Top Tips

Here, from some of my favorite books on creativity, are some thoughts and methods I hope you will find useful.

Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman, Michael Ray
Dutton, New York, 1992

“The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.” – Mark Twain.
Virtually none of the great men and women whose creative drive has transformed the discipline in which they worked was met with acceptance at first.

As Thomas Edison said, “Sticking to it is the genius!”

Creativity is ageless. Painter Bill Fitzpatrick: “I’m eighty, but I don’t think I’m eighty–I’m sort of a stiff, hurtin’ fifty.

“The creative person always walks two steps into the darkness.” – Benny Goldson, jazz musician and composer.

Paul MacCready, inventor of (among other things) a human-powered airplane: “The only big ideas I’ve ever had come from daydreaming, but modern life seems intent on keeping people from daydreaming. Every moment of your life is being occupied, being controlled, by someone else. At school, at work, watching television–it’s somebody else’s mind controlling what you think about. Getting away from all that is really important. You need to kick back in a chair or get in a car without having the radio on–and just let your mind daydream.”

“All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.” –Grant Wood, painter

More often over the course of a complex creation, like writing a screenplay or designing a building, the act of creation is a long series of acts, with multiple and cascading preparations, frustrations, incubations, illuminations, and translations into action.

The ability to see things in a fresh way is vital to the creative process, and that ability rests on the willingness to question any and all assumptions.

Asking the right question is crucial for creative insight.

“Dare to be naive.” Buckminster Fuller.

Rosamund Stone Zander, Benjamin Zander
Harvard Business School Press, 2000

We perceive only the sensations we are programmed to receive, and our awareness is further restricted by the fact that we recognize only those for which we have mental maps or categories.

Einstein himself in 1926 told Heisenberg it was nonsense to found a theory on observable facts alone: “In reality the very opposite happens. It is theory which decides what we can observe.”

Our minds are also designed to string events into story lines, whether or not there is any connection between the parts.

It’s all invented anyway, so we might as well invent a story or a framework of meaning that enhances our quality of life and the life of those around us.
The frames our minds create define—and confine—what we perceive to be possible. Every problem, very dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.

Ask yourself:

What assumption am I making, that I’m not aware of making, that gives me what I see?

And when you have an answer to that one, ask yourself this one:

What might I now invent, that I haven’t yet invented, that we give me other choices?

Virtually everybody, whether living in the lap of luxury or in diminished circumstances, wakes up in the morning with the unseen assumption that life is about the struggle to survive and get ahead in a world of limited resources.

Ask yourself:

How are my thoughts and actions, in this moment, reflections of the measurement world?

(Look for thoughts and actions that reflect survival and scarcity, comparison and competition, attachment and anxiety.)

From WHAT A GREAT IDEA! – Key Steps Creative People Take
Charles “Chic” Thompson
Harper Perennial, 1992

Yoshiro MakaMats (holds more than 2300 patents, invented the floppy disc, compact disc, digital watch, etc.): “I encourage myself to go through my three elements of creation: suji, the theory of knowledge; pika, inspiration; and iki, practicality, feasibility, and marketability. In order to be successful, you must go through all three stages and make sure your ideas stand up to all of them. I always tell young inventors to forget about money as a primary motivator and to concentrate on ideas that will benefit mankind.

(The ability to network and learn from others all the time) That’s what it takes to succeed.”

From the beginning of an idea to its ultimate fruition, all along this line, a variety of people with different abilities and traits play vital roles. The Idea Generator gives birth to the idea. The Idea Promoter sees an array of applications of the idea and sets in motion the forces to try out the more promising ones. The Idea Systems Designer creates the organization of people, machines, space, and money and gets them rolling toward the goal. The Idea Implementers establish the routine tasks necessary for reaching that goal. And all along the way Idea Evaluators constantly question the quality and effectiveness of the way things work…and don’t work.

* The best way to get great ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.

* Create ideas that are fifteen minutes ahead of their time, not light-years ahead.

* Always look for a second right answer. Philosopher Emile Chartier: “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one you have.”

Brainstorming often occurs on three levels. Level One seems to be a sharing of facts and experiences. On Level Two we look around and realize that even though we’ve thrown out everything we knew, we need to come up with something new and different. Level Three is a wild one where we not only don’t know where the process is going, we don’t know where the reframing or main idea came from. It doesn’t happen very often in groups.

To succeed, the process has got to create a universal ‘aha’; the answer typically will be new, original, and unexpected even to the person who comes up with it.
Use, “Ready, Fire…Aim” approach.

* If at first you don’t succeed…take a break!

Rollo May
Bantam Books, New York, 1976

…courage is not the absence of despair; rather, the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair.

…if you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole.

…we must always base our commitment in the center of our own being, or else no commitment will be ultimately authentic.

Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency.

…a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and his or her commitment to them.

It is (a) seeming contradiction that we must be fully committed, but we must also be aware at the same time that we might possibly be wrong.

Creative courage…is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which a new society can be built. Every profession can and does require some creative courage.

…the essence of being human is that, in the brief moment we exist on this spinning planet, we can love some persons and some things, in spite of the fact that time and death will ultimately claim us all.

…every creative encounter is a new event; every time requires another assertion of courage.

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