The Responsible Creative

logicalThe title of this post seems like an oxymoron, but I assure you it is not. Part of the dilemma some face in seeing truth within a title, is based on their previous experiences that are founded on their sole perspective. Finding the truth requires a glance into the lives of others, enough time spent to understand the definition from a new vantage point.

Most creatives I’ve met are more responsible than their logical counterparts. The artisan, who shows up late to a function because he is emerged in the deep and intense development of an idea that will soon enrich humanity, is far more responsible than the person gloating about his logic because he managed to maintain a certain status quo on behalf of society.

Society demands of its artists that they move our culture forward, while demanding of those exuding logic to carefully maintain and preserve our current way of life.

The airplane pilot is a great example of a calm logical person assigned to sustain our status quo at all costs. When boarding a plane, no one asks the pilot to experiment with flight control during the trip. Nor do they request an adventurous ride that is sure to catch them off guard and spin their life into an exhilarating experience worth weeks of water cooler conversation.

We want our pilots to be mundane. Our expectations are for them to find the least risky path for the plane, avoiding even the slightest turbulence when possible. We also want every decision they make to be founded on a depth of experience and logic that is seldom argued. When all is said and done, the pilot is “responsible” when he delivers nothing more than safe passage and a smooth ride.

The creative on the other hand is pressed by society to exert every level of risk in bringing us something completely new and innovative. With hundreds of new television series released this year we all gravitate to the few that take the audience to places they’ve never been and reveal wonders of life and times they’ve never experienced. We demand the fresh ideas from our creative at any cost.

When he is tardy to social events, most chastise the creative because he didn’t meet the logical or responsible time frame for attendance. They forget that the creative is only late when he is deeply emerged in creating elements for our future. In fact, the amount of energy it takes a creative to not give in to the distractions of the event later that day, but instead hunker down to the hard work of creating the next big thing is perplexing.

To understand that the artist, who doesn’t live by logical standards, is actually responsible by creative standards is accomplished by seeing how the two work together. The balance or synergy between the two types of people moves us to a new level in life and maintains it until the next breakthrough. The forerunner to the smart phone is a great example of combined efforts.

A creative person dreamt up the Star Trek communication device, which appeared in the television series that promoted a universe where people of all races were accepted, worked as a team and kept in communication using a wireless flip phone type of device. It was the due diligence of the creative that took responsibility to avoid distractions and instead put in the hard hours of brainstorming to create the vision.

A logical man bought into the dreams demonstrated in each episode of the telecast. He put his electrical engineering degree to the test and soon invented the personal Star TAC wireless phone that flipped open just like the device on the show. He had taken responsibility to turn the fantasy into reality using the mundane principles he had mastered. With over 60 million units sold, our world quickly changed.

Two responsible people with great differences in the way they perceive life teamed to launch the popular demand of communication devices. The creative birthed the vision and through the magic of television demonstrated its use. The logical bought into the vision and turned the dream into reality. Together society moved forward.

So why is it that many logical people think the procrastinating creative isn’t being responsible when he consistently delivers ideas that shake and alter our future? After all, creatives need that down time to increase the productivity of their creations. The irony is actually seen in the artist’s perspective who always appreciates the responsible engineer that turns his fantasies into reality.

Why does mutual respect between the two never happen? Actually, it does happen. Most engineers love working with creatives because they love to work the puzzle of design into reality.

It’s the general public that attributes great responsibility and excellence to the logical process and little to the artistic process. Yet, the general public spends a third of their 24 hour day viewing and using things developed by the creative. It’s absolutely ironic.

The creative takes the responsibility to procrastinate, brainstorm and dive deep into figuring out how his vision will be structured for the next big thing, but few recognize the value of it until they can hold or watch the final product. Of course, once the final product exists the public acknowledges the diligence of the logical persons who turned the dream into reality and forget about the creative who put in incredible amounts of emotional energy to birth the idea in the first place.

Still, the creative takes responsibility to continue his efforts regardless of the missing applause for his due diligence. Yep, creatives are more responsible because they create regardless of the missing pats on the back.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

 

Capturing the Surge of Inspiration

If I were to write a formula for innovation it would look something like this:

Creativity * Inspiration = Innovation

There are few who will disagree with my formula, but almost everyone would admit that the tricky part is capturing and maintaining the surge of inspiration. Finding it is never the problem, as inspiration is always associated with life. When you find life, you find inspiration.

To find inspiration all we have to do is seek out the things that are infused with life. The meaning of the word is also associated with life. One definition is about inhaling to bring something to life. Another is about giving life. Still another is about a divine influence that creates life.

When you find a person who is full of life, you find a person that inspires you. If you are able to maintain a relationship with him or her, you have found a source of continuous inspiration. Many artists during the renaissance referred to inspiring people as their muse or a goddess that inspires. Today, we call the person a rare treasure and a joyful find.

CreativeMost artists find different people over time that brings about various levels of inspiration. Seldom do we come upon a person who overloads us with so much inspiration that we go off creating project on top of project—but it does happen.

The key is trying to figure out how to keep someone special like that in our life, especially when they need to receive something in return like any good two-way relationship. But what do you provide a muse?

During days of old, the artist would bring honest heartfelt emotions and words of love to the relationship—driving some into romantic relationships. During the late 1900’s partnerships were formed with each person bringing something to the table that the other needed to keep the business functioning. However, few people developed long term relationships, whether platonic or not, that was based on each person focusing on the needs of the other.

I’m convinced that when you pour some form of inspiration into another person’s life their heart overflows with joy, love and hope. The combination of those three things settles into the heart, which produces inspired words of affirmation and encouragement—life giving things in their own right that inspire the artist in return. This results in the artist being inspired more than they gave out.

In other words, if we sew seeds of inspiration into the lives of those around us, they may in turn inspire us. If my theory is true, then the best way to capture inspiration is by giving it away. To test my theory, I recommend that artists find ways of inspiring others and pay attention to see how much inspiration comes back to them.

But, if you are truly fortunate, you may stumble into a person who matches your synergy for inspiration. You both would fly high with joy overflowing because it takes little effort between you to generate more inspiration than what your humble hearts can hold.

I’ve only had that experience a couple times in life and I can tell you that you feel capable of changing the world because of them, yet you never want to leave their presence for fear that the inspiration might fade. You want to spend every waking hour with them, but instead you’re driven to create and innovate from your overflowing heart. That gift of inspiration gives birth to new ideas and work that changes lives. The inspired creative cannot sit still. He or she must respond to what they receive.

Since those experiences happen ever so seldom, I recommend you put my theory to the test and see if it works or not. Go out and inspire someone and let me know the results.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

Getting Past the White Blank Paper

A common question I get is, “How do you get past staring at that blank white sheet of paper when you create?”

My answer, “I doodle on it until it’s no longer intimidating.”

The key to any creative project is getting started. You can start at the beginning, the middle or the end, as all elements will have a part in the final creative piece. It might take on a different form or launch you into a better direction or story, but all elements are part of the journey that develops the idea into something worth sharing.

I remember being mesmerized as a little kid watching Mary Poppins. She was wholesome, magical and very smart. When Jane and Michael struggled to clean up their room, she reminded them that, “A job begun is half done.” This statement proved to be true in life and helped me understand the three things necessary to move a creative idea through to completion.

  1. Start Anywhere and in Anyway.

IMG_3363Creatives tend to start with a doodled idea on the nearby napkin. I’ve yet to meet a great film director who doesn’t have doodles in the margins of his notebook. It’s a natural process for creatives to doodle out ideas and turn them into something greater than intended.

For some, clipping magazines for a vision board will kick their ideas off in a powerful way. Others create living reels, storyboards and mood reels. Another might shoot off lots of photos, stick them on the wall and arrange them to find a potential story. There is no wrong answer to spark ideas that can cross over to your next big thing.

  1. Improve Upon the Idea

Once the creativity has been started, the refining process kicks into gear. All first ideas lack luster and rarely fit the final work of art. The journey of creation requires rework 80% of the time to bring the art to life. Three steps will help the creative hone their ideas…

  • What If: Asking what if questions force the mind to consider multiple angles and perspectives on the art. By interrogating the idea for all possible vantage points, a richness of greater value is added to the work.
  • Examine & Re-examine: Focusing in on the craft and bringing the idea to a master level allows the creative to determine the best possible way to share the story or idea. Instead of retelling the age-old story of Sleeping Beauty, Disney diverged from its standards and told the story of Maleficent. Critical and creative thinking can help this process explore new avenues of possibilities.
  • Inspire with Imagery: Finding quotes, verses or images that spark emotions related to your idea will inspire and move the process forward. The creative always welcomes the possibility of sparking something new that polishes an idea or brings it into a unique and fascinating light.
  1. Add Magic

The sparkle or the ah-ha moment lifts the idea above scrutiny. That simple element of magic also transforms the art into something entertaining that must be talked about among friends. Whether it’s a unique moment in a story, the juxtaposition of two seemingly unrelated items, or an uncanny perspective that enlightens, the magic gives the art wings to transcend the culture to something better than its current state.

Get started in anyway you choose and then recreate to make your work better and better, until you finally find the magic element that will make your idea worth sharing by others. It doesn’t matter if your audience is a business team, little children or out of town relatives, everyone needs to be entertained enough to open their minds to your shared idea.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

 

 

Labeling the Creative

LabelLabels are dreadful, even the good ones. All too often people try to categorize what they don’t understand, as if it will bring a sense of security where its not needed. The creative spirit is allusive to many and requires a label from the logical to understand why a person is unconventional.

I’ve been called unique, weird, innovative, imaginative and creative. Each label was an attempt on the person’s part to categorize me into something close to what they understand. They’re uncomfortable with me not living life in what they believe to be an appropriate manner – A lifestyle based on logic.

Most get away with slapping a label on a creative because the majority of people require the same. I’ve read estimates that there is one creative person for every 10,000 logical people. That means for every motion picture cast and crew of 300 people, there are 3 million who don’t have a clue how to relate with those creatives. However, not knowing how to interact with a creative doesn’t stop the 3 million from enjoying their film.

The good news is that most creatives have had to learn how to relate to their audiences and investors in a logical fashion. Since the creative is capable of living in both worlds, at least for a time, the one looking for fans and funds bridges the gap.

This dynamic relationship drives a certain level of fandom based solely on the unknown. Every performance or released product appears to be all the more entertaining as the creative gives fans glimpses into their soul – The most rewarding form of story.

After reading a heartwarming story, one person told me the author had talent or the ability to achieve what others cannot achieve. His friend politely disagreed and argued that the author was a genius, as defined by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. His writings suggested that genius rises from a superior capacity for contemplation that leads the artist to transcend the smallness of ego and enter the infinite world of ideas.

I suggested that the cautionary tale of artistry was the person who isn’t truly creative, but puts on the appearance of the artist. He can notably get stuck in his own ego based on the rise of fandom. However, the true creative continues to create regardless of those who appreciate his creative bent.

I’m not suggesting that all creatives are naturally humble, but the ones I’ve met create because of who they are, not how many fans they obtain. The creative flourishes during the time people notice his work and during the time no one takes notice.

Schopenhauer said, “The man in whom genius lives and works is easily distinguished by his glance, which is both keen and steady, and bears the stamp of perception, of contemplation.”

There may be a parallel in how my friends argued about genius and my perspective of artistry. I define a creative as someone who observes and contemplates the very perceptions he has acquired, in order to reduce it to a medium for public consumption. Genius or not, there’s no room for ego or labels with the artist, as he must move from philosophies to thoughts, spreading the life changing ideas the public is so hungry to receive.

Copyright © 2016 by CJ Powers

Leveraging the Creative Subconscious

CreativeAfter watching a dozen documentaries about screenwriters, designers, directors and editors, I’ve come to the conclusion that these artists, at least the good ones, know how to leverage their subconscious. The art they create not only has a footing in reality, but their perspective is greatly enhanced by a highly creative filter from deep within the right side of their brain and their heart.

The most exhilarating creative ideas that pop into my head come early in the morning or at times when my mind is off playing or well rested. The pros take advantage of those moments to strengthen their work and bring new entertainment value to bear. This same moment allowed me to write this blog in the fraction of time it normally takes.

To leverage this strength, my friend David did creative work in the morning and analytical work in the afternoon when logic ruled his mindset. That’s not to say he was never creative in the afternoon, but the level of creative play was typically reduced after hours of exploration and work.

There are three commonalities among professional creatives that are worth understanding.

PLAY

Deadlines and pressure never increase creativity, but the opposite magnifies the creative flow. The strongest fuel of imagination is play. It’s made up of the same elements we explored as children and allows our inner child to come out to have fun. It can’t be taught or demanded, it can only be given a safe environment in which to let go so the creative can be free to pretend.

Play allows hearts to touch or bond without being romantic, which non-creatives don’t get, as they’re convinced something more has to be there, but its not. Play also allows passion to rise and solidifies why a work of art is important. Without it, people can’t understand what the artist saw in the work.

PROCRASTINATE

Non-creatives who have watched the procrastination process of the artist assume the person is lazy; not realizing their mind is going a million miles per hour. The percolation process is what gives flavor to the creatives’ work. A long bought of what appears to be boredom turns into aggressive workflow that can easily go late into the night or until the creative has to flop onto his bed.

Many creatives will plan ahead for their moments of procrastination by determining in advance the item they want to ponder. Most find their breakthrough by morning or in the drifting of their mind. Harnessing this natural phenomenon gives professionals an added benefit of what appears to be a secret weapon of the imagination.

OBSERVE

The best writers I’ve met or learned about through blogs and short films take time to watch a movie every day. They also peruse scrapbooks, magazines and other mind stimulating products. Not only do the myriad of observations fill them with ideas, but it also helps them to know what to avoid because it has already been done.

The most fun is watching others live their lives. People have the funniest idiosyncrasies that inspire. While some might suggest these oddities are a sign of the person’s weakness, the artist sees it as their humanity emerging in a unique fashion. These peculiarities make the person wholly them.

Being able to leverage the elements that feed the subconscious, the creative can explore matters of the heart like no one else. The more this process was protected by society, the greater was the renaissance of the time. It’s no wonder that most movements were birthed in the church, which at one time was a protected place for many hearts before the decades of judgment that ensued.

Over this weekend, as America celebrates its Independence, find time to play, procrastinate and observe. See if anything arises within your soul that must be reduced to some form or expression of art. Take this weekend to determine if being more creative will give you insights into humanity and a wisdom found by few.

Drive-by Creative Games

Ole Lady MobileI recently learned a new game from an administrator at Disney. When she has a long hard day, she likes to do something out of the ordinary. She likes to stretch her creative juices and explore story from a new standpoint on the fly. Playing a simple game with those riding in her carpool exercises her creativity.

The rules are simple. The goal is to create a story one phrase at a time. She goes clockwise and each person shares a phrase of the story. The key is that the story must include everything the person has recently observed.

For instance, let’s say Person One notices birds fly out from a tree, railroad gates go down, and a loud horn honk. Person One might say, “Birds flew from the trees as the railroad gates blocked traffic and a sinister horn echoed down the rusty tracks.”

Person Two must continue the story where One left off and it must reflect what he observed. Let’s say it was a train, school kids, and an irate driver stuck at the railroad gate. Person Two might say, “The loco train, known for attacking at a moments notice, chugged past the gates and angered a man who was blocked from seeing his daughter leave school.”

Sometimes people only observe a single item that stands out unique from the day’s normal activities. Person Three might say, “The swirl of dust in the alley behind the bakery swooshed up into a super hero ready to protect the student.”

By the time the train passes, Person Four might have captured her observations. She says, “Fearing a great loss from the micro burst, the loco train chugged out of sight, leaving the girl unharmed.”

The story continues for several more rounds until all enjoy a great story. Even the first four phrases suggest a story that can entertain, while developing the skills of a creative person. Here is the compilation of the first four phrases in story form:

Birds flew from the trees as the railroad gates blocked traffic and a sinister horn echoed down the rusty tracks. The loco train, known for attacking at a moments notice, chugged past the gates and angered a man who was blocked from seeing his daughter leave school. The swirl of dust in the alley behind the bakery swooshed up into a super hero ready to protect the student. Fearing a great loss from the micro burst, the loco train chugged out of sight, leaving the girl unharmed.

The beauty of a creative story game is that there are no wrong answers or phrases. Each person can impact the direction of the story and its implications. Conflict is naturally increased within the story based on the process that forms the content. And, everyone can enjoy numerous laughs as the story weaves in and out of its form.

© 2016 by CJ Powers