A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first in-person professional trade show in over five years. I’m lucky enough to work for a company that partners with a global leader in computer software for creatives, but this was my first time seeing what they were made of. Since I work from home and see the same four walls of my office every day, it was a real treat to be immersed in a space that made my inspired mind sit up and take notice. Creativity is vision and bearing witness to the innovation that keeps the cogs of the digital world whirring, was truly motivating.
I say that even though it’s been over a month since my last post. Totally appropriate for a creative to take time out to be inspired, right?
Though, I suppose that’s only true if I consider myself a creative and, most of the time, I don’t. I can identify with being a wife, daughter, sister, niece, friend, or professional, but it’s infinitely harder to think of myself as an architect of pretty things. Because of this, I’m often envious of people who do. I imagine them waking up most mornings, throwing off the covers and greeting the day with confidence born of certainty of their own place in the world.
Rationally, I know this isn’t necessarily true and we’re all just trying to figure it out, but working at the conference was still unexpectedly enlightening. Of all the demos, tools, apps, and resources available, it was the people I found most interesting. There were hundreds of creatives under one roof, a veritable smorgasbord of fine creative minds, some of whom were completely unaware of their own genius. And, as I sat at our booth and explained our consulting services to attendees, I suddenly wanted to understand. How did they make it look so easy? What did they do to get their beanstalks to grow so high, and where could I get some of those magic beans?
Here’s what I learned about how to jump-start own creative genius from spending a week with creators:
Curiosity is a good thing
Creatives ask a lot of questions. For three days, I manned our booth with my colleagues and interacted with a steady stream of inquisitive visitors. It wasn’t the questions they asked, though, but how they asked them that made the difference. It floored me to see how uninhibited they were, how consciously, un-self-conscious. There was no pretense or embarrassment when they asked how something worked, no fear of being wrong or need to be right. Their questions were contemplative rather than ego-driven and stemmed from an actual desire to understand the mechanics of a new product, rather than the instant need to master it.
For someone who normally drafts her questions on paper before asking them, it was refreshing to witness self-assuredness that encouraged collaboration, rather than stifled it. I appreciated the open forum, and the chance to share ideas without pretense.
Consider multiple points of view
On the first day of the conference, one of my colleagues handed me some swag from another booth. It was a wooden cube, like a Rubik’s cube, but ever more torturous. I made the mistake of unraveling it and spent the rest of the show (and most of the flight home) trying to put it back together. Call it persistence or blind obsession, but I just couldn’t let it go. I still can’t, but now I choose to see this activity as a metaphor rather than a punishment.
When an organization’s business processes fail, the job of finding a workaround usually falls to its employees. I know it, I’ve lived it, I’ve even trained others to do it and yet, I’m still consistently amazed at the way creatives use all the tools and resources at their disposal to solve a problem. Some are so adept at considering a problem from multiple angles that they make working around the limitations of a product an art form. Creatives understand there’s more than one side to a story, and they use varying perspectives to develop an approach that works. They’re comfortable with the unexpected because chance leads them in a direction they hadn’t considered before. Call it flexibility, adaptability, or unconventional thinking, but venturing into uncharted territory is something creatives know well.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
I previously wrote an entire post on how perfectionism affects our ability to create. Many of us have an unhealthy relationship with failure, or even success. It’s tough not to be critical of something we put out into the world and equally difficult to accept our own triumphs. That we could ever be flippant about our art, or the lessons we learn while creating, causes a feeling of irreverence that we find…uncomfortable. It was liberating to hear some of the conference attendees laughing as they told stories about trying, and subsequently failing, at something they were working on. Those that didn’t laugh shrugged off their failures with little worry or concern. There was a collective assumption that they would, at some point, figure it out and – if not – they would just pivot to something new. There was no fear of failure, or of not reaching an impossibly high standard. Instead, they defaulted to asking more questions, confident that the answers would lead them to the desired result.
Note to self: laugh more, worry less.
I won’t wax poetic about how creatives should find their “inner child,” and do all the things we used to do as kids. Sitting on my kitchen floor banging on a pot with a wooden spoon won’t me a better writer. Well, maybe it will. I’ll let you know the next time I’m in the kitchen.
Instead, I think we need to play like adults. Many of the booths at the conference had games, videos, or team members who performed live demos on the apps they developed. There were entire sections of the conference space dedicated to collaboration and lounging, with beanbag chairs and other areas that encouraged congregation rather than separation. They built even the private spaces with see-through walls, allowing for a full view of attendees out in the open, silently bobbing their heads to the music played by a DJ outside the hall. This setup wasn’t an accident. Magic happens when creatives immerse themselves in an environment like this, free to interact, but also to think, deliberate, plan and dream.
Creatives are a glass half-full bunch. They know how to make award-winning lemonade and, if they don’t have lemons, they use oranges and slap a different label on the bottle. It might have been the intrinsic vitality of the conference’s location (Vegas), or just the fact that many of the attendees were interacting in-person for the first time in a while, but the general vibe of the event felt overwhelmingly positive. Creatives aren’t afraid to celebrate their own successes, not because their egos demand it, but because they’re genuinely proud of the results. There’s a kind of openness about them, a kind of energy that fuels next-level innovation, and a passion to keep going.
As someone whose own creative process can sometimes be arduous and less fruitful than I hoped, being in the presence of other creatives served as a reminder of the importance of remaining optimistic. I returned home with a renewed sense of the creative I want to be. Not every day is a good writing day, but how I choose to meet that day is up to me. I can embrace the journey and look at each moment as an opportunity or not.
Is this a recipe for jump-starting my own creative genius or for living life? I don’t know.
One thought on “5 Ways To Jump-Start Your Creative Genius”
Once again, Krista Beggan does not disappoint! She continually motivates me to delve deeper into my own creativity thorough the beauty and insight of artful writing. Thank you!
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