Forced Creativity

29 Mar

I don’t handle forced creativity well.  I come from a fairly creative family – ballet, drama, art, songwriting, script writing, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, you name it, there’s a bunch of family members who are good at it. When I’m in the zone, the creativity flows (was gonna say oozes but that has such a gross connotation, doesn’t it?).

When I’m not in the zone – when I’m staring at a blank word document or lined legal pad – and I have to incorporate certain ideas and themes and I only have an hour until my next meeting and the script or memo or policy is due by the end of the day – it’s hard to conjure up creativity.

In the space of 2 1/2 minutes while I was supposed to be working on a script for work, I instead thought of the following: things to pack this weekend, why my professor has yet to post our midterm grades after nearly 3 weeks, what classes to take in the fall, I shouldn’t be hungry because I just ate an hour ago, my head hurts, why can’t I be creative on demand, I need to watch The King’s Speech, this audit is really annoying, I need to find peanut butter protein powder but everyone seems to only make chocolate peanut butter protein powder, I want to create a healthy gingerbread with lemon filling muffin recipe for this weekend, it’s time to take my commuter bike home and prep for spring riding, I only have 57  minutes and nothing to show for it yet.

Forced creativity can be stressful.  Especially when you don’t have complete control – you’ve been given a hodgepodge of requests or rules that must be followed, constraints that must be adhered to.  Especially when you can’t walk away from the project – clear your head, go for a run, then come back and tackle it with a fresh perspective.

Sometimes you have to discipline yourself to write something, anything.  Whether or not it fits the mold, whether or not it contains humor, whether or not you like it.  Leave the judgment and the guidelines for later. For the second draft. Or the third. Just start writing.

Sometimes creativity is circular. Doing something creative, even if just brainstorming a simple list of the messages you need to incorporate, will often propel you to greater creativity.  You’ll see a link or a connection that you didn’t notice before, a recent headline that ties in with your topic, a witty remark will come to mind.

Very rarely does anyone get the “big picture” when working on a creative project.  Grasp at any piece/image/thought that comes to mind and work from there to expand it. You may end up discarding that idea later when a better one emerges.  That’s fine.  You may end up with twenty ideas that you can store and use later.

Just remember: no one but you will ever know whether the end project was forced and painful and frustrating to develop (most are) OR appeared as one brilliant intact idea that required almost no effort on your part.  It’s your secret. No one can force you to share.

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