Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to Be More Creative - Part 2

Yesterday was the background, today is Amy Dacyczyn's ten step program to more creativity.


Step 1. Realize that you ARE creative. Look for it in your daily life and nurture that part of yourself.

Step 2. Give yourself mental space, a clear field. We tend to fill up our days with the TV, car radio, reading the paper, chats with friends on the phone. [This was written in 1990 before the internet was widely available, so she didn't include all the mind numbing activities of the web.] Instead do that "mindless task" in quiet. This type of activity dominates my life . . . housework, mowing lawn, scraping paint. Boredom never strikes as the mental gears whirl continually. I write only after mentally rehearsing paragraphs a dozen times. When someone says "I'm just not creative like you," I reply, "No, I just thought about it longer."

Step 3. Never, EVER compare yourself to others, but rather enjoy your own innovations. I stumbled over this block working in the shadow of many award winning designers. No matter how good I could become there would still be someone better. Later I realized that no matter how bad I was there was always someone worse. Compare yourself only to yourself. "This is how good I am today. I am better than I was yesterday and I will be better tomorrow."

Step 4. I use a strategy I call "putting the problem into the mental computer." Your brain functions continually, even as you sleep. Study the parameters of your problem and then let it rest for a few days. Very often your mental computer will spit out the solutions unexpectedly as you shower or drive to work. This works much better than trying to perform as the clock ticks away. If you are trying to come up with a great party idea give yourself a couple months of mental back burner time. [She was famous for wonderful children's birthday parties.]

Step 5. Brainstorm. Toss the idea around with another person. Be flexible and say or write down every "stupid" thought that comes. Very often another person can take your idea and add a twist that makes it great. Jim [her husband] is my brainstorming partner. He is very good at telling me when my idea is good and I should run with it. Sometimes something isn't working just right and he can look at it and come up with a better sentence or illustration idea.

Step 6. Find a springboard, a starting place. For the tightwad this usually means determining which resources are cheap or in surplus. Build from that point.

Step 7. Do not share your creative ideas with anyone who continually tells you they are dumb. This is often a spouse or a parent. Professionally I should have switched jobs until I found an art director who shared a similar creative style. The art directors that didn't like my ideas were not more creative than me. Often they were LESS creative. Mostly it was a matter of seeing things differently. However, the constant message that I was doing it wrong took its toll.  A mouse does not go down the same hole over and over if he fails to find cheese.
           After I stopped working under art directors and created for myself, or for my clients in my own way, I began to realize that I was creative after all.

Step 8. Practice. Like any skill, accessing your creative ability improves the more you do it. You will develop your own methods and strategies to fall back on when tackling new problems.

Step 9. Avoid negative stress. This also tends to block creativity as your mind focuses on that problem instead. Try to limit contact with individuals who bring on these problems. If it is someone within your household, try to limit your reaction to their actions.

Step 10. Start small. When you bite off more than you can chew you set yourself up for failure. Instead set small easily attainable goals to build a sense of success. In subsequent projects stretch yourself to slightly more ambitious undertakings.

           Sometime as you were reading the first [part] you thought, "What the heck does creativity have to do with thrift? Tightwaddery without creativity is deprivation. When there is a lack of resourcefulness, inventiveness, and innovation thrift means doing without. When creativity combines with thrift you may be doing it without money, but you are not doing without.

Amy Dacyczyn
AKA The Frugal Zealot
October 1990

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