“If you are unprogrammed in the cultural causa-sui (self-generated) project, then you have to invent your own: you don’t vibrate to anyone else’s tune. You see that the fabrications of those around you are a lie, a denial of truth. A creative person becomes then, in art, literature, and religion the mediator of natural terror and the indicator of a new way to triumph over it. He reveals the darkness and the dread of the human condition and fabricates a new symbolic transcendence over it. This has been the function of the creative deviant from shamans through Shakespeare.” –Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death.
Most of us wish we were more creative. The problem is that most of us aren’t. The interesting thing is that most of us are secretly afraid of creative ideas, mostly because we don’t like to feel uncertain. So if we really want to be more creative we’re going to have to “trick” ourselves into doing so. Smashing the light bulb is taking the outdated idea of vision – that is, a light bulb popping up over our head in a thought bubble – and smashing it, so as to launch ourselves into higher creativity and take the next step in the creative process. Here, then, are four light bulb smashing ways that might promote higher creativity.
1.) Screw up as quickly as possible
“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.” –George Lois
Fail fast. Then pick up the pieces of your shattered art and fix it. It comes down to this: We’re not perfect. We’re clumsy and stumbling personifications of imperfection, at best. And that’s okay. That’s where the juicy stuff is anyway. So we need to take a nosedive as quickly as possible in order to get to the good stuff. The sooner we fail and the sooner we get through all that perfect crap, the sooner we can get to the imperfect gold.
There are diamonds in the rough, but we have it backwards: the rough is our idea of perfection; the diamond is the permanent imperfection of all things. Like Ernest Becker wrote, “Either you eat-up yourself, and others around you, trying for perfection; or you objectify that imperfection in a work, on which you then unleash your own creative powers. In this sense, some kind of objective creativity is the only answer man has to the problem of life.”
2.) Let Quixote be your co-pilot
“Everything is transitory, what’s important is the creative process.” -Ben Wilson
Life begins at the end of our comfort zone. We all know this to be true. And yet we still cling ever-so-tightly to what keeps us comfortable. One way to toss a monkey-wrench into the machinery of our reluctance is to allow ourselves to be eccentric. It’s time to channel our inner-Quixote and go off in search of giants (windmills) to “tilt” at.
In other words, we need to allow ourselves to tap into our inner-child and get down with some epic horseplay. We need to be myth-makers. Let’s stop telling each other boring outdated stories and start inventing new ones through boisterous play. Myth-making is a boon for visionary thinking.
Mythology is an ever-present, ever-receding horizon mediated through the creative imagination of individuals and cultures and venerated through art and cosmology. Like Louis G. Herman wrote, “The retelling of mythology helps access the creative energy of the ancient past within the present. In this understanding, past, present, and future become separate faces of a single reality,” or, as Jean Gebser put it, an “ever-present origin.” If we can allow ourselves to retell mythical tales with ourselves as eccentric characters, there will be no end to the creative fruit we can bear.
3.) Be tenacious with your creativity: stop daydreaming!
“We have art lest we perish of the truth.” –Nietzsche
Daydreaming is great for incubating ideas, but creativity is more about action than contemplation. It is more active than passive. So stop daydreaming about your unique vision and get out there and actually do it. Put your nose to the creative grindstone. No fear! Your beak will be sharper for it.
Creativity shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s perseverance. It takes heart, a lot of it, to create something that has never been done before. The resolve it takes to be a visionary is enormous. Since it takes such ruthlessness, we might as well be honest about it. And if we truly want to be more creative then we need to buckle down and dive right in, every single day. Daydreaming is great, it gets the juices flowing. But true visionary thinking requires action. Like Nietzsche wrote, “Of all writings I love only that which is written with blood. Write with blood: and you will discover that blood is spirit.”
4.)Adapt and overcome with Beginner’s Mind
“The only viable option for the universe is for it to be in a state of creative disequilibrium, holding together sufficiently to not fall apart, but open enough to be expanding.” –Thomas Berry
Shoshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” This is all about cultivating open-mindedness in the here-and-now and not allowing our preconceptions –all our opinions, all our logic and reasoning, even our cherished beliefs– to interfere with new information. Fostering beginner’s mind allows us to adapt to the current zeitgeist so that we can overcome it by creating a new zeitgeist. Like Shunryu Suzuki wrote in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
Human beings are supreme opportunists. Where an eagle flies and strikes with razor-sharp talons for its survival, we adapt and overcome for ours. We do this by using our brain to capitalize on a given opportunity. And so it is with creativity. As artists we must be opportunists by using our brain to adapt and overcome to a particular art or domain of knowledge. But our minds must be clear (Beginner’s Mind).
We adapt by absorbing knowledge and technique. We overcome by taking that knowledge and technique into new worlds, by stretching comfort zones, shattering mental paradigms, and hijacking evolution into revealing its secrets, and then coming out on the other side having created an entirely new paradigm. Like Robert Greene wrote in Mastery, “What constitutes true creativity is the openness and adaptability of our spirit. Creativity and adaptability are inseparable.