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Creativity Zapped? Try This Madman Trick.

In: Writing,

So I have this theory about creativity.

First of all, it drinks bourbon, neat. And second of all, it’s hungry.  Hungry like the kind of hungry you get when you only had a dinky little grapefruit for breakfast. (Which doesn’t even count since you need the jaws of life to extract anything out of those citrus assholes.)

But instead of feeding our creativity, you know what we do? We starve it. We stare at the screen. Scratch our crotch. Concentrate harder. Take another stab. And wait for it to “come to us.”

But as it were, creativity is not a fan of anorexia.

So you know what happens? Your creativity gets weaker and weaker and weaker. And you end up feeling worse and worse and worse because REMEMBER THAT TIME WHEN YOU HAD IDEAS?

If you need to get creative, and the creativity isn’t flowing, it’s not because it’s taken a sabbatical – it’s because you’re not feeding it properly.

*whips out white linen table cloth*

In order to understand what feeding your creativity looks like, first you need to understand what creativity actually is.

So allow me to give you a very not-technical-at-all explanation: Creativity happens when two unrelated ideas violently clash up against one another—and then proceed to do the ugly, until the pretty is found.

Can that be a tweetable? I feel like that’s a tweetable, you guys.

When those two unrelated ideas come together, that’s when you get that ah-ha moment. And that’s why people praise creative thinkers with, “I never would have thought of that!” Because they wouldn’t have.

Creativity is birth, minus the placenta. (And any cute doctors.)

And so, what happens when you’re just staring at the screen, hoping it’ll “come to you?”

That’s right.


Because inside that brain of yours, the only thing swimming around up there is your existing knowledge, ideas & thoughts.

But our long lost friend creativity requires, by definition, a new, unrelated idea to cannonball its way in.

Those new, unrelated ideas are what creativity feeds on.

Which is why one of my best recommendations for getting more creative in one area? Is to go experiment with another.

I call it creative cross training. (Actually, lots of people call it creative cross training, because it’s a thing.)

Example: What do you assume I did first thing this morning? Perhaps you’re tempted to guess I bounded out of bed in the buff, sprinted to the coffee maker, and anxiously opened my Macbook to begin writing word number 1/700,000,000 for the day. (And you would be right some days; sleeping with clothes on is highly overrated.)

Today, however, I forced myself to resist the urge to do all of that, and you know what I did first thing this morning instead?

Paint. (As horrible an idea as that sounds. Ash + oil paint doesn’t exactly equal Mona Lisa.)

I put no less than 3 large garbage bags on the floor,  pulled out a canvas the size of me (I’ll have you know I am 5’3”), propped it up against the sliding glass doors (easel-in-training), and started slobbering all sorts of colors all over the place. I spent two hours painting this morning, from 6:30 to 8:30am, and then when I was done, went and got high off the turpentine. (I KID, I KID.) Actually when I was done, I took a nice shower, prepared for the day, and went to meet Jess inside our super secret House of Moxie Basecamp HEADQUARTERS. (Picture feather boas & stainless steel nunchucks.)

A few things happened as a result:

  1.  The creative brand name concepts I began brainstorming for a client? Came bounding out of my brain at the speed of light a Christmas toboggan.
  2. I immediately felt more creative, just by indulging in a “creative activity” other than my primary haunt with words.
  3. I felt less resentful. Sometimes, as business owners, we all know it’s way too easy to end up doing nothing BUT what we do for a living, and slowly but surely, your actual life starts to shrivel up until you’re nothing more than a dumpy ass in a pair of sweatpants.*

*Actual physical state.

Creativity is a living, breathing, dynamic entity, and it’ll starve if you only feed it one thing—just like you would starve if the only thing you ever ate was grapefruit.

And for the record? No one wants to be that guy.

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16 thoughts on "Creativity Zapped? Try This Madman Trick."

  1. This column has succeeded in giving me another rationalization for indulging in one of my favorite creative activities – Playing Madden Football against other people online.

    Video games might not seem to ask for much creativity but this one does because you have be creative in deploying the strategy that will stop your opponent from scoring and deploy the strategy that will score against the defense they put in front of your offense.

    Your painting ritual reminds me of how much joy I’ve recently gotten out of drawing. I’m pretty bad now, scrawling much like you slobber, and there’s no images in my head that I’m merely transferring to the page but instead I’ve had fun sloppily drawing out pictures of street art that I like. I wonder what happens to my creativity if I ritualize this activity?

    I think it’s an experiment worth trying.

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