|Photo Credit: Shyn Darkly|
Could it be that your mind didn't suddenly GO blank, but rather, it was already empty? Don’t get offended, I’m not saying that you’re lacking in brain cells or creative genius. Maybe the problem goes deeper. Every creative person, when they stop and analyze the process, realizes that there is a force or catalyst that drives their pattern of thought along a creative path. It's mysterious, invisible, and sometimes takes on a life of its own, much as when a writer credits their muses for much of their fictional endeavors. When that force weakens, for whatever reason, the spark of ingenuity fades with it, leaving us feeling empty and tired. We cease to produce anything new, in fact, we cease to even have the WILL TO BEGIN a new project.
It's not surprising that this should happen when you think about how hard you've worked for months, even years. As an artisan or innovator, you've transformed ideas into beautiful products or concepts day after day. You've researched, imagined, and auditioned a myriad of materials, designs, functional uses, audiences, and the list is never ending. Using that mysterious force that actuates your mind, you've poured every bit of your imagination into your work. You do this every day as if that force were a perpetual resource.
GET REAL! You can’t drink a glass of wine out of the same bottle every day and it not end up empty. What’s the solution? Get another bottle or refill the one you have.
Now some of you may think you’re blessed with more than one functioning brain, or, that a brain transplant is possible, but a little more research will convince you otherwise. The only remedy is to refill the bottle. That means, gently tickling our imaginations until the spark begins to grow again with new ideas, visions, and fantasies.
I heard that groan... And you’re right, you do have to get off the couch. So quit procrastinating and try at least one of these activities. I call them Mind Sparklers because when one of them works, you'll feel a burst of creative energy, in fact, new ideas will explode from synapses to synapses. You won't be able to stop the excitement!
1. This one is easy. Think about something or somewhere in your locality that offers you an entirely new experience. Reach high, HIGHER! Get out of your comfort zone – A little further, a little further, a little further... Now you're getting the idea. Some Examples: Rock climbing, volunteering, cooking class, small engine repair class, learn a new language, etc.
2. Read a new book that is totally out of your preferred genre. Example: Dictionary, Astrophysics, The care of Exotic Animals, Build a Tree House, etc. Look for ideas, colors, shapes, alternative uses and adaptable concepts. Ask yourself questions like WHY? Why do tree houses fascinate us? Why are we drawn to exotic animals? Why do we want to know HOW the universe works? When we begin to comprehend the WHYS, we get to know people better, their needs, desires, and wants. As artisans and innovators, aren't people the very ones we want to connect to our product or idea?
3. This next one is one of my favorites: Take a trip to your local mall, hardware store, farmer's market, hobby store, pawn shop, etc. NO, don’t buy anything! What I want you to do is feel everything that catches your eye. Note the texture, shape, color, and weight. Then determine how you feel about that object in an emotional way. Are you apathetic, desirous, envious, happier, confused, etc?
Evaluating our human capacity to relate to objects and ideas on an emotional level will unlock a treasure house of understanding. What kind of understanding? Well, have you ever wondered why some colors sell better than others. Everything we can see, feel, and touch registers a response in our brains. We don't just assimilate the obvious, we relate memories, fantasies, desires, people, places, events, and so on.
Example: Let's say you see a beautifully patterned beach towel. Instead of just giving it a glance and passing on, pick it up! Measure it's weight, try to name every shade and hue of color. Envision the artist as they created the fabric design, what were they feeling? Now, try to bring up in your mind a memory that involved a beach towel. YES, that one. You're in Destin, Florida with your husband and three kids. You remember the dark clouds forming on the far horizon and wondered if the storm was going to come ashore and ruin the joy of the day. Then, you remember the absolute beauty of the scene. The dark grey clouds in the background, the dark cobalt blue of the water beneath them. But close to shore, the sunlight still filtered through gloriously clear aquamarine waves that rushed onto unblemished white sand. The kids played in the surf without a thought of the darkness that laid outside their focus. What a contrast!!!
Now ask yourself, could you try to capture that scene, contrast, feeling, in whatever medium you work in? OOPS! You've just lit a Sparkler!
4. Are you ready for lunch? I know I’m starving. Let’s go to a completely new eatery. There is only one rule, you can’t take anyone but me along, of course, I’m an imaginary friend, so you’ll be the only one at the table. Don’t be shy. Eating alone in a public place is a wonderful opportunity to watch people, enjoy some great food, and muse about the menu.
Musing over the menu is the real reason for this trip. Food generates memories.
NO KIDDING! While you eat, and it would really be nice if you’d order something you've never tried before, study the entrees listed on the menu. Conjure up the last memory you have of that food. Where did you eat it and with whom? Is it something you prepare? Do you serve it to your guests? Had any bad experiences with this food? What textures do you prefer. How does color affect your appetite? In other words, analyze your emotional response to an everyday occurrence. Don't just be satisfied with the thought, I love Chicken Fried Steak. Ask yourself, why you LOVE that dish. You're going to end up with an answer that has an emotional foundation. The lesson here is, if you react this way, so do other people. It's that emotional response that will, in the end, sell a product or idea.
5. This one is easy because there are so many to choose from. Think of a problem, any problem. It might be the price of beef, violence in schools, single parenting, religious disunity, etc. Now that you have your problem, think about your own beliefs, reactions, perceptions to this problem. Here comes the hard part. Change your point-of-view three times and try to consider how your beliefs, reactions, and perceptions would change. Example: Say your problem is the price of beef, think of it from your standpoint as a consumer first. Then you might consider the problem from the viewpoint of the rancher who raises the beef cattle, the USDA responsible for the safety of our food chain, or a person who lives in poverty and rarely eats meat.
When you've got the knack of this, apply it to your product or ideas. WOW! Amazing! Now, you can put yourself into the shoes of your perspective clients. You can see your creative ideas from their perspective and adapt accordingly, if you so desire.
If you follow through, doing one or all of these things, you’ll start to form new memories, new viewpoints, new perceptions, and new emotional responses. And guess where all of these things are stored for later use. YOU GOT IT! They are now fueling the force that actuates your mind and ready to go to work..
The simple fact is that for any of us to create or innovate on a regular basis, we must constantly replenish our unique, exclusive, and personal life experiences. It doesn't need to be hard, expensive, or complicated. It just needs to be new in some vital way.
When you go to your closet, do you put the same clothes on every time in exactly the same manner? Of course you don’t. You mix and match, creating new ensembles. In the same manner, little changes in routine, preference, and perception create new ideas that will sometimes boggle your mind. And in my opinion, a boggled mind is a creative mind...
OKAY, IT'S YOUR TURN: Share with us some of the ways you regenerate that spark of creativity/