Suffering from writer’s block? Lacking creativity? Often we have the physical energy to do the task at hand, but there’s something missing that’s difficult to pin down.
So we pose ourselves the question, “How can we stimulate our brains to be more creative?” It’s a question with no simple answer. Unfortunately, you can’t just become Steve Jobs overnight. What you can do is take on advice from people whose very success is dependent on their creative output.
“Inspiration exists but it has to find you at work.” – Picasso
It’s important to combine work and leisure and, most importantly, not to expect creativity to find you if you’re leading an inactive life. In his new book, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (a researcher at Silicon Valley’s Institute for the Future) explores the value of leisure as being an aid rather than an enemy to creativity.
He sees Picasso as a great example of someone who adapted their lifestyle to aid their creativity. As Soojung-Kim Pang puts it, “people who have long creative lives, who do really great work for decades, they don’t get inspired and start work. They start work and get inspired. And they do this every day.”
Though overworking leads to burnout, a sure-fire way to be less creative and less productive, it’s still important to be active. Mexico and South Korea have longer working weeks and working calendar years than places like Scandinavia, France, and Germany. They also have lower productivity rates. Soojung-Kim Pang emphasises the importance of leisure as it allows time for reflection and for ideas to hatch. This doesn’t mean lying around though.
Overcome Perfectionism and the Fear of Rejection
Having written more than 500 books throughout his career, Isaac Asimov is one of the most prolific writers out there. He has some great advice. Don’t always strive for perfection. Start your work and then fine-tune it.
Asimov wrote in detail in his autobiography about his own process and how he stayed so prolific over a long period of time:
“Think of yourself as an artist making a sketch to get the composition clear in his mind, the blocks of color, the balance, and the rest. With that done, you can worry about the fine points.”
Perfectionism can only lead to self-doubt. It’s great to have high standards, but are they so high they’re holding you back? It may be time to adjust them.
Focus on Quantity More Than Quality
Asimov gives the last section’s advice having suffered from perfectionism himself. He, of course, found a way to deal with the problem.
Being prolific is, in itself, a great way to avoid dwelling on past failures. In other words, work a lot and you will be less of a perfectionist because you’ll be too busy to dwell on the negative criticism. This, in turn, will help you to take more risks and be more creative.
As Asimov puts it, “by the time a particular book is published, the [writer] hasn’t much time to worry about how it will be received or how it will sell. By then he has already sold several others and is working on still others and it is these that concern him. This intensifies the peace and calm of his life.”
Don’t Seek Praise But Criticism
Modern society is set up in such a way that it’s so easy to surround ourselves with exactly what we want to see and hear. We can adapt our feeds on social media and block people who annoy us on our devices, allowing us to be very selective about who we have time for. This isn’t a bad thing unless you’re also surrounding yourself with ‘yes men.’
This, in psychological terminology, is called confirmation bias. It is the tendency to seek out, and to favor, information that confirms our own beliefs. Everyone does it to a certain extent; we tend to read media from news outlets that mirror our own political beliefs.
When it’s a real problem, though, is when you avoid negative criticism like it’s the plague. As Steve Jobs put it, “stay hungry, stay foolish.” Don’t dwell on negative criticism to the point where you’re too scared to try something new. Instead take it on board. If the criticism was given maliciously, their jealousy and negative criticism means you must be doing something right. If someone gives you useful and constructive criticism, on the other hand, keep that person around.
|||^||The Guardian: Why the secret to productivity isn’t longer hours|
|||^||Charles Chu: Isaac Asimov: How to Never Run Out of Ideas Again|
|||^||Benjamin P. Hardy: 35 Things No One Told You About Becoming “Successful”|