Creativity requires discipline, routine, and a commitment to persevere through failure. Often in the heat of the creative moment, when inspiration and determination flower into an idea, concept or event that captures not only our imagination but the imagination of other people and comes to success it is easy to glide over or forget the months, day or hours we have endured failure because creativity has withered rather than blossomed.
While creativity is often seen as the domain of the Arts, it applies in many other areas that are not related to the Arts. For example, leadership requires creativity. Leadership is not just applying the principles that are espoused in leadership books and course, it includes the ability to create a vision that resonates with organisational members and with clients. Leaders that are effective in creating a strong vision for their organisation have often had to endure failure. Their creativity and success come from what they have distilled and learnt through these times of failure.
Yet creativity is more than discipline, routine, and a commitment to endure failure. Indeed, too much discipline can stifle and suffocate our creativity. There is another element that is essential for creativity to occur. It is the space we create in our lives for the randomness of creativity to bubble through the fabric of our daily life.
We have all experienced times, when we have been working on a problem and can’t find the solution. The harder we try; the more solution eludes us. Often when we leave the problem and go and do other things the answer comes to us. We have created a different space, where the answer can emerge.
While we may be good with being disciplined and know how to maintain routine, how do we allow for and create space for the randomness of creativity to come through, particularly when we are in leadership. Often our days are filled with meetings, emails, and emergencies leaving us numb, brain dead and feeling punch drunk with no energy to be creative.
I love swimming, pool swimming that is, not ocean swimming. I love following the black line up and down the pool, because it is in the monotony of rolling through stroke after stroke, I can allow my thoughts as it were to drift in the water, I am swimming in. It is in this space where all I can hear is the water around me and logical thought becomes interrupted and often fragmented, that solutions, answers, a sense of what to do comes to me. It is ironic that it is the discipline and routine of swimming that allows the randomness of creativity breaks through.
Another example, where discipline allows the randomness of creativity to break through is in journaling. Journaling is best done in long hand or if you are bi-lingual, journal in your non-dominant language. The reason for using long-hand or another language, in my case shorthand is the act of writing words or translating them into another language slows our thought process down enough that ideas, thoughts and answers can filter through our logical thinking. Over the years I have been journaling it has slowly changed into more of an inner dialogue where my sub-conscious will question my thinking and so allow me to develop another perspective, I am not initially seeing.
In allowing the randomness of creativity to occur in our lives, we must become confident in trusting our subconscious minds. When we insist on trying to solve a problem rationally and logically, we are denying our subconscious minds the opportunity to reveal the answer to us. When we trust our subconscious mind, we are often more confident in creating spaces where we can listen to what it is trying to tell us. For me, swimming and journaling are examples of where I can disrupt my logical thinking enough to create some space to listen my subconscious mind. You will have your own examples of what works for you in creating these spaces.
The second thing we need to learn to trust is our sense of timing. When I was younger, everything had to be done immediately, emails answered, phone calls returned, reports written. Sometimes, I would have a sense of “wait, don’t respond yet” but, being young, enthusiastic, and full of my own assurance I would ignore that sense of “wait” and end up regretting my impatience. As I have gotten older I have learnt to listen to and value that sense of timing, for in waiting often a better solution has been discovered or what I thought so important has proven to be so very unimportant 48 hours later.
Creativity is a seed and seeds take time to germinate. If we rush some ideas too quickly, they will wither and die. We need to trust our sense of timing and allow the creative ideas time and space to germinate. To flower into that idea, concept, or vision which captures us, our clients our team, and comes to fruition.