The creative process can put you into a magical state of mind… the same way an out of body experience or landing a product endorsement from Oprah could. But how to enter this creative state of mind on demand? Under deadline? On a topic you know little to nothing about? Using unfamiliar methods? Pleasing the client… and your boss?
Time to get a grip on your creative process.
Get a Grip
Thoughts flow like a steady stream through our minds at all times. We control the flow and quality of the water to some extent, but contamination, drought, and flood are real issues when it comes to our streams of mental consciousness.
Negative and/or doubting thoughts at the outset of a creative project are certain to muddy your thought stream, making it more difficult to pluck your idea gems out of the water. For example, if you are convinced that a project directive is impossible at the outset, you have essentially constructed a dam that blocks your thought stream. Creative thoughts cannot pass through your stream of consciousness because they violate an internal rule your thoughts have put into law.
The Right Grip for the Job
How to harness the flow without disrupting it? Work on your grip.
Athletes understand that different sports and equipment call for a variety of grips. Not only is the anatomy of the hand taken into account, but the manner in which different positions increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. For example, there are different types of golf grips, each with its own pros and cons.
Consider how you most easily get into a creative frame of mind. Do you use bullet points to outline an idea? Draw brainstorming diagrams? Go for a run? Doodle and zone out while listening to your favorite Pandora station?
Whatever the answer, these are your grips, or the way you tap into your stream of consciousness.
Knowing that you have preferred grips, and that these grips have been successful for you in the past, why do they fail at times?
Hold Too Tight, You Lose
Grip too tightly on the golf club and you will have a difficult time following through completely on the swing. Not only will your performance suffer, your hand and wrist may become damaged over time, weakening your grip.
Forcing a creative process to work is like holding your golf club too tightly. If you are repeatedly hitting mental walls during the creative process, step away from the problem entirely – Loosen Your Grip. Take a walk, grab a coffee, chat with a friend, get up & stretch… choose something calm and pleasant that is not related to this or a different project.
Let your mind relax into this pleasant activity. Day dream or have no thoughts at all. Sit by the stream of your creative thought and listen to the flowing water as it glides by you.
When you find yourself calm and relaxed, ask “how can I solve this _____ creative question?” You’ll be amazed at the ideas that seem to spring from nowhere and point you in the direction of creative productivity.
The key is to relax your grip, but…
Hold Too Loose, You Lose
Multi-tasking? Listening to loud rock music? Checking your phone or receiving notifications every two minutes? Finding it hard to focus?
You may have a loose grip on your creative process. It’s hard to perform well when you are doing many tasks at once or are in a highly stimulating environment. Set yourself up for success by creating a calm environment. Headphones and the Pandora New Age Ambient station work for me in my company’s open-office environment.
Can’t make your environment calm? Leave. Go to the library, go for a walk around the block, go to Starbucks, go to the break room… just bring a pen and paper to jot down ideas as your mentally unravel the creative problem. Once you have an idea for your approach to the problem, go back to your work space and get started.
State of No Mind
Adjusting the grip on your stream of thought will help you unlock creative pathways.
Many of the top martial artists, athletes, and entertainers enter a state of “no mind” when they perform. They no longer think of the what-ifs, there is no more time to practice. They just do.
The thousands of practice swings, the countless hours of training, the lessons learned through experience and grit. This all kicks in during the no mind state as muscle memory shifts into high gear. Your goal in the creative process is to enter this no mind state. Your years of experience and training work best when you relax knowing that you can draw on these internal resources effortlessly.
I leave you with these words from martial arts legend Bruce Lee…