Okay, I’m done with meetings. It’s 2:00. Time to BE CREATIVE!
To be in a creative job requires finding a process that allows creativity to flow naturally, so you can problem-solve efficiently.
Have you ever started generating ideas and tossing them aside at the same time? It’s very common. In the old days, we called it the writer’s block. Old movies or cartoons show a writer typing a few lines, then rejecting it, crumpling the paper up and tossing it on the floor.
To prevent this problem, it helps to break up the creative process into different phases. I like to think of putting on different hats or roles.
First, put on your collector’s hat. Gather sources and information, ideas, and possible solutions to solve the problem at hand. Do not eliminate, filter, or crumble up your paper during this phase. Just gather everything you find about your project, and write every idea about it that comes to mind. This is a good phase to engage and collect ideas from other people.
Second, review your collection. Now put on your filter hat. Sort the information for relevancy. At this point, make decisions. Discard some pieces. Keep and expand others.
Third, move into your visual phase. Organize and visualize the solution to the problem. Look for patterns. I go to the whiteboard and start drawing pictures. I use Visio to draw loose flow charts and shapes. I cut up words I’ve written into chunks, and move them around. Now you should identify patterns in your data, the common groupings and solutions.
Fourth, feel it. Relax your mind, review the patterns and decisions you made, and then let your mind bring you to the overall statement or solution over the next day or so. Play some music, feel and connect with the emotion and the answer. In this final quadrant, the creative solution should emerge from your previous work, and you should experience that “ah ha” satisfying connection with the right solution.
Allow times and places in your schedule for each activity. On week days and nights when I’m a bit tired or only have five minutes, collecting ideas and brainstorming on my mobile device is a good activity.
Many of us have a peak time of the day. Mine is 4 to 6 pm. Your peak time is good for the analytical phases, the second and third steps. When you are in your peak mind, you can easily filter and sort, make decisions, or visualize the data and locate the patterns. I save this work for that time of day.
The fourth quadrant where I say “ah ha!”is the only one I cannot schedule. I can review the material, but this phase comes to me naturally in my most relaxed state. Creativity is why we all should rest and relax as thought workers. The most creative solutions come to me unexpectedly, like when I’m taking my morning shower or drying my hair. Creativity comes to me when I’m in a quiet part of the house working or sitting alone. Music helps, for example, listening to instrumental music (no vocals) will often trigger ideas.
At first, having bright ideas arrive at odd hours seemed intrusive, but now I’m used to it. I have learned to keep it in check. I pick up my mobile device and record the solution in an note or email to my work self. Then I go back to whatever I was doing. Inspiration is fleeting, and that note helps me remember those fantastic ideas.
So next time you are trying to be creative at 2 PM, try to go through the process and put on your hats in this order. Hopefully, inspiration will visit you.