Creativity and work: 7 ways to start being more creative at your work, today!
Unless you engage deeply in creative work, you can’t live fully!
This is a bold statement to make, but you also know that there is some truth in it. There are things you love to do without expecting anything in return. You just do it because you can be yourself, express yourself as you are!
When a thing is done for no purpose, it is pure. You can do it with all your heart. The joy is in doing the act itself, you don’t need any external rewards. That is when creativity comes out at its best. Whatever work you may be engaged in, make sure that there is something you do which allows your creativity to flow freely, without restrictions or judgments of others.
7 ways to start developing your creativity, today!
In the previous post, we saw 3 essential components of a creative work. They help us understand the fundamentals and the nature of creative work. This post will help you start off immediately in being more creative in your area of work.
Although they are 7, they are very much linked to each other and work best when put together. As we saw in previous post, things don’t work well in isolation. When two or more things come together, they become more than their individual identity. So make sure that you act on each of them.
1.) Master the basics first (boring, right?)
But there is a very common mistake that I see most people are making. Everyone wants to make a master-piece on their first day, without even learning how to make a proper stroke. I myself have been guilty of this crime many times. We all want to make great things but we lack the patience to train the basics tenaciously, over and over so that they become rooted in the bones.
The basics must become so deeply rooted that they become automatic. And you won’t believe, there is a great advantage of mastering the basics. I have felt it! When your intuitive patterns are very strong, you find solutions very quickly and easily. Your mind then is free to come up with uncommon solutions or new patterns
- As a chess player, I have trained basic tactics and themes so many times that I can ‘feel’ them (most of the times) whenever the position has a hidden secret. All good chess players have this ability.
- When I was learning music initially, I practiced basic scales so many times that now my hand plays them automatically while I can design new melodies.Eventhough I have not learned all scales, whatever I have practiced, allows me so much freedom to create new music within that. (Also at the end of this post there is a sample of my poor piano playing skills, check that out :P)
- Even now when I am teaching students at the architecture school, I realize how students struggle in their designs (we also did) because they don’t ‘know’ the basic solutions and patterns to most of the problems. I learned those basics by working like a machine for 4 years at an architect’s office.
Think about it, If you don’t know the existing solutions, how will you ever come up with new and unique ones?
“When you have developed hitting(and kicking) into something automatic, it will become instantaneous and your mind will be free to plan your battle as the fight progresses and new situations arise. You can only reach this point of development if you have been willing to do the necessary training. That training grind is the most valuable thing that boxing has to offer.” – Bruce Lee
These are such beautiful words by Bruce lee! Grind yourself in training. Saturate yourself with the existing knowledge and solutions that are already available in the world. Then only, your mind will be free to create what doesn’t exist!
2.) Make more iterations
There is always a fear in a creator that his work won’t come out as ‘perfect’ as he imagined. This fear brings a great resistance in the process. This fear doesn’t let the writer put his first draft on the paper. It doesn’t let the painter draw the first stroke on the canvas. It makes difficult to even start the process.
That is why, one should give up caring about results at once and just make as many iterations as he can. A good work, or a good design is a result of exploration of multiple possibilities. That is why an idea itself has not much value. You can generate 10 decent ideas in one minute. But what of it? You don’t know how exactly those ideas can be materialized. You don’t know what is the perfect form for that idea. You can never know unless you explore multiple possibilities of manifesting that idea.
Creativity is an iterative process. The best example here is of Thomas Edison and his 10000 attempts which didn’t work. He couldn’t possibly have invented the bulb unless he had gone through those 10000 attempts. So remember that a masterpiece is a result of thousands of attempts that didn’t work. Mater pieces just happen. No one can create them deliberately. They just happen. And more iterations that you make, more are the chances of making a masterpiece.
3.) Observations, analysis, and asking questions
As seen in the previous post, our mind is limited and it has a limited database. Therefore, the more you observe, bigger is the database and more the probability of making unique connections. Observation doesn’t mean only looking at things.
As sherlock holmes used to say, “As always, You see but you don’t observe”. We have a habit of looking at things passively. But observation requires an active chain of thought, reasoning, or imagination. Look at this observation by legendary architect Louis Kahn.
“And the Sun doesn`t somehow realize how wonderful it is until after a room is made. So somehow man`s creation, the making of a room is nothing short of the making of a miracle. To think that a man can claim a slice of the sun.”
What a wonderful way of putting a simple everyday phenomenon, that we don’t even notice! Did you ever think of natural light as a ‘slice of the sun’? These kinds of observations open up an architect’s imagination. While designing a space, now we think of natural light as a ‘slice of the sun’ and not just as more light or less light. Here are two more examples of ‘observation’ by Leonardo Da Vinci.
“Small rooms or dwellings help the mind to concentrate itself, large rooms are a source of distraction.”
“Why does the eye perceive things more clearly in dreams than with the imagination when one is awake?”
4.) Open up a new medium of thinking
I remember that before I joined the architecture college, my thinking process was very limited. I was a chess player, so I could think logically and analyze things well. But my imagination wasn’t much developed. I didn’t ask many questions. Learning design in architecture school opened up a new way of thinking.
Now my thoughts work in patterns of organizing which we use in architecture. I can now think in terms of a composition of elements, order, structure and space, part and a whole…and many various ways of looking at the world.
When I started reading about spirituality and especially about zen buddhism, my view expanded even more. I started asking fundamental questions such as ‘what is life?’ or ‘who am I?’, the questions which most of us know to be important and yet avoid facing.
Still, when I started learning music at the age of 20, it was yet another medium of thought. Now I can bring the aspects of creating music into the way I see the world. I sense rhythm and a need to break it when it gets monotonous. I also start thinking about the importance of having silence between the notes and their perfect harmony.
And finally, when I made my first blog and wrote two books, language became yet another way of expression. Writing for me is the exercise of how sharply, clearly, and effectively I can communicate my ideas with others. It is an exercise of directing a reader’s mind towards a certain state of clarity.
5.) Have an environment of play
Unless there is play, there is no creativity. You know that routine bores you and you need to break away from it from time to time. As humans, we like systems because they help us organize life. But too much order and we can’t breathe. While complete chaos is hard for most to accept and to live with, complete order is also equally intolerable.
Therefore there must be a play within the order or order within the play. Play should be a central part of life. If the work you do is too boring, either find ways of creating play within that or find another work that offers you some more play.
Play can only happen when that act of play is the reward in itself. The moment you think of external rewards for your work, you are out of play. That thought of a reward or a result will become a burden. That is why when goals are emphasized too much, they lead to stress.
If your goals are giving you too much burden, maybe just drop them and think of your work simply as a play. Think of doing it only for the joy it brings, just like the child does. Not only you will enjoy it more, but you will be more creative at it!
6.) Do more. Think less
Thinking is important, as long as it gives you clarity for your next step. Then you must do. Once you have decided on taking some action, the best way forward is to do it and test it out. If you think after making a decision, it is counter-productive in two ways.
- Firstly, thoughts after making decisions create a conflict in your mind and mess up the clarity and motivation that you created in the first place.
- Secondly, you delay and procrastinate the action which you will have to do sooner or later anyway.
This seems common sense, but trace your past important actions and you will notice that you gave a lot more thought to a task than needed. Also, when you start doing, your knowledge associated with those actions start coming back faster. For example, take the difference between when I am thinking about this blog post vs. when I actually start writing this blog post. My thinking is important to generate ideas and a framework for this post. But that’s it. I can’t generate more ideas after that just by thinking.
It is when I actually start writing, my hands work on it. My whole mind and body are concentrated on the work. That brings back all the knowledge related to ‘creativity’ that I had gathered years back. Writing triggers the relevant examples, experiences, stories, or quotes that I might use to make this post better.
Doing things help you bring to the surface the ideas that are hidden deep within you. Therefore don’t think, just do it! This takes us to the last point
7.) Get into the state of flow more often
To become more creative, you need to go really deep to dig into the knowledge that you already have. It means that you need to concentrate really deeply on your task. You have to become one with your work whenever you do it.
This deep oneness with your work is achieved in a state of flow. It is a state of deep concentration in an activity where time, surroundings, and even ‘self’ is forgotten. To know more about flow, check out this blog post on flow from my previous blog:
I hope that this post has given you a way forward to start becoming more creative right away. Creativity is an ever-growing ability. It only stops if you stop learning. If you keep your mind open and active, you will tend to become a lot more creative in the long run. Keep your mind passive and comfortable, you will destroy whatever creativity you have. So keep it sharp, keep doing!
In the end I would say that creativity is more about process than a product. Check out this video of my poor piano playing skills…Playing ‘Hotel California’ by Eagles. But I have added my own music to it!
I have recently started making such videos but I remember a time when I struggled to get my two hands together to play in harmony. I remember when I started I knew nothing about music at all. I kept practicing little by little and got here. It’s not bad for an architect, a chess player and an author of two books who started learning music in whatever little time he got… If I keep on, it would get much better 😛
Don't forget to keep learning!
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