It's time again for some inspiration from Heraclitus, the world's first creativity teacher (he lived around 500 BC). Today's insight is: “I searched into myself.”
Heraclitus felt that consulting our own knowledge and intuition is a wonderful way to gain insight. Unfortunately, some of us never learned this lesson. Much of our educational system is an elaborate game of "guess what the teacher is thinking," and we come to believe that the best ideas are in someone else's head rather than our own. Heraclitus reminds us that there are good ideas within ourselves if we are willing to dig deeply enough.
I believe there's a creative strategy in Heraclitus' insight, and it is:
We can emulate Heraclitus by searching for own creative tendencies. Here are six of mine:
1. I get my ideas either when I'm under a lot of pressure — "the ultimate inspiration is the deadline" — or when I'm away from the problem altogether. I rarely get them when I'm doing routine tasks that require some attention.
2. If I'm mentally blocked in trying to solve a problem, it's usually because I'm in love with a particular idea — so much so that it prevents me from looking for alternatives. Only when I force myself to become detached from it and "kiss it goodbye" do I find new answers. Letting go of a previously cherished idea can be one of life's great pleasures.
3. I try to pay attention to small things: how much frowning takes place in beer commercials, what sorts of patterns dead leaves make around a storm drain, and so on. I do this partly because I've trained myself to do it, but also because I've been forced to. I'm left-handed, but the world is designed for right-handed people — something most "righties" don't even think about. I'm constantly being made conscious of how things are put together. For example, telephone booths are designed to make right-handed people feel comfortable and at ease, but lefties can feel clumsy using them.
4. My own ego can get in the way of discovering new things. However, if I allow myself to lower my resistance to those ideas that I typically dismiss as irrelevant or unattractive, I find that they can become doorways to solutions I've been overlooking.
5. I don't know what I don't know. I've got a big blind spot, and the only way to get access to what's lurking out there is to put myself in a humble, receptive frame of mind (not always easy to do) and ask others to point out what I'm not seeing.
6. Rejection of my work in the early phases of the creative process doesn't bother me. I'm not afraid of taking one of my less than stellar ideas and asking complete strangers what they think of it. I find their responses frank and refreshing.
How do you get your ideas? What's your creative style? What are your strengths and weaknesses?