Johnny Dwinell, veteran Nashville artist/producer/businessman, recently shared insight into increasing one’s creativity. Inspired by John Cleese of Monty Python fame, Dwinell recounts Cleese’s wisdom on how to get into a creative zone, do it quicker and remain there longer.
According to Cleese, creativity is not an innate ability that you either have or you don’t. Creativity is not, in and of itself, a talent. Creativity is not related to IQ. Creativity is a way of operating.
Becoming creative is all about being able to get into a particular state of mind, a playful state. Psychologist Donald Wallace McKinnon studied creativity and described it as an ability to play describing the playful mood as ‘childlike’ among most of the creative people he studied. Getting into this playful mode allows people to think without restrictions or judgment. The more free a person’s mind is during creativity, the more creative the person can be.
In his talk, Cleese mentions another study that breaks down the functions of people into two modes: OPEN and CLOSED.
Closed is the mode in which we spend most of our time. Closed is where we are purposeful with our actions: we are getting things done; we are practical, pragmatic, and businesslike. This mode is very is very results-driven and comes with a certain amount of anxiety, expectation, and pressure. Creativity does not happen in the closed mode.
Open is a state of creativity. You are open to anything.
These aren’t judgments — both are necessary. In fact, you need to be in the closed mode to execute that which is created in the open mode.
Four requirements to unlock creativity
1. Space: Like a garden, creativity needs space to grow. The mind doesn’t naturally switch on and off, it needs space before the necessary mindset can be achieved. Finding a place that is free from daily tasks and stresses, a creative “oasis” of sorts, can help the mind get to a creative state quicker.
Think of it like an old car on a cold winter’s day. If you start the car and immediately drive it without letting it warm up, it won’t perform well. Giving it a few minutes to heat up will allow the car to perform optimally. Your creative state is the equivalent to an aged car engine on a winter’s day. Let it warm up and watch it roll!
2. Time: Give yourself ample time in which to be creative. When you start down a creative path, you need time to separate yourself from the rigors and stresses of daily life. Creativity won’t come immediately, but the longer you allow yourself to be in this stress-free state, the higher the chances for creativity.
A good rule of thumb is that if you wish to yield 60 minutes of creativity, give yourself 90 minutes of total time so you have time to transition from a closed to an open mind where creativity flourishes.
When it comes to creativity, the goal is to try to resolve a situation; to find a solution to something. These situations can be anything from writing a song, creating a story or painting a picture. Creative endeavors often do not have a definitive start and ending point. Wanting to reconcile the “problem at hand,” the brain may produce something rather quickly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the first thing you come up with will be all that great. Give yourself enough time to think beyond those initial thoughts that come to mind, and you’ll likely get to something better.
3. Confidence: In the realm of creativity, there is no “wrong” or “bad.” There is no room for judgment. During brainstorming of ideas, it’s all about creating as many ideas as possible, then focusing on the strongest of those ideas.
Those creating in solitude need to reserve judgment about their own ideas and keep moving forward. Those creating with others need to employ a “yes, and” approach, rather than “no, but” response. Any form of negative feedback can easily derail, if not outright sabotage, a brainstorming session. There is no “bad” creativity; keep it positive.
4. Humor: Injecting humor into your world is the fastest way to go from a closed to an open state. Humor relieves stress and puts people in a playful mood. Watching a funny movie or TV show or listening to your favorite comedian can transport a mind from “stern and serious” to “loose and playful” in minutes.
When we understand the concept of creativity being a way of operating, we can better work toward channeling our inner creativity and be creative more often. The best part about creativity is that it is irrespective of intellect; absolutely anyone can be creative if they know how to put themselves into the proper state.
All you have to do is make the time, enjoy the ride and have some fun along the way.