If you need to be creative, avoid doing these 7 deadly sins
Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.”
While being creative can certainly be fun, it can also be hard to find those new connections sometimes.
Whether you’re a fellow graphic designer, a student, an engineer or a manager, I’m sure you have run into the problem of trying to solve a problem creatively. And if you’re like most people, you’ve probably fallen into a creativity rut at least once in your life.
Creativity is just connecting things. Click To Tweet
Here are seven sure-fire ways to stay in your creative rut:
1. Trying too hard to think outside of the box
You heard me right. It’s best not to try and think outside of the box. When someone tells you to just “think outside the box,” the exact opposite happens. Now you can’t stop thinking inside the box!
The best way to combat this is to reframe the problem or question. Instead of trying to think different, think about different things.
For example, suppose you were tasked with helping JJ Abrams create new spaceships for Star Wars (yeah, right).
You might start thinking about current aircraft, like airplanes and helicopters, and what parts they have—wings, engines, etc. But then you just end up imagining the usual: spaceships that look like, well, spaceships.
Instead, it’d be more helpful to think about what is required for flight: propulsion of some kind, or a cockpit for the pilot. This might start you thinking more about the way these specific systems could work, which might be influenced by, say, sea creatures (imagine, for example, the way an octopus propels itself through water). Doing this is what truly gets you outside of that darn box.
Instead of trying to think different, think about different things. Click To Tweet
2. Hyperfocusing on success or failure
While being evaluated is good for menial tasks, like stocking shelves, it is a death sentence for creativity. Why? Because positive emotions broaden thought and ideas, while negative emotions narrow focus. And like it or not, knowing you’re being watched or judged increases feelings of anxiety, which is a negative emotion.
When you’re concerned about being judged or failing, you are no longer having fun, but striving. And the key to creativity is to play, to have fun.
For example, experimenters had two groups of people working on projects. One group was told that their projects would be judged on their creativity; the other group was told nothing.
The group that was told nothing, by far, had the more interesting, innovative projects. They were just playing around and exploring, and weren’t concerned about being evaluated.
True creativity is severely stifled when the main goal becomes doing well or avoiding failure.
3. Burning the midnight oil
The old adage is true: sleeping on a problem usually helps to resolve it. Usually this happens by lucid dreaming—the ability that some people have to intentionally dream about a solution.
For example, Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, was having trouble getting the needle and thread to work. He then had a dream about spears with holes in their tips, and woke up with this revelation. Sewing machines thus have a “backwards” hole in the needle, which makes them functional.
Although many people are not able to remember their dreams, most can still subconsciously work things out in their sleep. It is a well-known phenomenon that students routinely perform better on tests after they take a nap following a studying session.
So at the very least, retiring at the end of the night helps you to feel refreshed in the morning, especially when faced with a difficult task.
4. Avoiding your competitive nature
A little bit of friendly competition is a great motivator.
It’s helpful to have a peer in the same industry as you that you respect and admire, who’s just a little bit better than you. This helps you to stay sharp and reach high.
But it’s important to choose a realistic competitor; if you feel vastly inferior, it can have the opposite effect.
5. Cutting out all distractions
Now, this is not an excuse to spend all day on Facebook, but distraction is vital to creativity.
Whenever you’re concentrating too hard on something, it can often have the opposite effect; the solution escapes you. Ironically, most of us have experienced a time when we weren’t thinking about something, and then it suddenly came to us.
The best way to go about this is to distract yourself with something completely unrelated to the task at hand; play a game, go for a walk, get away, just do something other than what you’re doing.
6. Avoiding boredom like the plague
In our over-connected, over-stimulated culture, we never have a chance to be bored anymore. This can be a negative thing, especially when seeking a creative epiphany.
You see, when we’re bored, our mind is free to wander and explore new ways of thinking about things. It starts to subconsciously connect the dots.
When we’re bored, our mind is free to explore new ways of thinking about things Click To Tweet
Constantly striving to be productive, often hailed as such a great thing, can be extremely mentally and emotionally exhausting. So the next time you’re tempted to pull out your iPhone in the waiting room, resist, and let your mind drift. You might be surprised what it comes up with.
7. Doing the same ole’ same ole’
We all have our habits and schedules and way of doing things, which is fine.
But when you’re trying to be creative, it might be worth doing some of those tasks differently.
For example, take a different route to work. Put dishes away in the opposite order. Wear an outfit you’ve never worn before.
This forces your brain to create new neural pathways, effectively rewiring itself. This is turn helps your mind to find and recognize new connections, which is, as Steve Jobs said, all that creativity really is anyway. Learn how to arm yourself with five methods that actually increase your creativity.
What would you add?
What else do you think kills creativity? Have any of these suggestions backfired on you? Do you agree or disagree that everyone has the ability to be creative?