The world has changed. Creativity is no longer something that’s expected from only artists, designers and other similar professionals.
No matter what the nature of your work, a healthy dose of creativity is now essential to solve problems and advance in your life, business and career.
But the process of creating something from nothing is never easy. Especially in a world where we are taught and conditioned to just mimic what other people have done and get by. It worked for them, so why not just do the same!
We are now so accustomed to making things work this way that we have started looking for certainty and comfort in everything we do. We don’t want to make a mess. And that attitude is poisonous for creativity.
Any creative process is bound by an unusual and contrasting set of rules. Disregard these rules and you’ll end up wasting enormous effort without getting anywhere. It’s like you’re pressing the gas pedal of a car when you haven’t started the engine yet.
It’s the reason many people give up, thinking that may be they are not the creative types, when the real problem lies in the beliefs and expectations they have about the creative process.
In everything you do, you follow a fixed set and sequence of steps, a flowchart, and you get the desired outcome. But you can’t expect the same approach to work when trying to tackle a creative project.
When you’re unaware of the natural laws of creativity, you have a set of misconceptions guiding you about the process. You are trying to impose normal, routine, everyday standards to something that doesn’t adhere to norms.
Rule 1: At First, You Must Do Badly
Trying to get it right and perfect the first time is the best way to get blocked. The bad comes before good, which comes before great. No one can do it in the first go.
Writers, for example, write and rewrite many drafts to get their stories and books right. Hemingway, once said, “the first draft is always shit.”
Now if Hemingway is saying that his first drafts were bad, why in the hell do you expect more? Why have unrealistic expectations from the process!
In fact, bad is good. Lower your expectations, and you’ll notice that you’ve started doing better. By taking the pressure off of yourself, you’ll allow your creativity to come out because now it has space to breathe.
Creative people have a lot more ideas because they’re not afraid of bad ideas. Good or bad, they let everything come out.
I know it’s not easy to not care about something you’re invested in so much, but the less you care about creating right, the better you create. Allowing the bad to come out is the best way to get good.
So stop holding yourself back. Practice letting go of your tension and relaxing until you no longer have the strength to remain uptight. Shut down your inner critic and have the courage to do badly. There’s no other way.
Rule 2: You Must Keep Trying
Just reading a book or taking a course on composing music, writing a novel or being more creative isn’t going to make you better at it. You have to try out everything you learn and check if you really understand it. And then try some more. Put the principles to test.
For instance, I am writer, and I love books on writing. I have truck-load of them. And I have deeply read and studied every one of them, and reread to identify things that I may have missed the first time. All the while taking notes of new techniques I learn and insights I gain.
I try to digest the material as deeply in my mind because I want it to be easily accessible when I sit down to write. I want it to be a part of my so I can try it out. And I keep trying until I have mastered that technique or lesson.
The best way to keep trying and learning is to set a daily quota of 5-6 hours and a certain output. If you are writer, decide on a particular number of words that you have to write. Then stick to it everyday.
Without a specific goal, it’s hard to sit down daily at the writing desk, and produce something instead of letting your mind carried away.
Rule 3: It’s Okay To Make A Mess
Creating is never a neat and tidy process, and certainly not predictable. Chaos and mistakes are inevitable. Again and again, you lose and find your way.
You make a mess and clean it up, as many times as required to get where you want to arrive. No matter what problem you’re stuck with. No matter if you’re confused, doubtful or just plain blank. It’s okay.
Creation is a bed of doubts and mistakes – mistakes which lead to discoveries. It’ll never be any good when done with a sword of anxiety hanging over your head. A tense mind blocks the flow of creativity.
So accept that mess will happen and let it happen. Mistakes and uncertainties open the door to new possibilities.
Think about how the light bulb, Penicillin and Slinky came to be. The were the outcome of mistakes.
Mistakes are not a reflection of you or your talent. They are the organic part of the process.
You’re not the first creator to have these problems. So part ways with blame or guilt. Work with mistakes, and not against them. Creation will happen a lot faster than otherwise.
And the same applies to your daily quota as well. If you weren’t able to create for a day or two, there is no need to feel shame or guilt.
A bad day can easily become a string of bad days if you don’t let it go. Forgive yourself and start over.
Rule 4: All Can Be Fixed
Creating something bad at first isn’t exactly fun (though it can very well be if you can learn to chill about it). But the good news about the process of creating is that every bad can be made good, and every error can be fixed.
First get it out. Then get it right. Don’t try to get it out right in the very first go. Reworking is the thing that makes things awesome. Creating is more of tweaking and improving than just creating.
Take writing for example. If you spend too much time worrying and tweaking, you’ll never be able to finish the first draft, and the 2nd and so on.
Whatever changes you want to make in the first draft, wait till you finish and start working on the 2nd draft, and do the same with 2nd draft, and then the 3rd and so on.
What’s not working can work, because you can subtract, add, adjust and modify until your creation comes alive. There’s always a way, and a calm, unhurried approach will get you there much faster.
Rule 5: Progress Isn’t Linear
If you did great yesterday, that doesn’t guarantee that you will do the same today, or even tomorrow.
In whatever you do, there will be days when creation will happen perfectly. And even with years of experience and practice, there will be days when it won’t.
Like everything else in life, you can’t take your gifts for granted. That’s why it’s so important to keep creating and practicing consistently.
It’s not a bad day that matters, but your ability to not let one bad day ruin the next ones. How you cope with the slumps is what makes or breaks the creation process.
So start again the next day knowing that you’ll get good again. You’ll not only bounce back to where you were, but go beyond and take your talent to the next level.
One day you’ll dip down again, and then rise back as usual. And again and again. The good days make up for the bad days, and keep the game worthwhile.
Rule 6: Don’t Give Up
Of all the advice writers, painters, musicians, designers and inventors give out, there is only one piece that is common: don’t quit.
Once creation becomes a habit, you’ll be surprised at how much you’re learning and how productive you have become.
If you think you need creative inspiration to keep going, consider the words of Peter DeVries, “I only write when I’m inspired, and I make sure I’m inspired every morning at 9 a.m.”
Not giving up is important. A professional is just an amateur who didn’t give up. You need to keep practicing until it’s ingrained in you. You do it without thinking.
Keep trying irrespective of how frustrating or tiresome it feels. If you’re a writer for instance, keep doing your daily writing. Like the rest of your life, creativity comes with both ups and downs.