Staying Creative

When I spend a day or a week away from writing or editing photos or generally being creative, I tend to blame it on a heavy workload at my job. This is the case on some days when I work 10 hours to finsh a project. However, in most cases I lack creativity because I don't produce the right environment at home to do so.

It is easy to switch on a TV show and "zone out" for a bit. My day-job is intellectually taxing and mindlessly watching Mr. Bean can be just the thing I want. But watching TV is also easy and I tend to get anchored to the screen.

Auston Kleon gives ten tips in this talk. I have read these in his blog — one of my favorites — from time to time but it is nice to see these tips stacked together. Two tips resonated with me so much that I wrote them on large index cards with a fat sharpie and glued them to the wall above my computer.

8. When in doubt, tidy up
9. The demons hate fresh air
— Austin Kleon

I am normally a tidy person, and I like going outside. I like these quotes because I think these would work best to get me out of a rut and nudge the anchors off. It is so easy to just watch TV or browse the internet, so easy to just spin the wheel without actually going anywhere.

My Path to Creativity

No one knows where creativity comes from. In this world of outsource everything, the one thing that can set us apart is a creative idea.

I have been subjecting myself to learning something new every few years. Woodworking, particularly hand-tool woodworking has my attention lately. No machines. It is quite challenging. There are motor skills, hand-eye coordinations, etc. that I have to learn from scratch. It is keeping me in the top left corner of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's challenge v/s skill chart.

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

I started at apathy and worry before I picked up my first tool. From then on, I have stayed perpetually in the anxiety zone. This probably describes why I am having a challenging time to start woodworking after my break.

A challenging new hobby is uncomfortable. The thought of it is exciting but the practice is hard:
I have to hold the handplane with my calloused hands
I must plane with the right pressure forward and aft of the plane
I have to do it while reading the grain correctly
I have to know when to stop
I have to hold the chisel perfectly perpendicular while hitting the mallet square on the butt
I can not turn to any machine to do this for me.

It is this adversity that gives rise to creativity. Moreover, I get a handmade coffee table out of it.

A challenging education program will have similar effects that a challenging hobby has but I often fear that an education program digs me deeper into the box that I am trying to think outside of. This is specific to my line of work where more experience comes from doing rather than reading.

There is nothing prescribed that helps grow our creativity once a university degree is acquired and once we get comfortable in our careers. Continued education and MBA degrees add more tools to the toolbox, but I doubt they make us more creative.

Creativity is the use of tools, not just acquiring a larger toolbox.