Trust the Process. Thoughts on Creativity.
Let’s speak about creativity. Perhaps I’m an anomaly in my field, but my relationship with the word “creative” is dubious, and weighted with baggage. Creativity, like art, is never decoration. Creativity will not “jazz up” a layout or ever make anything “pop.” Creativity should appear efficient, never seeming to employ more touch than is absolutely necessary. Discovering a creative execution though is an exhaustive task.
People often conflate creativity with being removed from rationality, rather than logical thought and the judicious application of inventive speculation. For me, creativity is, more than anything, a way of observing how things have been done previously and asking a single question—what is the simpler, undiscovered truth? What is that yet to be realized most obvious solution?
Yet, just to be clear here, professionally exercising creativity is a complex endeavor and not without contradiction. Creatives are rooted deeply in rational thought whilst simultaneously declining to go along with a blind assumption—daring to slip into the yet-to-be-tested and walk amongst previously revealed truths. Surrender the rules and conventions, upset the status-quo, grasp at the unknown, question everything, and wander out into the profound.
To delve deeper, creativity is the aftereffect of a specific task: iteration.
Your first idea sucks. Probably.
Human understanding is fluid, plastic, and evolving—don’t shortcut it. Your first idea is just that–the beginning, one of many. Get it over with and spit it out. Think of it as your one disposable freebie, unless it’s that rare occasion when it isn’t.
Ideate and iterate wildly. Do as much without respect for the deliverable is, for the objective is basically to meander to creative exhaustion. This task is not optional. I’m confident you will discover enough through this meandering to yield ideas that don’t suck.
Go forward and ideate. Know the conventions and forsake them for a spell. Venture out into the deep water, return and reveal what you’ve discovered.
Exploring further, creativity is as much problem solving as ideation.
How I learned to stop worrying and love obstructions.
Realizing infinite possibility is often associated with creativity; yet, having too much latitude can be paralyzing when it provides too much possibility. Limitations can be fruitful within a creative environment. Painters choose limited color palettes and musicians explore odd time signatures. Paint the widest tale within your prescribed limits, find your differentiator and leverage the shit out of it.
Artist Phil Hansen explored the power of limitations in his inspiring TEDx presentation “The Power of Constraints.” Additionally Danish provocateur, Lars Von Trier’s experimental film “The Five Obstructions” is an exploration of the creative process, self- imposed limitation and the power of iteration. The film illustrates the point that limitations can be productive within a creative process. In the film, Von Trier proposes to his friend and mentor Jørgen Leth remake his film “The Perfect Human” five times, each time Von Trier introduces a new sadistic obstruction. Each resulting solution Leth executes, within the set parameters, is inventive and evocative in its own right.
Go forth, begin with the knowns—embrace the legacy logo and succumb to the questionable color palette. Step into the constraint, tell a bigger story, and commit to making it come true.
Love the creative process.
Never stop working. Learn something new. Share. Ideate. Iterate. Win occasionally. Fail often. Repeat.
Have any thoughts about the creative process? Curious about mine? Leave your comments below and we’ll exchange big thoughts.