As you read this October Brainstorm creativity e-bulletin, I will be heading for three weeks in the United States, having a look at the latest creative developments there — undoubtedly some of those will find their way into the November e-bulletin. In the meantime, I hope the following tips and techniques will be helpful.
The central dilemma of all creative people
The central dilemma of all creative people is the love-hate relationship the world has with something new. Here is what novelist Elizabeth Berg said about it in a recent issue of The Writer magazine: "[Writing] is so fraught with should's and should not's and what a story is and what a story is not oftentimes editors will tell you what they are looking for and then they get something completely different and say, 'Oh isn't it wonderful — it is totally unlike anything we've ever seen.'"
She adds: "So how will that come about if people don't trust themselves to do something altogether different or uniquely their own?"
An interesting demonstration of this is the hit U.S. television series "The Shield." The writer of the original script says he allowed himself to make the script gritty and edgy only because he thought it would be just a writing sample. He never thought it would actually be made; otherwise, he would have censored himself at the start.
Tip: Be alert to the way you may be censoring yourself from having or acting on your more radical ideas. In a notebook or journal, record the first, wildest version of your idea. If you later decide to tone it down or make it more similar to what is already being done, you can still go back to the original and decide whether you have gone too far in the direction of safety.
Try the opposite
I have previously suggested a creativity technique in which you think of what is usually done, and then think about what is the opposite and let that lead you to a new idea. I have recently come across a great example of this, as told by film executive Peter Guber. He was planning to make the movie "Gorillas in the Mist" but realized that it could easily go far over budget if the gorillas, which were to be filmed in the highlands of Rwanda, did not behave the way the script wanted them to. The studio was about to shelve the project when a young intern suggested letting the gorillas write the script.
Asked what she meant, she suggested sending a cinematographer to get lots and lots of footage of the gorillas doing whatever they were doing, and then writing the script around that. That is how the film was made — for half the original budget!
This story illustrates not only the try-the-opposite technique, but also that often it is the least-experienced person — in this case, a young intern — who comes up with an innovative idea.
Tip: If you have not done so already, give the try-the-opposite technique a try. Do not rule anything out too quickly; instead, question the assumptions you are making that someone new to the situation might not make.
Are you a USP?
Gerald Kushel, professor emeritus of mental health counseling at Long Island University, has studied uncommonly successful people and found that they have three important traits in common:
– Inner calm that allows them to focus their attention and energies.
– Clear goals and a sense of purpose.
– A sense of adventure that allows them to take risks and cope with setbacks.
Tip: If you are missing a sense of inner calm, try meditation; if you have no goals, try writing out what you would like to achieve in your personal and business life in the next year, three years and five years; and if you are missing a sense of adventure, find some safe ways to do something new, and determine whether risks that might be good for you can be broken down into steps to make them feel more manageable.
Your one-minute NLP workshop
If you're not familiar with Neuro Linguistic Programming, here is a one-minute introduction to its approach that you can use to deal with any challenge:
– First, decide on your outcomes. What do you want? Be as specific as possible so you'll know when you have it (and in the meantime, whether or not you're moving closer to it).
– Second, brainstorm a variety of ways you can reach your goal. Don't stop at the way things are usually done; be creative to come up with other ways that might be faster, less expensive, less work.
– Third, choose the actions that are most likely to lead to success, and implement them.
– Fourth, assess whether not these actions are taking you nearer your goal at an acceptable speed. If not, don't just do more of the same, but do something different and compare the results it brings you. Keep up this feedback and adjustment loop until you reach your goal.
Tip: This process may sound so simple as to be only common sense … but how many people actually follow it in practice? For an excellent introduction to NLP and its key techniques, I recommend "NLP Workbook" written by Joseph O'Conner and published in the United Kingdom by Thorsons in 2001. However, any NLP books by O'Conner, John Seymour and/or Ian McDermott are good.
Did you know that the "Power Trances" CD by Jurgen Wolff can help you relax, generate ideas, and transform the inner critic? And that it makes a terrific present that friends can use again and again? For information about content and ordering, send an e-mail to BstormUK.
Focus, focus, focus
According to New York Times journalist Lisa Belkin, focus is to this decade what time management was to the last one. Originally everyone lauded multi-tasking, but lately it has been derided as trying to do too many things at once. Belkin mentions the example of the Boston doctor who left a patient in mid-surgery to go to the bank for 20 minutes. The article cites two practical tips. One is turning off your mobile phone when you really want to work but avoiding phone rage on the part of your callers by leaving a message that states when you will be returning calls. The other is booking into a hotel to work for three days incommunicado every couple of months.
The woman who recommends this, Vickie Sullivan, claims she can cram three weeks of focused time into three days and get major projects done that wouldn't get done otherwise.
Tip: Consider whether you are giving yourself enough time each week to focus on the things that really matter. If you cannot do this in your normal environment, consider how you could vary your routine and your locations to make this easier.
A quote to think about
"Anybody can come up with new ideas. What's in short supply are innovative people — persistent mavericks who believe so strongly in an idea that they will do whatever it takes to make it a working reality. — Michael LeBoeuf
P.S. — Our web site is BrainstormNet.com. You might also enjoy my book "Do Something Different," available in the United States from Amazon.com. We also welcome your comments.
[Contents copyright 2002, Jurgen Wolff]
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.