When The Beatles were at their most popular they were under incredible pressure to equal their previous successes. Being in a band had stopped being as much fun as it used to be and they’d lost some of the freedom they had when they were unknowns. So, Paul McCartney suggested that they make up a fictional band and write the music that band would write. That’s how we ended up with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
David Bowie would change his whole persona from era to era. Stephen King used a pen name, Richard Bachman, to release novels.
What if you made up a new persona for yourself? An alternate you with different taste and working habits. It could lead to you creating work that you might not make yourself. It might break down self-imposed limitations and filters you have set up. Looking at the world from a new, imagined, pair of eyes can help you see new things and the same things in new ways.
I’m not saying you have to get new clothes and walk around using a different name, although that might be fun, but when you sit down at the keyboard or walk out on stage or even go into a meeting at work, ask yourself what this other persona would do in that situation.
Is this person a more carefree version of you? Are they angry? Are they impervious to criticism? Obsessed with gnomes? Do they secretly think that all hummingbirds are their mother? Are they an orphan? Do they have ten brothers? Do they try to work crabs into conversation as much as they possibly can?
Put as much or as little detail into the persona as you want.
One of my favorite Twitter accounts is Myrna Tellingheusen. I don’t know who writes it, but they do an excellent job of filtering the world through the eyes of a retiree living in a gated community in Southern California. When she tweeted, “When I need fresh air, I go to the Hallmark store,” it seemed a perfect mix of poetry, humor, and empathy that would never have existed without a deep understanding of Myrna’s environment.
Allowing another person’s worldview to temporarily eclipse your own unlocks your creativity. Even if that worldview is more limited than your own, the new boundary frees you up to create something new.
As Walt Whitman said, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” Let one of that multitude take control for a while and see what they produce.
Maybe your new persona is even more talented than you are and when they’re done, you can take all the credit for their work!
Personas can be such powerful concepts. I worked hard to establish a professional persona as an engineer and part of becoming a creative has been the freedom to be authentically myself, so thanks for the reminder that a persona can also be such a useful creative tool.
Yes! I also find that creating these new roles for myself helps me grow as a person. Figuring out new boundaries changes all your personas. I carry the best tools from each persona into the next. That’s one of the reasons I think it’s important to consciously acknowledge them and push yourself to create more.
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