Losing Your Creativity

Losing Your Creativity

You'll lose your creativity when you think that you're the source of it.

I went to a place today (in fact I go there every day) where you get farm grown beans, spinach, roasted chicken and avocado slices all for $3. It's really a winner. Today I was particularly excited about it because I was introducing this spot to a friend for the first time. When the meal came he gaped in joy. He also took a picture and posted it on Facebook with the tagline "Great Value in Zim." 56 people liked the picture in 1 day. People talk about good value.

This time however, there was a rock in my food. I bit down and it chipped my tooth instantly. It didn't hurt but it felt like a canyon in my tooth.

I got in my car and called my wife. I wasn't sure exactly what this chip meant. Would I have to have surgery? Would she love me anymore? Would the dentist tell me I was dumb for allowing a rock into my mouth?

I got to my next meeting—my day was altered and so was my outlook. Tomorrow I could bite on a big rock and loose three of my teeth. A random meteorite might blast through our hemisphere and crush the house I'm renovating. I no longer have nothing to do with my tongue when other people are speaking, I keep feeling my tooth, making sure that the chip is still there.

Even though it's ever so slight, I think differently. Things can change. I'm more creative because there was a shift in my scheduled, well-ironed day. It gives me a little more insight into someone who could never afford a dentist in their lives. I now care about the person suffering with a chapped lipped syndrome. I'm more creative when I'm writing a script for a new company that's trying to solve education problems in this part of the world.

The chip gave me a nudge of inspiration. A nudge that led me to think differently.

1. Creative Ideas are mined by taking a second look at the grand and the gross around you. No one is their own source of creativity. It comes from all around us. It comes from the dumb guys at the coffee shop yapping loudly on his phone. It comes from the Norwegian bagel lovers in that corner. It comes from chomping a rock for lunch. It comes from watching a bloke chuck a plastic sack out of a commuter bus (kombi).

2. Immense pressure churns out high degrees of creativity. There's nothing like shifting the direction of your stress towards things that matter. When we were tasked with raising our first half a mill, it caused us to pitch/think/act and smile differently. Stress can be looked at as a bad thing—bad things cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure causes you to dream about doing nothing except sit in a hammock with a large glass of pineapple juice while the sun kisses your cheeks. Kelly McGonigal, who’s studied stress psychology for 10+ years, says that stress is either great for you or terrible for you it just depends on how you choose to think about it [TED video]. Stressed? Great!

3. Deadlines (short or long) stimulate your creative reflexes. Our production company normally needs a good couple of months to produce a short film, documentary or series of ads. In our world though, we get a few last minute jobs (1 week deadlines). It amazes me how creative and effective the team can get as the deadline time closes in on us. It's almost as though everyone switches on the part of their brains that were in limbo on longer term jobs. It's a good thing, and our quality remains the same (although after rushed jobs there's always tweaks you want to make in hindsight).

I hope I chomp a rock in my lunch every day—no, that’s not the point. The point is that you’re not the source of your creativity. Look around you and choose to get inspired. Inspiration is often a choice.

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Startup Pitch Night (Harare) is this Thursday! If you haven't already, RSVP online here so you have a reserved seat. We've got international attention, a surprise presenter, and a lot of hot coffee and tea. Join us Thursday evening.

(photo via sbaranski)