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    Entries in creativity (15)


    How to deal with creative sads, dips and roller coasters

    Creators and makers the world over (and history past) know there are times when the muse shows up and times when it’s in hiding.

    In between times, you get the opportunity to beat yourself up about:

    • how you’re not creative;
    • are only creative after alcohol or cupcakes;
    • sometimes think you might be creative but other people have already thought/done/published/shipped made a gazillion dollars doing what you thought might have been original;
    • can’t keep the creative thing going every day; and
    • feel like giving up; who would notice anyway.


    These thoughts are all part of the creative dip; that roller coaster of thinking about your wonderfully human capability of ingenuity, of making sh*t up, of being brilliant and insightful and clever.

    Even if you think your creativity comes as often as a leap year, look out because even if it's a leap year or not, creativity IS there. 

    When the dip hits, reach for this list of action-based solutions to wind you up-up-up and back on the rails to the heights of the brilliance you know is yours.


    Know it - know that it WILL come; it’s not a case of if, but when. The creative dip will come. When you know that, you’ll notice it when it does. It won’t shock you into taking a day under the covers … alone; with ice cream or choc-coated marshmallows. 


    Name it - when it comes, name it. Call out to it. “Hey you, you dippity dip of creative process. I know you, you’re not gonna get me! Ha! You’re just here to make me… no way, I’m not even gonna say it. Screw you! I’ve got stuff to do!”


    Shift focus - when it aches on the downward slope, go to another thing you’ve got bubbling on the back burner. You know that ‘thing’, that other project, idea or wonderment you’ve had before? Get that out for a moment and spend a little time with that. This stage of being in the dip will pass. 


    Distraction with another action – There is no sense falling into the pit of wallow and staying there; start immediately on another piece of this project. Persist despite the dip. 


    Not-negotiable - Do not debate or argue or negotiate with the dip. As Richard Carlson says in his brilliant book ‘Stop thinking start living’. If you think, debate, negotiate or ruminate, you’re going to be done-for down there in the depths. Carry on. Simply carry on. (PS: By the way, thinking about why you’re in the pit is not carrying on.)


    Thank it and keep moving - Acknowledge the pit and that it’s simply your ego looking out for you, trying to protect you from the scary stuff of shipping and publishing and creating. Seth Godin knows it; Steven Pressfield knows it; Austin Kleon knows it; Elizabeth Gilbert knows it; Nancy Duarte knows it. You too are currently knowing it. Doing creative thinking and work is tricky, challenging and hard but you’ve got this. You have. 


    See the light of dawn – Not suggesting you do an all-nighter, rather as you’re on the up slope, you’ll think ‘Hey, hang on a minute, this could be… maybe it’s a bit good after all.’ This is the light of awesome firing and flaring up again. Acknowledge that. Say ‘I’m coming up for sunlight again here people’. 


    Step on the gas – With some light coming your way, speed up, go safely but at breakneck speed. You’re up and out of the pit, pick up some momentum and carry on. Double time. With a renewed view from another peak, you have a wonderful capability to go further, faster and fairer than before. So go go go and do do do.

    We don’t need to deny or delete the roller coaster dip of the creative process; we need to acknowledge it. The creative sads and the dip of doubt hits us all at some time through the course of a project or piece of work. Yes, sometimes it feels more frequent or that rollercoaster is a nauseating ride we paid for…but it does pass.

    When you get to the top of the next roller coaster hill, enjoy that expansive view. You’re just one scream away from the next pit. But by then you’ll be an expert hand at this creative dip thing. You’ll get your rhythm, flow and creative mojo on and you’ll go, onward and upward, screaming with the wind in your hair: ‘Aaaarrrggghhhh! I’m aliiiiivvvveeeee!’


    Shitty cliched photos* you've got to stop using

    You know you're doing it - and if you're not, you know someone who is - and that is ... saving copyrighted Google images or Stock photos and dropping them into presentations and blog posts and it's making your readers and audiences go 'urgh'. 

    Ridiculous photos have got to go. They are not helping your communication. They're cliched and tired and lazy and tacky. They're not helping you 'cut through' or get 'buy in' or 'build engagement' or 'be memorable'. 

    Here they are; in their cliched glory: 

    1. Any photo containing both a megaphone AND a person in work clothing using said megaphone. 

    Megaphones are used in emergencies and for rowers. Unless you're in danger or on a river rowing your guts out, do not use.  The megaphone is a tragic and tired metaphor for 'communication skills'. Saying the same thing l-o-u-d-e-r  does not mean communication has taken place. Turn off megaphone and put it away. Immediately. Or I will shout at you... via a megaphone!


    2. Fish bowl things. 

    Fish are fish. People are people. Stop making people out to be fishes. And is that jumping fish photo to show 'innovation' or 'breaking away from the crowd'? No. Not working. It's really saying 'your water is dirty, I'm outta here'. See that is not innovative. Plus it is used SO much, overused, it is not innovative. It is not unique. It's as common as carp. 


    3. Pretty Diversity

    The photo of that happy and diverse team... stop trying so hard; they’re too pretty by the way.  And this might be what we look like at the start of the day when we’re all fresh and minty breathed and neatly styled in the hair department. But show that same team at the end of the day why don't you! We'll be looking (and smelling) fluorescent-bulb-grey-office-cubicle-instant-coffee-dirty. Yeah, show a real team. A team of humans. And a dog too. If you have a workplace dog, show the dog. 


     4. Work Clothes Don't Jump...

    People in tight and uncomfortable work clothes do not jump (especially in affordable work clothes that don't have much of a tolerance in the seams these days. You have pasta for lunch and everything is at maximum s-t-r-e-t-c-h). And based on how low employee engagement scores are across the globe, you’re gonna have to try way harder to create environments and opportunities where staff even want to lift just ONE FOOT off the ground, let alone leap across a valley or off a cliff or agree to being superimposed across a digital Matrix-looking spreadsheet with a briefcase in their hands. Who does briefcase anymore? Chairman of Board? I can haz satchel or courier bag? 


    5. Ladder climbing in a suit

    This is not cool or sophisticated. It's also related to the 'jumper'. See #4. Not a suit again?! Come on.. lots of workplaces they just don’t wear SUITS anymore. Don't you know that global sales of suits are plummeting (down the rungs of a corporate ladder perhaps?). Clothing is relaxing now. People are relaxing. And ladders? Nice metaphor, but use it to represent progress, communication, engagement, stepping up and lifting, rather than the cliched ‘climbing the corporate ladder’ BS. It's all about collaboration now. At least have an image of someone else trying to climb up the ladder and being kicked off and slapped about by the awesome millennial up and comer. That's "collaboration", that's what's REALLY happening isn't it? Isn't it?


    6. On starting lines and athletics tracks... in work clothes 

    It's not a race people! Plus, what are you thinking; you can't run in those shoes! It's an OHS risk! What would Nike have to say about that? What would Usain Bolt say about your preparation and equipment? Get back to work and stop the 'race' metaphor thing. Anyway, it's a marathon, not a sprint, and we all know that marathoners start their races standing up looking all cool and "I've got this", knowing their running shorts will be covered in body salt 'n sweat in about 3 hours time and they'll have the worst case of... well they'll just be all sweaty and achey, but they will have done the marathon. Applause to the marathoners. But never in work clothes. 


    7. Non-humans doing things 

    Non-humans? What I mean is little symbols of people. Urgh, look up 'leadership' on Google and the images are cold clip art sh*t that don't even feature humans. Rather they are silver robots and replicants. Maybe THAT is the future of leadership.  

    And what's with that image where the leader is STANDING on their team or climbing over them like an outback Australian sheep dog scrambling over a flock of sheep. Woof! Stop it! Be a human centred leader and communicator and put some real photos and hand made images of humans. Don’t make us out to be silver ball-headed zombies. Stop it!


    8. Jigsaw piece anythings

    Yeah, this metaphor is done. Done. Jigsaw puzzles are beautiful pieces of art and stunning activities for mindfulness. I love jigsaws. But. NOT. AT. WORK. I get the metaphor, I really do. But try harder. There are many other metaphors that are more contemporary, more relevant. A puzzle? Interesting. Jigsaw? No. Move on. Find another piece. 


    9. Fountain pens, spectacles and lined notepads 

    I love fountain pens. I wear spectacles. But stop putting them on a lined legal notepad to show... oh whatever you're trying to show. Legal-something. Anyway, where in the stationery cupboard at work can I find me a freakin’ fountain pen these days? Not to mention the ink. The INK!!!!! And can the Procurement Team order me a little wooden desk with an ink well so I can stand my ink pot in there. While you're at it, screw the fountain pen, order me a quill please!  


    10. Freeway signs with BIG business words on them

    Oh please no, not the freeway sign with 'Innovation' or 'Change' on it. 

    Wrong way. Go back. DON'T YOU REALISE WHAT YOU ARE DOING???? You are reminding your team that they just spent 90 stressful minutes trying to get in to your office, along a blocked and peak-hour-jammed freeway with insufficient lanes and pot holes and bad signage and people who don’t know how to merge and silly cut in people with cars with brake lights that don’t work and stinkin' fumes and heat and bad radio. Aarrrrghhh! Enough. In the words of Faith Hill, 'just breatheeeee’. Breathe, just breathe. Take next exit. Or in German, that's 'Ausfahrt' (... I always giggled at this in Europe as a child. And as an adult sometimes too).  Get off this tired metaphor and corny green sign. ASAP.


    *This is not to say all stock photos are shitty. Not at all. Settle down. Not saying that. Some of them, many of them are freakin' awesome, beautiful, impactful and creative. Applause to those. Use those.  


    Hellllooooo procrastinators : how to make things happen, stat!

    The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.’ - Walt Disney

    There’s a message here from the Director of Your Life; don’t wait for the script to arrive.

    Get on with it. Everyday life is the biggest improvisation of all. No script. No rehearsal. Get straight out on to the stage of life and start performing!

    Ray Bradbury, the science fiction, horror and fantasy writer, said, ‘First you jump off the cliff and you build your wings on the way down’. And although some believe the quote attributable to Kurt Vonnegut, another equally interesting and creative author, the message is the same: leap and the net will appear, you will adapt, you’ll work it out and you’ll be moving!

    Spur of the moment is often good enough

    For many planners, strategists and forward thinking folks, planning is a part of their everyday life. They plan their morning; they plan their lunch; they plan their afternoon; and they plan family holidays, expeditions and adventures. But to deal with the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous life which is how the world is now operating, to plan can sometimes be too slow.

    I love the idea of starting before you're ready and making things up as we go along.

    I joke with friends and family that there are some cities and towns in the world that if I had the opportunity to visit them again, you could take me to the airport right now. With nothing more than a credit card in my hand and my passport in my back pocket, I would work it all out as I went.

    That idea can freak some people out. But I'd really would be willing to do that. Wanna travel with me?

    The performance of starting

    Starting before you're ready is a response based on a theory around improvisation. Step into any community or public theatre on any night of the week in almost any city around the world and you will be able to discover the talents and prowess of improvisers. They step onto stages, performing for paying public and they are able to create and deliver an incredible performance almost every time.

    At the end of an improvised show, many theatergoers ask, ‘can we come back tomorrow night and see this performance again?’ Some audiences don’t realise that the show they just saw was fully improvised. Perhaps, a suggestion was given from someone in the audience to start a scene for the performance. Perhaps, one of the performers has added their own ideas. In fact, this is what improvisation is. It’s cutting loose your censor and setting free the inhibitions in your mind to deliver creativity.

    When I first learned the skills of improvisation with Impro Melbourne and was encouraged to step onto stage as a performer, I always felt that I needed to rehearse a bit more or prepare in my mind what I was going to do. Just as improvisers step onto a stage without a script so must we in workplaces today.

     Having a go

    The idea that we can start before we are ready, gives us permission to just have a go, to not have a plan, to not have a script, to not have a structure and to not have any clue where this might go! This of course can be terrifying for those who like to plan, for those who like certainty, for those who like unambiguous situation and for those who like steady and calm environments. 

     Start before you're ready says don't worry about planning fully. If you are 80% ready to go, then go. If you are 40% ready to go, then go with something. If you are 20% ready to go, then go with that.

    Start before you're ready. 

    If you continue to plan out every single step of your idea, of your business opportunity, of your entrepreneurial thoughts or of your team's actions, your capacity to respond to volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are minimized. To be able to start at anytime - particularly before you're ready - gives you the opportunity to respond, to adapt, to be agile and to be flexible.

    Procrastinators.... helloooooo?

    Over the longer term starting before you're ready helps reduce your inhibitions, your structures, your limitations and your beliefs about what can be possible, what you can create and what you can do. And for the procrastinators among us (yes, me too), starting before you're ready is a very cool way to get some momentum, to get something 'out there' and get over your need for it to be finished, perfect or better before you put it out there.

    Have a crack. That's Aussie slang for 'have a go'. It's an Australian saying I'm often saying to myself, and groups and clients to encourage starting.

    Try it out. Start before you're ready and then document what happens. You could be on to something truly life changing for you and those you impact with your thinking, creativity and work.


    Ideas that


    In the fight for attention in a world full of noise, how do you make your message interesting, engaging, actionable and viral?

    Seth Godin asked 'how do you make something 'new'?" when he delivered a presentation on his tour in Australia last year. I visually captured his presentation ... and then my visual idea of his idea was shared

    We have chances, opportunities and choices to connect with people and get our message across. How well are we really doing?

    Think of the word 'remarkable' : what is it that makes what you're sharing, selling, saying remark-able, or worth making a remark about. 

    Seth Godin encourages us to be impresarios: producers, creators, curators.
    What's creative about your message, your thinking and the change you're leading?

    PowerPoint slide decks are dull and boring; bullet points are bullish*t!

    What's the cost of people not seeing (or sharing) your message? Or the cost of you not seeing another way to create and deliver it?

    Seth says attention is precious.

    Make the most of it when you get the opportunity to share your idea. 


    Fire up the BBQ - it's ideas time

    It's summer in Australia; there's sunshine, beaches, cool drinks and plenty of barbeques to be had. Before you put anything on the BBQ, turn it on, heat it up and prime it, ready for the tasty treats to be grilled and flamed... beyond recognition!

    Priming the BBQ is like getting people ready for doing good work, producing tasty treats and creating great stuff. 

    Too often we expect things from people when they're 'cold', as in "come up with some ideas on ..." or "tell me what you think about ...'

    We've all got lots on our mind; give people time to get up to speed and be focused on what you're asking. 

    You need to warm people up, prime them and create the environment so they'll deliver, and cook up some goodness. 

    I think there are four stages or elements to priming people to come up with ideas or respond to your request:

    1. environment - creating the right space so it's possible to think creatively and generatively;

    2. mindset - framing why we're doing this ideas thing and how it will be used;

    3. process - setting up the stages of the idea generation and gathering; what will happen now, next; and

    4. acknowledge - reward and recognise early contributors, all participation and the success and progress being made. 

    And then when it's done, finish it. Shut it done and stop.

    Then move on to the next thing.

    Fire them up, prime them and frame it so you will all get to taste the great stuff created. And you'll want to come back for seconds!