Why does being creative seem so difficult often? It has to do with something that we believed about creativity for a long time and many still do. It also creates the false impression that you have things like "creative blocks".
The only thing that is blocking you is a huge misunderstanding of how ideas are formed in our brain.
We often see those light bulbs in cartoons when a character comes up with and idea. It seems like that person just plucks that idea from the sky or does a few steps before coming to a great idea.
Those steps seem so magical, it looks like when we know what is happening in that black box, once we know what the steps are we will suddenly be able to do this extraordinary feat too.
Then we look at people we admire for their genius ideas and listen to what they have to say about how they came up with great ideas.
My favourite quote would be from Neil Gaiman who is one of the great writers of our time. The Sandman is still one of my favourite comics and I am listening to the full cast audiobook version of American Gods at the moment and I am loving it.
When he was asked how he came up with great ideas for writing he said: That's the question I hate most because I DON'T KNOW.
The reason why Neil answered like that was that we think about creativity almost as a "thing", something that is created, something that can be manufactured and can be predicted and put scientifically in a well-defined box with a clear label. That would make it easier because then its just a way of copying the strategy.
But when we look at all the people who we label as genius they all have very different ways of coming up ideas and how they execute them. It's true, there is much written about so called habits and strategies that are common among brilliant people.
The most valuable lesson I learned is that you can't get the same level of genuineness by just copying what genius people do. What makes them genius is also a part of themselves, who they are, their personality, etc...
They use a strategy that works for them and that suits by how they are in their daily life, their energy, their rhythm, their strengths and weaknesses.
You are not them and they are not you. What works for them may not work for you and what works for you may not work for them.
Neil Gaiman said in another interview that when he just keeps writing even if he thinks it will be bad and to be honest that is how I started writing this. I was not sure how good it would become over time. Neil said that when you look back on what you have written some pieces will be better than others and sometimes you will not even notice the difference anymore.
The key to blocks seems to be to just keep going even when it goes much slower, it seems much worse, it seems much less than what you set out to.
This is only one piece of the puzzle to creativity.
Many entrepreneurs who are successful know they tried a hundred different projects out that did fail before they found one that stuck and turned out fine (The others mostly have survivals bias). What we think is the first step in a process is in fact already the two hundred step.
The same is true for how our brain comes up with ideas. Our brain works on some ideas for weeks and on others for months and other more distilled ideas even over years. The moment the AHHA moment comes it can seem like it was instant and magical.
How do you know then that you will have a good idea when you have a deadline.
In order to do something so well when we need to do it fast, we already have to have created the habits that we fall back to.
In case of emergency and pressure, we fall back to our training and habits not to what we think and what we know.
Creating habits is half the fun in becoming more creative.
It's like being healthy, health is not something we "possess" it's what we are when we sustain certain habits and not others.
Just like eating healthy, we have to eat enough, eat enough of the things that are good for us, eat a lot of different kinds of food, have fun experimenting with food.
Of course, that's not everything. We digest food differently when we eat hastily or if we eat slow, we digest differently when we are happy or if we are angry.
We digest differently if we have some rest or not and how good the quality of our rest is. All those different factors and so many more influences how we digest our food.
I must know apologies for the following analogy but it is the best one that is the easiest to understand the process.
If you are healthy YOU DON'T WORRY IF YOU WILL BE ABLE TO POOP.
You know you will because you have been eating well, you have been exercising well and you have been resting well, etc.. You know the rest is just a natural consequence of how your body works. YOU TRUST IT.
You can't put a timer on it or a calendar. You know you can take care of it when it happens and that there are toilets everywhere. You can relax.
Can you take care of when you have ideas unexpectedly?
Guess when most ideas will come?
When you work out you know also that the muscles are not built while you are working out. They are building while you are resting from working out.
The other part of creativity is REST!
When we try and push ourselves to come up with ideas we are mostly using the prefrontal cortex. We are trying to use the part of the brain that only seems to do the most of the work. That part that is in our consciousness. That part that is in our awareness.
The weeks, month and years that your brain is consolidating ideas you were not aware of. Half of the fun is understanding and working together with your subconsciousness.
Take time to rest.day dream, have enough sleep. Expect wonderful dreams.
Now everything that is left is to have fun. No seriously, HAVE SOME SERIOUS FUN.
To combine the yin and yang pieces of creativity together you have to have some fun and experiment.
The power lies in understanding how stress and relaxation work.
You can divide stress up in two kinds. Many people only recognise the first one that is "distress". It's a commonly used word and we recognise it. It's an unpleasant stress. The other kind of stress if Eustress and it is the kind of excitement you feel when you are absorbed in a challenging but fulfilling task. It's a pleasant stress on you that is tantalising. It's there when you experiment to test things out and when you are being adventurous and are testing boundaries of the unknown.
Try, test and learn new things.
Eustress encourages brain plasticity and therefore creates new ways of thinking about things. Just as with regular exercise we have to give our brain rest in order to make ensure that brain plasticity.
Some things we only know when we do it over and over again because it will become apparent as an emergent property of your accumulated acts and can not be predicted nor determined before you start. Some things you can only learn on the job, as they say. Some things you will only find when you play.
We learn and remember the most when we are emotionally involved. Sometimes its necessary to make what we are doing new and refreshing again when it became dull and mundane. Find new ways to do things. Find more than one way of doing something so you can mix things up.
May you have the most fulfilling challenges, the most amazing day dreams and dreams and many ways to have fun.