The Creative: Thoughts
0a. Forward and Introduction — Why I [am writing] this book.
Please note: This is a living manuscript. It is rough around the edges and experimental. This is not an apology, but a warning that it is subject to change at any time. It will continue to shift and evolve until the creative process is complete. Please participate by leaving comments!
— Jason Theodor
What This Book Is Not
The Creative: How to Create More Better Different is NOT just another book on creativity.
- It is NOT a curation of essays on the nuances of creativity written by different experts in different fields with different contexts.
- It is NOT a portfolio to pat myself on the back and celebrate the coolest work I’ve done over the years.
- It is NOT a showcase of creative examples from around the globe.
- It is NOT a list of 1001 brainstorming techniques
What This Book Is
Are you creative enough for the Age of Ideas?
Create More Better Different is a new creative framework that:
- Re-defines creativity for the 21st Century and by explaining its three core elements,
- Makes it personal by uncovering your own basic Creative Type,
- Customizes a toolkit for you to create more, better, and different work.
When I speak at creative conferences, people sometimes come up to me and make this confession: “I’m not really a creative person.” It’s meant as an apology, or a caveat, as if there’s a secret license to practice creativity. My answer is always the same:
It’s not how creative you are, but how you are creative.
This book is the longer form of my answer.
Creativity, and everything that comes with it (like ideation, brainstorming, problem-solving, and innovation) is a desired skill in the twenty-first century. The right idea (and its proper execution) can lead to great success. It is the one human trait that cannot be commoditized.
Am I creative enough? Why do I never finish anything? How can I make this better? Is this truly original? This book will introduce you to a creative framework that will answer your questions about creativity.
The purpose of this book is to:
- Redefine creativity so it is not intimidating or inaccessible for anyone
(PART ONE: TERMINOLOGY examines creativity and its three basic elements)
- Allow you to relate to creativity in a new and personal way
(PART TWO: TYPES explores the eight Creative Types and helps you figure out which one you are closest to)
- Provide a creative toolkit to bolster your weaknesses and reinforce your strengths whenever you need them
(PART THREE: TOOLS organizes a vast array of creative practices & exercises in a manageable, contextual way so you can find the ones that best complement your creative intent)
- CREATE MORE
Enable you to ACT on your ideas by breaking through your own barriers.
- CREATE BETTER
Encourage you to CONNECT with your true purpose and find a focus.
- CREATE DIFFERENT
Empower you to DEVIATE from the status quo, overcome the ordinary, and express yourself with authenticity.
I have heard it said (sometimes by myself) that we are living in the Age of Ideas. We are expecting a new generation to think differently, become part of the Creative Class, and get rich off of innovative use of technology.
The truth is, very few people are really good at this stuff. In reality, most companies and clients are pushing for greater efficiencies and lower costs to sustain their own growth. This leaves less time for ideas, never mind creation. With less time to create, how are we supposed to make great things?
And this feeling isn’t limited just to Creative Professionals. Artists are squeezed for more time as well. As the cost of living rises, more time is spent chasing money. Combine that with the infinite distractions of our always-on consumer culture and almost-ubiquitous internet, it’s a wonder anything gets made at all.
Rather than feeling relegated to the sidelines, waiting for things to happen to us, what if we could get a handle on our own creative potential? What if we could really understand what creativity means and stop feeling intimidated by it? What if we could identify the type of creative person we are and strengthen our abilities with customized practices and empowering exercises?
Nobody should feel intimidated by creativity. It is the differentiating factor. It differentiates us from all the other beings on this planet. We have this crazy ability to create things that didn’t exist before. Not just move things around, or reshape things, but to actually create something new and express ourselves in something that no one has ever seen or done before. Creativity is what makes us human. So saying things like, “I’m not a creative person”, which I hear all the time, is like saying, “I’m not alive.” It’s impossible.
This is not an instruction booklet. You are not going to assemble your next creative project like a piece of IKEA furniture. This is a creative framework. A creative framework is an idea, a skeleton, a foundation. It’s a frame, a blueprint, that you can use to build upon.
This creative framework provides a common structure, and terminology for thought and discussion. It creates context to relate the ideas to you personally. It offers a classification system for the practices and exercises related to creativity so you know which ones to add to your existing creative toolkit. This is so important to me because there are hundreds of books on creativity and thousands of exercises. Now you’ll know which ones are best suited to your type, and which ones are appropriate for the task at hand.
Whether you’re an artist, a creative professional, or someone who feels compelled to make things, this framework is designed to help you create more, better, different.
I want you to feel excited about creation. But the goal of this book is not to inspire you. That’s not enough. When you read an inspiring book, see an inspiring talk, or see an inspiring movie, you feel a certain way until the next one comes along, and then the feeling disappears. Inspiration is a type of creative infatuation: it is not rooted in anything powerful. I want to transform what your idea of creativity is. I want to enable you to personalize the idea of creativity and figure out what kind of creative person you are. And I want to empower you with tools that you can use to magnify your strengths and diminish your weaknesses.
In 2006, I made it my mission to demystify creativity and to encourage creativity in others. It began in the fast-paced, create-on-demand industry of digital advertising. I was a Creative Director, facing blank pages (and blank screens) that needed to be filled with new ideas every day. I had to brainstorm, problem-solve and innovate with all manners of creative teams and clients. One day I decided to dissect my own creative methodology (did I even have one?). This slowly evolved into a larger and larger creative framework as I examined my own creative habits and the processes of those around me. Having exposure to so many different creative personalities and approaches made it obvious that there wasn’t just one type of creative person. Ideas could come from anywhere. I began shaping a methodology and sketching out systems.
But the framework didn’t truly start to take shape until I realized that creativity wasn’t just about ideas. On a family vacation in Florida, I had an epiphany—genius was just a small part of creativity. Creativity wasn’t a mystical gift bestowed by the gods. It was about hard work and empathy, about having a curious mind and expressing yourself honestly. I began formulating new ideas and testing them on audiences at creative conferences around the world. The most common question I was asked was, “Do you have a book?”
For the last ten years, I have presented this ever-shifting material, in various nascent forms. Sometimes I presented to large crowds at conferences, published them on my blog and on SlideShare.com, or discussed them with friends and family. I honed my thesis. I refined my message. But it was never done, never quite good enough, creative enough. I wasn’t taking my own advice. I was still falling victim to the creative barriers I was trying to help others to overcome.
“Perfection is the enemy of done,” as Brené Brown reminds me. The time has come to share everything, warts and all. So here it is: my book—finally, imperfectly, and with joyful and nervous laughter.