Creativity

Be a hollow bone

In Native American culture, there's a concept called "the hollow bone".

After the invention of cooking, our ancestors had way more time on their hands. Time to make fun stuff like musical instruments. They started making flutes out of bones.

When the bone was hollow, clean, and dry, the sound emitted was beautiful.

On a practical level, what does this mean for your creativity?

Working feels better when you're emptied out of anxiety, self-loathing, fear, and willfulness.

 

The freedom of creative constraints

There's a film I love called The Five Obstructions by Gus Van Sant. Basically, there's an older director (Leth) who is depressed and contemplating suicide. Van Sant, his mentee, tries to think of a way to deter him. He comes up with a challenge: Make 5 different versions of Leth's 1967 film The Perfect Human, and each version comes with one distinct constraint, or brief, that he has to follow.

The older director accepts the challenge, and has a fine enough time until one of the constraints is that... there are no constraints. Anything goes. He finds this incredibly difficult.

Most of us assume constraints are limitations, when in reality, they're essential to creativity. Having no limits and all directions available is totally overwhelming, as Leth learned.

Impose constraints on your project, whether that's your next series of paintings, or identifying your next career move.

Quick ways to constrain yourself 

  1. Give yourself a timeline and deadline (less than 6 months away).
  2. Limit yourself to exploring 3-5 ideas; you can avoid analysis paralysis and excess time "shopping" around for the right concept.
  3. Make sure it's a SMART goal (Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound)

You can start there and then come up with more constraints as it applies to your project (location-bound might make sense, for example). Then, you can rub your ideas up against these constraints and see what comes up. Your undertaking will feel more concrete and defined.

For extra energy

When you’re stressed, one of the first things to get cut are, ironically, the very things that will probably alleviate that stress: cooking, exercising, creative outlets, and doing things you enjoy.

I think most of us have an intuition about our energy level. You wake up with a limited amount of it, and over the course of the day, it dwindles down. Like a glass of water, for example. For a long time, one of my first instincts when stressed was to cut out everything "extra" and run my life in a barebones way.

If you think about it, the correct answer is actually counter-intuitive. Extras aren't superfluous, they're "extra energy": like your elevated mood after you have coffee with a friend, or after a great workout.

Add some fun, rather than taking it away.

Why you're restless

Human beings are wired to grow, wired to create. Why? Because we have the gift of imagination. 

Point at the moon to a dog, and the dog will look at your finger. Point at the moon to a baby, and the baby will look at the moon.

I think this is why we feel restless when operating below capacity. We look around, see problems and possible solutions everywhere. And if you feel unfulfilled at work, that's a big problem. When fear holds you back from finding a solution or taking a step towards change, it feels terrible. 

It doesn't matter what action words you use: offer value, serve, create, solve a problem, help. The more and thoughtfully you do it, the better the planet gets.

It happens to be the Supermoon tonight. The moon will be 20% closer to Earth, and possibly 20% more likely to inspire you. Look at it and let the ideas flow. Share them with someone you trust. Creativity is a habit and it starts with small steps like that.