Friday, September 16, 2005

What's Your Creativity Recipe?

"If you want people to be creative," he says, "you have to put them in an environment that lets their imagination soar. . . . The size of their ideas is directly proportional to the space they have in which to think."Gerald Haman, Creative Solutions Network

Right now, I think Gerald Haman is the smartest person I don’t know. Of course I do. I always think that people who think like I do are really, really, 32 reallys smart. Gerald Haman and I would make good friends. He understands creativity. I wish he was my boss somewhere along the line. He wouldn’t have thought I was speaking in tongues.

It took me four years to figure out that publishing was about being creative on demand. More than eight hours a day, five days a week I was asked to solve problems creatively—to write, rewrite and copyfit, It is a fact of the industry. It took another four years before I figured out my personal recipe for building an environment that fostered creativity.

Creativity needs space to play. I do my most creative work where I have plenty of space. I need space to think. I need space to dream. I need space to lose sight of me. To paraphrase an old axiom, creativity expands to fill the space it has to work in. Find a space that you feel at home in. Give yourself space to think and dream.

Creativity needs comfort and fuel. An empty stomach can’t fuel an eager mind. I keep treats and lots of water around. If I’m listening to my stomach growling, I can’t have fun with what I’m writing about. When I’m hungry I tend to get cranky, and when I’m cranky quality ideas are not my forté. Stock some healthful foods to nourish you. A good chair, comfortable clothes, and a foot stool are important too. They add more to your creativity than hours at the keyboard will ever do.

Creativity needs a high-trust environment—one where laughter comes easy and critiques are quick. I put an off switch on my internal editor. It only goes on when I’m editing. I’ve asked my friends who read for me to give their critiques quick and specifically. Choose the people who review your work as you might choose the people who care for your child.

Creativity needs to play. Speaking of children, try acting like one. I like to try on the world through the senses of a child. It helps me reconnect with sensations I’ve missed. See things, hear things, taste, touch, and smell things as if you were a child again.

Creativity needs the right tools. Save on other things, but buy yourself the best office supplies. There’s nothing like that new paper feeling to set my mind toward new ideas. Give yourself permission to scribble with abandon with a new pen before you use it. Write in the margins and do things you’re not supposed to. It will help you break the habit of always following rules.

Creativity needs music and movement. I sing show tunes in the middle of the day. I drive my husband crazy. If you just can’t do that. At least put on some music and listen to it. Music gets your brain churning and opens the back door to your subconscious allowing ideas to slip out and come forward. The more senses you involve the more engaged you’ll be. So get out of your chair and walk around. Get up and dance. Do jumping jacks. Just do something.

That’s what my newest “I’ve never met him” best friend, Gerald Haman and I do to make creativity.

What do you put in your recipe?
—me strauss Letting me be
photo mensatic
Fast Company’s Interview with Gerald Haman What’s the Big Idea?


Bob said...

Too bad he's not a poet, painter, novelist, composer, dancer. Those are truly dangerous vocations.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Bob,
Yes they are truly dangerous vocations. But he's an idea guy and that's pretty dangerous too.

And none of us are turtle trainers, yet.


Bluesky_Liz said...

Music gets me going. Usually when I'm writing, I like to have music without vocals, or least I understand, playing in the background.

>> There’s nothing like that new paper feeling to set my mind toward new ideas

I agree. The notebook I carry around with me is not just a plain school grade notebook, but one with good white paper, nicely spiral bound and has a nice hard cardboard backing and frontcover. I did take the time to pick the notebook when I was in at the stationary shop. I've also got a good pen to write in it.

zilla said...

2 things:

A good chair, comfortable clothes, and a foot are important too.

A foot? I can't get past wondering how and why a foot figures into creativity. I'm on my first cup of coffee. I hope I figure this out before the pot is consumed.

Second reference to turtle training I have read this week!

What is UP with that?

My pet turtle is beginning to cower in the corner of his aquarium, hoping I don't haul the flaming hoops and cato'nine tails out.

Is turtle training some kind of metaphor -- am I that far out of the loop?

Very thoughtful post.

I should tidy up my creative space :-)

Jennifer Marie said...

I really nice notebook (note the school type) and a good pen. They are ALWAYS on me. I don't go anywhere without them. I'm constantly pulling out the notebook and making notes of anything and everything that catches my attention.

Music or no music...I can write either way. Though usually I love movie soundtracks (instrumental) when I write.

Truth be told I can write just about anywhere (the park, the airplane, the library...), but I love my room best. It's there that I know no distractions will come.

ME Strauss said...

Hey Liz
I started actually picturing your notebook from your comment. Sounds like something that I's love to carry around with me . . . I wouldn't ever come looking her if it goes missing.

What?? I just turned up the music. :)

Thank you,Liz

ME Strauss said...

Dear Liz,
You have a mistake in your post. I think you meant foot stool.
love Zilla

Dear Zilla,
You are right. Thank you for finding it and for telling me about it. The whole d*mn document disappeared from the end of the quote to the start of the question a the end when I posted last night.
Thank God the turtle trainer did see that error in ther.
Love Liz

ME Strauss said...

Hey Jennifer
Yeah, that notebook thing has me smiling just to think about it. I've done a lot of writing in a lot of places too. My favorite place away from home is on an 18-hour airplane flight with my headphones. Then I can pretend to be whomever I want to be and the whole world stays away except to feed me and see to my comfort.


Popeye said...

I've got a Tungsten C Palm Pilot that I put most of my ideas in. There's something about this thing I can pull out of my pocket that has a built in key board that helps me move closer to finality than a notebook.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Popeye,
I can see where that would work for you always around and ready to sync your ideas. Makes sense. Efficient too. I'm thinking of getting a machine if I take up a commute I'm looking at--but of course that would be audio.

In the meantime, I'm straight to the computer for some things. Others seem to flow better with a pencil in my hand.

Thanks for coming back.

Tanda said...

Great post! I'll be printing that one out also.

My recipe: I don't write anything down. I assemble details in my brain and spin it around as I'm washing dishes or vaccuming the floors. I have to be doing something physical.

I'm thinking that perhaps keeping a little notebook may not be such a bad idea. I always have some free time when I'm sitting in the carpool line at the elementary school...

Thanks for the extra helps, Liz!

ME Strauss said...

Hi Tanda,
Thanks. I'm always glad when when you find something useful.

Your strategy of thinking creativity during physical acitivity is a tried and true one--that's why people have so many good ideas while running or in the shower or even sleeping. They have their minds off on other things so their subconscious is free to play with ideas.


dog1net said...

Wow, Liz:

This is great advice for a beginning writer, but for a more experienced writer, your post is an affirmation that creativity is proportional to space, both physical and mental. When my son moved to Houston, I first thought I didn't need a two bedroom apartment anymore. But then I discovered that his room, which is the larger of the two, would make a terrific office. And so I converted his room into my "writing space." Sitting at my desk, I can look out the window in front of me, or I can look out the two windows to my left. The light from the afternoon sun pours in and I am inspired. What I discovered is that it's the living room I didn't need, but try and find an apartment like that.

ME Strauss said...

What a cheerful and uplifting comment. You made me laugh with your apartment without a living room comment. Even in that little bit of your writing, I could feel the sense of space and room to think that the second room affords you. You are a rich writer and one who uses his wealth wonderfully.

Thanks for adding your insight to the discussion.