Creativity Tip: Let Yourself Be Awesome!

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You let so much hold you back. Fear. Self-doubt. Money. For just one day, let yourself be awesome. Not ok, not good, but completely and totally AWESOME!

No longer are you a tiny doubt-filled tadpole in a giant pond, not today. Today you are Godzilla and the rest of the world is a terrified city gazing up at you with their mouths hanging open. A simple flick of your tail has massive repercussions. To you, everyone around you is a swarm of tiny, irritating flies trying to distract you with their buzzing.

Oh, they’re going to try to bring you down. They’ll come after you with tanks, airplanes and electric power lines designed to fence you in. But, you know that those are just limitations that would stop somebody who wasn’t as awesome as you are. You are so awesome that you can simply step on these minor problems and crush them. If that doesn’t work, your Atomic Breath Ray will blow them up. Take that boring day job! Take that self-doubt!

Best of all, you are unstoppable. Whatever you want to do or accomplish comes easily. No need to procrastinate or over-plan, you just do it! Even if the world sends MechaGodzilla to stop you, you still triumph in the end. In fact, it makes you stronger because you are super-charged by the radiation he emits. Imagine a day where everything that stands in your way is afraid of your massive crushing jaws! Nothing can stop you! Let today be that day!

I know there are some people who don’t feel comfortable being awesome, but you do. I also understand you can’t be Godzilla level awesome all the time. No one wants to date Godzilla or be Godzilla’s roommate, but isn’t it great to know that you can be Godzilla when you need to?


Tame Your Creativity Monster With A List


Everyone remembers being afraid of dark spaces as a child. Even the shadowy space under your bed was a potential monster hideaway. The bigger your imagination, the worse the monsters you imagined.

A friend of mine posted her 7-year-old son Chester's school project on Facebook. To celebrate their one hunderth day of school, his teacher asked each student to bring in a hundred of something. He decided to bring a list of one hundred monsters.

At first, as with all scary things, it seemed like there were an infinite number of monsters. So many monsters, in fact, that he decided to group them into tens. Ten dragons, ten cryptoids, ten movie monsters… Also, it wasn't enough to just have the name, he had to look up each one and learn about it. He then painstakingly wrote each one, learning how to spell even the Kaiju monsters. With each step the list got more and more manageable until, toward the end, it was hard to even come up with enough monsters to finish.

It struck me how helpful it would be when you are faced with completing an impossible, scary project to list your monsters. Sometimes just a blank piece of paper is the terrifying dark closet that contains everything that scares you into inaction.

Instead of letting yourself get overwhelmed by fear and inertia, why not list out all the things that are stopping you from starting? Get a piece of paper and write them out. Break them into sections if you want, anything to make them more manageable.

In fact, try and list a hundred things preventing you from moving forward. It's not easy to do. I bet it's hard for you to get past twenty. You can start with the teacher in the fifth grade who told you that you'd never amount to anything and then move on to that nasty commenter on your blog that tells you that it's hard to read your writing because there are so many grammatical mistakes and run on sentences.

Once you see the monsters all laid out neatly on a piece of paper, I bet they're no scarier than Spongebob Squarepants. Who, if you look carefully at the picture above, you'll see in the Sea Monster category between the Gloucester Serpant and Gill-Man.

Image copyright 2011 Chester Haugaard

The Writer Who Never Finished Anything



In his always interesting blog, writer Mark Evanier answered a question from a reader who was having trouble finishing any project she started. She wanted to know how she could motivate herself to finish if there was no guarantee of an audience when she was finished. His answer brought up even more questions. Are you a writer if you’ve never finished anything? Is it enough to just call yourself a writer?

Here’s part of Evanier’s answer:

You’re fooling yourself to think you’re a writer. A writer finishes things…even things that never get sold. Every professional writer has things they’ve written that never sold or reached the public. In fact, we all have things we’ve written that upon reflection, we’re very glad didn’t reach the public. That script you’re writing now may turn out to be one that will never sell but you’ll never know that until you try, which means you have to finish it. As the saying goes, there are no great uncompleted novels.

His answer brought to mind Seth Godin‘s pithy quote that makes the same point, “Real artists ship.” Godin uses ship to mean completion of any project, personal or professional.

He points out that not shipping is just an expression of fear of failure. In his, and Evanier’s thinking, failing is as much of being an artist as shipping. In this post on Tim Burton, Seth sums it up succinctly:

One key element of a successful artist: ship. Get it out the door. Make things happen.

The other: fail. Fail often. Dream big and don’t make it. Not every time, anyway.

Do you have a project you’ve been putting off? Ship! After all, the quickest way to succeed is to fail as quickly as possible and move on to the next thing.

Addition Inspiration

Here's a great method for coming up with new ideas. First, make a list of at least 10 things that you think are awesome. If you can't do that, I feel sorry for you and you might as well not read the rest of this. Seriously, if you can't make a list of 10 things that you love, you should be out looking for things to love.

Now, take your list of 10 and start combining things on the list together. For instance, you might have robots and werewolves on your list, I do, so jumble them up in your head and see what comes out.

Let's say you decide to use those two. The most obvious would be an animatronic robot werewolf that someone might build for a haunted house or for some kind of Scooby Doo-esque trap for a van full of nosy teenagers. But, we can go deeper than that. Werewolves are based on magic, not science. So, when a werewolf bites something it becomes a werewolf not through some biological process but magic connected with the moon.

What if a werewolf bit a robot and that robot became a robo-wolf on nights of the full moon? What if it was all machines? What if it was a toaster or waffle iron with added wolfiness? What if it was only machines shaped like a human? It's magic, so it doesn't have to make sense.

See, all interesting thoughts. 

Now take the items on your list and start combining them and see how they fit together. They are all things you love, so I'm going to assume you know something about them. If nothing works, try a set of three.

Remember, if you don't like the first thought you have, try fitting them together in a different way.

I'm off to write a story about half-toaster, half-wolves combing the countryside looking for human flesh to eat and bread to toast. 

Creativity in Bad Times – Think Like Water

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.

– Bruce Lee

In good times, people have the illusion that coming up with a single good idea is enough. A single good idea will make you rich for life or solve a problem permanently. People think of problems as walls and ideas as battering rams to break through them. It’s not true, but it’s easy to believe.

Problems do not stand still. They grow and shrink, sometimes they fade away on their own and new problems appear where there were none before.

In bad times, people get frustrated because what worked before is no longer possible. The shifting landscape of the world puts up barrier after barrier and things that have worked for years become impossible, illegal or just plain stop working.

This is when it’s easy to fail, because to succeed means having to constantly change and, even more painfully, having to admit that you were wrong.

That’s why I think it’s important to think about your creativity as if it were water. Instead of charging forward and battering things down, although it is capable of that, water can slowly wear down mountains and is constantly searching for a way to flow forward. It can break through a problem, but can also go under, around or through it.

Water is patient and seemingly undemanding. It fits perfectly into any situation it’s put in. Water changes with the landscape as it changes everything it touches. It isn’t upset to have to change its path.

Creativity is survival. Water survives difficult situations by setting its own conditions for victory.

If you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall, try being water for a while. You might find a crack in the wall and get through, but even if you don’t, at least your head won’t hurt while you work your way through.

The ABC’s of Staying Creative

 Do you experience lulls in your creativity? Do you run hot and cold with ideas? Want to be ready when you need your creativity the most? Here’s one way you can be sure that you are always at the top of your game.

In David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin shows up to deliver a motivational speech to a room full of salesman. Really it’s more threatening than motivational, but one of the bits of simple “wisdom” he shares with them is the ABC’s of sales. The letters stand for “always be closing.” To a room full of people struggling to make a single sale, this advice seems more like a cruel taunt than a guiding philosophy.

What if we changed the C from “closing” to “creating?” Always Be Creating. Is it a taunt to use this as a philosophy of creativity? Let’s take away the idea of failure. We aren’t using the phrase to imply quality, just quantity. So, there really isn’t a way to fail except by not doing anything. It’s not a taunt, it’s a cheer!

Instead of working on something, finishing it and then waiting for the next project, what if you always had multiple projects going on? They shouldn’t all be equally important. In fact, having a few low priority creative projects to work on for fun is completely freeing. What about writing Bacon Haikus? Or doing a drawing a day? Or even wearing a different outfit every day? It doesn’t have to be something you’re good at, in fact, being bad at it might be better in the long run.

These seeming distractions are actually keeping you at your top creative level! Your creativity isn’t a faucet that you can turn on and off, it’s an exploding geyser in the middle of your brain. The problem is that if you don’t go there all the time, you might forget where it is.

Multiple projects. Plans. A giant novel about a war between the ant-people and the walrus-people.  The perfect cupcake recipe. An elf outfit for your bulldog. A list of believable lies about Abraham Lincoln. A list of heavy metal band names that haven’t been used yet. (That last one is harder than you think.) Designing underwear for chickens. Anything you want!

ABC, Always Be Creating! Don’t take a vacation from doing what you love. Keep your projects secret or put them on the web. It doesn’t matter! The whole purpose is to maintain your highest levels of creativity at all times.

It’s as simple as… well.. you know…

Resensitize Yourself

You hear a lot these days about how desensitized we’ve all become from the reality of the world around us. From violence to tragedy to advertising, we’ve managed to build up filters that keep us safe and sane. Let’s be honest, if you let yourself react to every story you see on your local news you’d soon be a quivering mess on the floor – terrified, sobbing and depressed. If you noticed every advertisement you were exposed to, your brain would be filled useless information designed to modify your behavior.

However, have you considered that this desensitizing also works against you while you’re trying to create? That this useful shield for modern living might also be blocking things from coming out? The subtlety of detail, the depth of emotion and raw honesty that art demands are stuck behind the same barrier that you use to not cry when you see a story about a grieving mother on TV.

Why not let yourself the freedom to notice details again? To feel other people’s emotions as if they were happening to you? To actually hear the cars driving by your bedroom window as you fall asleep? To taste food? To feel the socks on your feet right now?

You can always put the shield back up when you need it, but can you take it down when you want to?

You will never lack for ideas and materials if you resensitize yourself. Taking a shower can be of operatic proportions if you feel each drop of warm water hit your skin. Petting a dog and feeling each hair on your hand as the dog relaxes, reassured that its taken care of, is an epic story. This is not exaggeration of the truth, but emphasis on a moment.

How you react to things is how you communicate your perspective on the world. If you cut yourself off from reacting to it, it’s impossible to put anything of meaning back into it.

Ignorance can be Creative

It’s always good to work at the top of your intelligence and do research when you need to, but doesn’t ignorance spur creativity?

Doesn’t some of your best stuff come from trying to figure things out?

Explore what you don’t know, what you don’t understand and don’t be afraid to make things up.

Emotional complexity is interesting. Not knowing how you feel about something before you start is riskier, but also potentially richer.

At its best, creative stuff creates a map to uncharted territory – an attempt to describe ignorance. Whether its finding a new solution to a problem at work or painting a masterpiece, it’s at once totally new but it also makes complete sense.

Most people are scared of ignorance. Think about old maps, whenever there was an unexplored area of the map it would be labelled “here be dragons.” They just projected all the fear and anger and everything terrifying projected onto the unknown. That’s how people treat the unexplored territories in their own heads. Dragons are lurking around every corner.

It’s the artists job to brave the dragons and try and describe what is actually there. Instead of fearing your own ignorance, get excited every time you find one of these areas. Move boldly into it and explore.

That doesn’t mean what you’ll produce is scary, a comic strip like Calvin and Hobbes and Peanuts (at its height) faced the unknown as squarely as Death of a Salesman or Hamlet.

Ignorance may be bliss to some, but to us, it’s just potential genius!

Love your ideas

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Do you love your ideas?

Sure, you love your good ideas and the ideas that make you money and the ideas that make you laugh, but do you love all your ideas?

Whatever that mysterious force inside us is that lets us connect things together in a way they never have been before, well, that force doesn’t know if an idea is good or not. It just pumps out idea after idea, spraying them all over the place in an endless geyser.

The only way to stop this force is to tell it it’s doing a bad job. To tell it that it’s not making sense and couldn’t it come up with something more useful?

It doesn’t even have to be you saying it, someone else telling you that your idea is stupid can do it. In fact, hearing someone else being told their idea is stupid can shut it off if you aren’t careful.

When that happens the geyser dries up and we find ourselves begging it to start back up again. We just need an idea, any idea, but all we get is a bunch of dust and nothing.

Here’s a way to get around that.

Love every idea you have for just a moment. No matter how silly, stupid or how many copyrights it breaks, just smile and enjoy your idea before you let it go.

I’m not saying that you have to pretend it’s a good idea, just that you enjoy it. Smile it at it. If it’s good, write it down or say it out loud. If it’s bad, just enjoy it like you would a bad movie or a child’s joke.

Every idea thinks it deserves to be enjoyed and loved.

In fact, why not go one step further than just enjoying the idea and actually add to the bad idea. If it occurs to you that the mechanical horses in front of grocery stores should be transformed into highway-ready ecologically friendly vehicles, don’t toss it aside as unworkable. Instead, start designing a way to hold all the rolls of quarters you’re going to need to get to work and back.

Let your ideas start to get connected, then you won’t have to release them. They become part of a web to build a better idea. Instead of throwing things away, you’re using them as a foundation for something else.

Appreciate, smile, enjoy and cherish every single idea you have. Just don’t act on all of them.

Do this and they’ll keep coming.

In fact, you’ll have so many ideas they might start to get irritating.

Not to you, but to all the jealous people around you who struggle to have any idea, even a bad one.

Increase your creativity by making fewer choices

Some people that want to be considered creative spend a lot of time focussed on making every single aspect of their life reflects their creativity. It’s not enough that they are a brilliant painter, they also have to wear crazy outfits and drive around in a car with jewels and feathers hot glued to the outside. Here’s a thought, have you ever tried being completely uncreative in the parts of your life that don’t directly impact your work?

Lots of artists talk about the importance of routine and discipline for their work, but there is also power in making a choice once and sticking with it.

I was reminded of this when I read an article about Devo asking to meet David Lynch. Lynch agreed, but the meeting had to be at Bob’s Big Boy. You see, Lynch ate lunch there every day. This is how Lynch describes it:

I like things to be orderly. For seven years I ate at Bob’s Big Boy. I would go at 2:30, after the lunch rush. I ate a chocolate shake and four, five, six, seven cups of coffee–with lots of sugar. And there’s lots of sugar in that chocolate shake. It’s a thick shake. In a silver goblet. I would get a rush from all this sugar, and I would get so many ideas! I would write them on these napkins. It was like I had a desk with paper. All I had to do was remember to bring my pen, but a waitress would give me one if I remembered to return it at the end of my stay. I got a lot of ideas at Bob’s.

Charles Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip had the same breakfast, english muffin with grape jelly, and lunch, tuna salad, every day at a diner he built for himself.

Einstein famously didn’t like to think about his clothes and wore the same outfit every day. He said, “I like neither new clothes nor new kinds of food.”

Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone, most people find their creative lives enriched by new experiences. However, spend a few minutes looking at your own life. Is there a decision you dread? A process that takes up too much of your life? Try simplifying it.

Eat the same lunch every day, get your hair cut on the same day every month or stop worrying about the color of your socks. Whatever weighs on you, take control of it!

You just might find that spending less time on the trivial gives your more time for the amazing!

(Read more about David Lynch’s creative life in Catching the Big Fish his book on meditation and creativity. It’s on sale for $5.99 on Amazon and it’s a bargain.)

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