5 Ways to be *Less* Creative Every Day
My fingers were bricks and my brain was lead. Every sentence had become an insurmountable challenge.
My creativity was gone.
Or so I thought…
Ideas do not come to you, you come to them.
There is this underlying belief, probably because the creative process is so ill-defined, that the Muse will give to you some days and remain silent on others.
Instead, when you run out of ideas, come up with more ideas.
If you are tired, sleep — then wake and come up with more ideas.
If you are hungry, eat — then swallow and come up with more ideas.
If you are bored, play — then sit down and come up with more ideas.
But let’s pretend you are looking to be less creative. You want to go in circles. You want to go nowhere. Here are 5 ways to do that:
1. BE JEALOUS
The irony of a creative lifestyle is this:
First, you must copy others in order to learn.
Then, you must ignore others in order to develop.
Great art is about creation, not replication. When you are jealous of others, you are trying to replicate their lives, their circumstances, their success.
A life of maximum creativity is one absent of envy.
2. EDIT AS YOU GO
Imagine you are working on a bridge. As you go to pour the concrete, a person next to you says:
“Ooooh, are you sure that’s really supposed to go there?”
Now unsure, you go to check the blueprint. It looks like the concrete is supposed to go there. All your experience and expertise tells you — this is the place for concrete.
You return to the spot and there is your friend:
“Are you sure you weren’t looking at the blueprint upside down?”
“Maybe you aren’t as smart as you think you are.”
“Do you know what? Let’s just not build this bridge at all. Someone else could do it better.”
These are exactly the conversations creative people have with themselves all the time.
In construction, you have a blueprint. In art, you have a half-baked thought and a cup of coffee — hardly bulletproof equipment. Worse, because we deal in such a subjective field, the definition of “good” is so foggy enough we worry we will never hit it.
So how do you know if what you are doing is “right?”
At least, not until you do it wrong first.
And tell your stupid inner editor to shut up.
3. NEVER READ OR LEARN ANYTHING NEW
John Sylvan is the man who invented the Keurig. In development, he gave himself caffeine poisoning by drinking 40 or so cups of coffee each day.
Alexander Hamilton may or may not have invited his best friend into a threesome on his wedding night.
Jackie Kennedy once said of her political affiliations before she met JFK:
“I think you have to be a Republican before you can appreciate being a Democrat”
None of these bits of knowledge have anything to do with what I consider to be my “career.” I have absolutely no idea if they will ever come in handy, save for dropping them in random posts like this.
I learn them anyway because everything is an analogy.
All of what you learn must be based on what we already know. Music is painting is dancing is art is math is science.
When you close yourself off to new ideas, you are immediately less creative.
4. CARE ABOUT YOUR PAST SUCCESSES
In 2009, Lin Manuel Miranda got a call from Barack Obama.
Obama was hosting a dinner at the White House invited several musicians to perform. Miranda, who was just coming off an award-winning musical (In The Heights) was an obvious choice.
Said Obama: “Will you come do a song for everyone?”
A businessman would say “of course,” and then filter through his past successes, choose the one deemed most popular by a focus group, and then perform that number in front of the most powerful people in the world.
Luckily for us, Lin Manuel is not a businessman. He is an artist.
With the president of the freaking United States on the other line, Miranda said:
“If it’s alright with you, I’d like to perform a rap about Alexander Hamilton.”
WHAT?! Who does that? Who would risk failure on a silly idea?
Artists would. And they do. Every single day.
The follow up to that rap, of course, became Hamilton, one of the few musicals in the last 50 years to break off Broadway and into pop culture.
Creative people create, no matter how successful they have or haven’t been in the past.
5. ALLOW OTHER PEOPLE TO DETERMINE WHAT YOU CARE ABOUT
“You have to look into SEO, man. That’s the only way to win.”
There is an “only way to win,” but it isn’t SEO. It’s this:
- Find out what you care about most.
- Do that as often as possible.
The only people who have build sustainable success as creative people are those who are unafraid to follow their own curious, not the expectations of other people.
Maestro Rodrigo (my favorite character from Mozart in the Jungle) says this perfectly:
“An artist must follow her heart. Even if she is completely wrong.”
That’s pretty good advice.
Become an Idea Champion
When I found myself unable to write, I recovered by doing one simple thing:
I started. I came up with ideas and wrote about them.
Then I began doing that every single day.
Make no mistake, every success I’ve received in my life (including on this platform) is because of my ideas.
Finally, someone convinced me to get a process for my idea creation into a book, which I’m giving away. It’s called The Ultimate Guide to Infinite Ideas.