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A Great Way to Spark Creativity

A strategy for jump-starting your creative brain-power
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Everyone knows that artists experience creative blocks, sometimes on a grand scale. Tales abound of suffering painters, photographers, writers and musicians who have faced the Great Nothing - periods of time when inspiration seems scarce. Yet these artists also have a coping strategy for this dilemma - one imagines them adjusting their beret, repairing to the local bistro and sipping absinthe until the muse returns.

Don't like absinthe? Look silly in a beret? Can't figure out what this artsy stuff has to do with you, a Serious Business Person? Well, hear this: If you're in business, you're creating, and all creative endeavors are vulnerable to the Sticking Point - the spot where one' s expertise and invention seem to run out of steam. In these cases, creators would do well to allow their brain-power a chance to regenerate - no easy feat in a culture that favors action over thoughtfulness (even when thoughtless action creates problem after problem). To recharge your creativity, you must be deliberate in diverting your focus of attention, or your mind will continue to spin on in Analyzer Mode.

"One cannot mend the frayed elbows of a coat by rubbing the sleeves or shoulders, but the tired parts of the mind can be rested and strengthened? by using other parts," wrote Sir Winston Churchill in his book, Amid These Storms. Like Churchill, who took up oil painting as a respite from his tumultuous political career, you can give yourself a chance to exercise a different patch of gray matter by indulging your inner artiste.

For example, a musician straining to hear the perfect melody through his chaotic and never-ending mind-chatter might choose to take up photography or painting for a spell. Concentrating on the visual aspects of light, shadow and juxtaposition of objects gives him a break from his aural misery, and the use of other senses to "compose" may spark a flawless string of notes to his rejuvenated ear.

You can "change up" your sensory input in the same way - if you've been staring at your computer screen too long, try something that requires your sense of touch - digging in your garden, flower arranging or woodworking - even a brisk walk around the block. If you've practiced a presentation until you can't stand the sound of your own voice (which still sounds uninspired as you listen to yourself), grab your camera and silently snap the world around you - looking for color, pattern and composition will get you out of that Slide-Show pit.

The trick is to provide yourself with a task that absorbs you in a different way than your "stuck" project would, and in doing so breaking the pattern that silences your muse, smothers your inspiration and keeps your best ideas at bay. Keep a few artistic activities (perhaps one for each of the senses) in your toolkit to call upon when ingenuity deserts you. You' ll experience creative success in a different realm, resting the exhausted areas of your brain while boosting your confidence with an alternative achievement. Perceived from a new angle, that " stuck" project might just begin to flow!

Jamie Walters is the founder and Chief Vision & Strategy Officer at Ivy Sea, Inc. in San Francisco.

Last updated: May 8, 2001




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