THE CREATIVE MANIFESTO
Four methods for breaking free and keeping creativity alive
RULE 1: FEAR & RISK
No one wants to be afraid, but fear can be a useful feeling—it can be your guide in letting you know that you are exiting your comfort zone of thought and venturing into the unknown. Often, that’s exactly what you need to push past mental boundaries to make new discoveries. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, and fear of rejection are limiters to your full potential and success as a creative being. Recall that Thomas Edison had to run over 10,000 failed experiments before coming up with a light bulb that worked…on his 10,001th try.
Learn to consciously step out of your mental comfort zone and risk thinking about things in a different way. Stumbling upon new ideas and creatively developing those ideas means actively thinking in a non-linear fashion. It also means letting go of expectations and negative thinking, yet remaining open to possibilities. Creativity is unbounded by rules and boxes! As we get older and more set in our ways, we must consciously break free of the patterns we’ve developed; our patterns limit change and thereby limit our access to true creativity.
Taking risks in how we think enables us to play again and re-learn how to engage and experience the world in an entirely new (and more creative) way. Perhaps playing with food, Legos, or Lincoln Logs will enable you to see something you didn’t see before. Maybe cutting images and articles from magazines and then making a collage with them will inspire you to see new connections and creative expressions. In the world of inventions, sometimes looking at new material and combining it with existing products can lead to new ideas. Sometimes we can exchange one tool for another to engage the world differently. (Image using a spatula instead of a paintbrush to paint a portrait.) If we aren’t taking risks, then we are constrained by our own—and other people’s—confined patterns of thought. When it comes to risk, there should only be one rule: don’t inflict harm upon others or ourselves.
RULE 2: STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN
Learning to see differently is also a pathway to creativity. Within each and every one of us, there is a third eye, an eye that can guide and lead us. This third eye is sometimes felt in the center of our foreheads and slightly outside our bodies. It appears when we meditate, when we are in “the zone,” and when we are free-thinking. “Looking through the third eye” may also be a spiritual metaphor for seeing things differently.
Listen to your inner self and to others. As we venture into the world of creativity, our guides may be living legends or historic artists. Historical personages, too, can be a guide to breaking free: look at Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Matisse. Each artist broke new ground in artistic expression. Leonardo da Vinci—an inventor as well as an artist—was an expert at drawing the human body, which in many cases led him to understand the limitations and possibilities of ideas. Experts can also be a good source of creative inspiration, but remember that over time, humankind has created endless new things and new ideas, and no one could have possibly predicted them all; the world is constantly changing. When it comes to creativity, we all have a different vantage point, a viewpoint that’s influenced by when and where in time we are creating.
RULE 3: PLAY AND FLUX
Being creative also means being (in some cases, learning how to be) comfortable while being in a constant state of flux. Creative people have creative highs and lows and must find ways to deal with the swings. That being said, it’s essential to “play”—that is, to learn coping methods to survive the ebbs and flows that go along with living in a constant state of creativity. A good way of breaking free from the cycles is to work out at a gym or go for a run…or take art classes. Art classes are a good way to play with lines, clay, and forms. Just don’t be too much of a perfectionist when you’re being creative—learn to play, learn to have fun, and learn not to make everything perfect. Many creatives have the tendency of spending too much time thinking rather than doing; many also over-analyze and judge rather than accept and move on.
Creative work will always be subjective and judged by others, but being creative is in and of itself a living art. After each creation, we (hopefully) continue to evolve, perfect, and grow. If we don’t, our stagnation will fold our boxes in on us…and those boxes will put the brakes on our creativity.
RULE 4: INTUITION AND QUESTIONING
It’s important to learn how to ignore others who stick to convention and who are consequently frozen in the here-and-now (and the what-has-always-been). We must learn and feel our own way through our own intuitions and beliefs. Others can help, but as we travel further and further away from established convention, our ideas—which may have been laughed at in the beginning—can change the world. Remember, creativity does not care if you laugh at it, it only cares about you visiting it from time to time. Creativity’s door is always open.
It is true that we often take things for granted, but we need to get into a routine of continually questioning to help us dive deeper and be creative—creativity waits around every corner as long as we keep moving. As we move through and experience life, we should ask what, when, where, how, and why, especially if we start to slow down. Movement is one of the keys to creativity, although it’s also true that during our explorations we must sometimes stop to ask questions. That’s often when creativity can flow. The old axiom is true: it’s the journey that matters, not the path. The journey can get richer by questioning.
Magazines and newspapers can inspire us. Bill Evans, the Imagineer responsible for the distinctive landscape architecture and design at the Walt Disney theme parks from 1955 to 1975, used to subscribe to thirty different magazines focusing on science, technology, art, photography, cars, business, and more. Even after he was no longer a direct employee, he continued to consult with Disney Imagineering to sculpt and create movements with plants. For over 50 years, he innovated and exercised his creativity…until he finally passed away at the age of 92. He found that by increasing his knowledge base of different ideas in different fields—and thereby sparking his own creativity—he could better solve problems within his own industry. Marty Adrian Sklar from WDI once said, “Bill Evans defined Disney theme park landscaping and trained just about everyone [else] who has created theme park stories in living environments.” By increasing the diversity of our knowledge base, we, too, can question connections and find new ideas as we journey towards engaging our creativity.