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Tag Archives | books/magazines

Tapping Your Hard-Wired Creativity

One of the creative habits I’m reinstituting is waking up early each morning as the sun rises and reading in the yellow, cheerful sunroom of my home. I used to do this each workday morning, but somehow I allowed myself to get away from it. Too bad, because now I remember how the act of reading great books on leadership, creativity, or purpose would energize me for the day ahead. Right now, that’s more important than ever.

I’m reading Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit, for the second time (my first read was through a copy from the library, but I recently bought it and now get to scribble notes throughout). It’s billed as a practical guide, which it truly is. She offers plenty of wonderful exercises to help stir the creative juices. One such exercise that I spent some time reflecting on today is a questionnaire she calls Your Creative Autobiography. Here are some of the questions she asks (there are 33 in all):

  • What are your [creative] habits? What patterns do you repeat?
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  • What is your creative ambition?
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  • What are the obstacles to this ambition?
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  • What are the vital steps to achieving this ambition?
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  • Who is your muse?

Challenging stuff. For a long time, I didn’t think I was terribly creative. Growing up, I was complimented on my creativity; I liked to sketch, build, create little scenes as only a child can. It was all driven by an innate curiosity of how the world worked. Then I hit adolescence and I tried to cram all of this creativity stuff in a plain box and deny my own creative spirit. Yet, it was always there smoldering, ready to reignite. Thankfully, I’ve rediscovered those traits that make me unique. I like this quote from Twyla:

Each of us is hard-wired a certain way. And that hard-wiring insinuates itself into our work. That’s not a bad thing. Actually, it’s what the world expects from you. We want our artists to take the mundane materials of our lives, run it through their imaginations, and surprise us. (italics added)

Each of us who are passionate about what we do are artists. So what are you hard-wired to do? What kind of creative surprises can you create today?

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We Are Not a Product

I find myself caught in a bit of dilemma. I have tried to follow the ideas behind The Brand Called You. It’s about marketing all that is distinctive and noteworthy about ourselves. It’s a way of getting ourselves out there, attracting possible clients and employers to us using many of the same ideas that companies use to sell their products.

Here’s the problem: We are not PRODUCTS. We have allowed the commercial and the economic to infiltrate even how we view ourselves. We might think we control the identity of our brand, but that’s unrealistic. When viewed in this light, the true valuators of our brand lie outside of us. No matter how much the folks at Coke try to build and rebuild their brand, it’s the consumer who determines whether it has any worth. And by allowing others to view us as a brand, we give them the same power to determine our worth. In the end, we become more about projecting an image and less about living and working toward our true purpose. In The Answer to How Is Yes, Peter Block writes:

We become products measured by market value. And soon our relationships, our dreams, and even deepest insights become a means to an end.

Okay, so what’s the alternative? This is where I admit that I am still working on new ideas. Here’s what I do know: it must include a commitment to pondering meaningful questions, engaging in self-awareness, and slowing down from the hectic pace the U.S. culture demands. These three actions are not easily or quickly rewarded, but I believe the results will be far more enduring.

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It’s All Invented…So Have Fun with It

One of my favorite books is The Art of Possibilityby Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. It speaks to me both as a creative individual and as an impactful leader. One of the things that I prefer in books of this type is a mix of insight and suggestions for taking action. The best leadership and personal development books help you use what you’ve learned in new and dynamic ways. In this respect, it is a coaching-centered resource.

The first chapter forms the foundation for the rest of the book and centers on the notion that we perceive all that happens around us in very individual ways and then interpret them accordingly. Reality and truth are then very subjective. Once you understand and accept this notion, you have an incredible capacity to act in fresh and powerful ways. They call it “It’s All Invented” and go on to suggest since we have the ability to create new stories, we might as well create ones that enhance the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us.

So, what stories are you creating right now? Do they involve you as the lead character who lives a life of drudgery, misfortune, bitterness? Hopefully not, but perhaps its just a blah life in which you yearn for more. What if you decided to create a new story today, one that involves passion, excitement, laughter, [go ahead, fill in the blank]?

Remember, it’s all invented so have some fun with it. What do you think?

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