting through or around that wall – is where creativity of the mind comes in. Think time. What to do first? How are you sizing up this “behemoth?”

Think of it as a big puzzle but you can’t even begin to solve it – and create something wonderful – until you break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces.

Maybe you start by just jotting down some thoughts and questions in no special order. Don’t try to write the first page, for example, or even the opening paragraph. Don’t try to design the entire project; just play with a couple of images or design elements.

Do whatever you can to trigger your creative juices. They’ll take care of the rest. If you’re lucky, they may lead you to more questions and, subsequently, some refined answers. That’s where your contact on this project comes into play.

Don’t be intimidated by the enormity of the project, aka, puzzle. Concentrate on one piece at a time.

You may not notice it at first but when you do this, your mind begins to relax. You feel less overwhelmed than when you started. Note that I didn’t say “calm.” That will come but you’ll probably feel more invigorated because progress is being made, and your creative juices are flowing.

When this happens, your mind may also take you on a path that “plays with” or addresses other pieces of this puzzle. Go with it.

Before you know it, a clear picture will start to emerge; a composite of all the puzzle pieces.

One piece at a time. Thoughtfully.

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Creativity Tip #37: Walk in Stupid Every Morning

This week’s tip is borrowed from Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, OR. His recent talk at the 2013 AdAge Small Agency Conference touched on a number of things, but this one has to do with one’s attitude every single day.

“Walk in stupid every morning” is a philosophy W&K embraces that basically says things have changed in the world since yesterday. Has your perspective or outlook? Don’t assume anything, and be open to everything. Find out what’s going on and how that might alter what you’re doing, or not doing, or thinking, or not thinking.

Creatively, today is a new day. What we did or thought yesterday is old news now. Doesn’t mean we can’t borrow from it or build upon it.

We have a fresh start on a fresh new day. Opportunity’s knocking.

Think of it as your imagination getting refreshed with sparkling clean ideas and a hint of mystery.

Creatively, that mindset can be very powerful. Take advantage of what your senses tell you. Go with what your imagination feeds you.

Then, as Nike would say (pardon me, Dan), “just do it!”

When we fail to fail, we fail. Creativity suffers.

In his recent talk before the Ad Age Small Agency Conference, Dan Wieden, co-founder of Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, OR, stressed the importance of failure, or, rather, the freedom to fail.

Talking about his agency’s mantra, “fail harder,” Mr. Wieden referenced the significance of one making three collossal mistakes before moving on to more fruitful creativity. He mentioned how mistakes are too often seen as marks of stupidity, instead of building blocks of knowledge.

I know, not everyone feels they have the flexibility to make ONE mistake, let alone three or more. That’s a scary thought!

Consistent barriers seem to be erected that prevent us from experiencing failure. Some are self-imposed, while others are insinuated by organizations and companies with which we work or perform services. Time to fail is rarely included in the timeline for producing most projects.

Everyone wants results now, not three days from now (at least, that’s how it feels at times). Yet, one must be diligent in expressing doubt that a hurried or tight timeline would include time to fail.

In today’s fast-paced business climate, failure doesn’t seem to be tolerated. “We don’t have time to fail,” seems to be the business mantra. Ah, therein lies the rub.

When it comes to creativity, those of us practicing it everyday don’t seem to be allowed to think about failure. Yes, I admit it – I did not achieve perfection on the first draft of my _________ (fill in the blank with design, article, illustration, photograph or whatever).

I “failed.”

190px-The_Scream

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”

That’s hogwash (technical term)!

Companies like Nike, Apple, Pixar and even others much smaller in size, openly embrace failure and incorporate it into their systems.

Those who don’t engage creativity everyday, seem to think that it’s some commodity one can easily switch on or off at will. This attitude does a disservice to those involved in practicing the craft as well as for whom they are practicing it.

It’s unrealistic to ignore failure. It’s unrealistic not to schedule time for its possible appearance. It’s reality that we need to learn from the process to improve upon what we just created. We need to make time to do that, and then move on.

The other reality: Will anybody really care?

Creativity Tip #41

First things first.

This splash of color should lift your creative spirits.

 iStock_000002018808Medium If not, check your pulse.

Then, check out these two quotes I found in my archives. They’re quite illuminating and pertinent, especially when our attitude doesn’t seem to be cooperating.

“Your mood doesn’t really matter. Some of the best creative work gets done on the days when you feel that everything you’re doing is just plain junk,” said Julia Cameron, 19th century photographer.

Then there’s this from renowned author John Updike —

“Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.”

So where do you fall?

If you don’t care, then maybe it doesn’t matter. If you do care, consider yourself reassured.

Creativity Tip #4

How do you know when you’ve hit THE idea? There are different approaches but this one is sort of like thinking in reverse. I call it the Drill Down Technique.

Begin with writing a one or two word idea on a small “sticky note.” These ideas address or answer a specific question that attempts to solve a problem.

coloredstickies

This works better in a group of about four or five, and is a timed exercise of about ten minutes.

So have a timer (electronic or a person) monitor closely.

Once you have, say, 25 or more ideas (“stickies”), choose what you consider to be the best five ideas . . . and ELIMINATE THEM.

At this point, most likely whoever is keeping time will come by and collect the now-discarded ideas. They no longer exist for (for now).

Choose five more from your “sticky notes” and ELIMINATE THEM.

Continue this process in increments of five until you have five best ideas left. Then eliminate three, then one.

Maybe this last idea you have is the best one; maybe not. However, it’s one to which you may not have paid much attention if you had gone through these ideas in a more traditional way.

Now, go do your due diligence and find out.

You never know.