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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Goals, Structure, and the Pursuit of Creativity

When my friends ask me how my book is progressing I start to feel guilty. Because it isn't progressing.

I love the research, the outlining, the rearranging of sections, and the designing of graphics. But now, faced with editing to fit the publisher's formats and guidelines, it has turned in to an annoying chore on my to-do list.

And that's the problem. As soon as I added "edit book" to my to-do list it became something that intrudes on my free time. Something that has to be scheduled.

Now society today has become over-scheduled, in my opinion. At work we have goals and tasks. At home we have schedules, as in, must get my son/daughter to band/soccer practice, followed by dinner, homework, laundry, etc. ad infinitum. The trouble is, to be creative, you have to have down time while the idea pot bubbles in our subconcious. A big part of creativity is dreaming, thinking, staring at cloud formations and otherwise doing nothing, and it's this so-called "doing nothing" that is severely frowned upon by whatever powers that be govern our lives.

As with all things, everything in moderation. Don't confuse day-dreaming with procrastination. If you're having trouble reaching a goal maybe it's something that you think you want, but you don't really have the burning desire to take it to the next level.

As much fun as putting together the book was, do I really want to see it published? Or maybe I just enjoyed the creative exercise of producing a book?

Time will tell. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Challenge: Three Word Days

In the age of Twitter we are asked to keep messages down to 140 characters or less. Web pages are best if they keep information to less than one page. When you're looking for a job or pitching a project you're asked to perfect an "elevator speech" (a ten word summary of your skills or project).

Through the magic of the Internet, I'm able to listen to a radio program out of England. The Radio 2 program host has listeners call in with their "Three Word Tuesdays." In three words only they describe their day.

So we have gems such as "Teenage Daughter Grumpy," "Best Week Ever!," "Housework Still Waiting," and "Crackling Log Fire."

What three word phrase describes your day? Leave them in the comments section.

In my case it is "Blog Post Done."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Restricted Creativity

To create something, you need to have restrictions.

That sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it. I give you a piece a paper and some colored pencils and I say "draw something." Your first thought is "anything?" and I say yes. Then your mind starts to go through possibilities and you have so many ideas you don't know what to do. Finally, you draw a car, hand the paper back to me... and I tell you that's not what I wanted.

That's happened to me as a graphic designer. The client wants a logo and wants me to come up with "something." I look at what they have done before, go over their printed and online marketing pieces, and then come up with a few possibilities. (There's a lot more to the process, but I'm simplifying here!) If the client isn't enthusiastic, I ask them what parts of the design they like and what they don't like. Somehow, and I'm simplifying again, we eventually come up with a workable solution. The best clients have some restrictions, such as a particular color palette or a style they like. They've also collected samples of what they like and are able to articulate what they want. When this happens, the design process is way shorter!

Just as you don't tell an engineer to go out and "make a car," you need to have some parameters for your ideas. If you tell your engineer to make the car big enough to haul kids and groceries, but have good gas mileage and a set of safety features, the results are more likely to be in line with what you want.

So the next time you have an idea you want to develop, first decide what you DON'T want.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What is MicroCreativity?

Microcreativity is a collection of strategies and methods that are practiced at a personal level to improve individual creativity and innovation.

It doesn’t exclude any group innovation exercises, in fact, you may be a better group participant if you know yourself how creativity works.

It means that you are proactive and take personal responsibility for your own creativity instead of sitting around waiting for the “Big Idea” to drop in your lap.

Practicing microcreativity also expands your repertoire of life skills, whether that’s in your personal life or career. You are more valuable as an employee if you can come up with a killer marketing plan for your company’s latest product. And if you want to go into business, entrepreneurship demands good ideas and the problem-solving skills you learn in the creative process.

People in creative professions, for example writers and designers, by necessity have picked up methods of generating ideas. When you have an article due in five days, you’d better know how to proceed.

And as with any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get.