"Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating." - John Cleese
Have you ever experienced a time in your life when the solution to a problem came to you so naturally and easily that it made you wonder "How did that even happen?" I'm sure you've also experienced plenty of times when you've been STUCK for hours, days and maybe years without a solution. Why does the creative muse only visit us when she feels like it? Isn't there anything we can do to make us more creative and come up with solutions faster? Most of the time, when I sit down to tackle a job I'm so focussed on getting it done that there isn't any room for the magic of the creative process.
John Cleese, an English actor, writer and comedian who you might know from Monte Python does a lot of speaking about creativity. He believes that there indeed is a process that can we can use to make ourselves more receptive to creativity. He talks about having two "modes" of operating; Open and Closed mode. Open mode is where our Inner Artist lives, where we are more relaxed, playful, free to explore and be curious.
Closed mode is where our Inner Critic has control, that’s the more logical side of us, the side that wants to protect us from doing anything silly or getting hurt. It creates rules for us to follow. It focusses on the small details and how to practically get things done. Closed mode is not the enemy, it just can make being fully creative more difficult if we start off or stay in this mode.
Most of the time during the day (especially while working) we are in Closed Mode, thinking about what we need to do next and how to get certain tasks done. This is great for times when you need to implement ideas but not so great for coming up with ideas! This tight and rigid thinking can be a killer for creativity.
John Cleese talks about the need to give our Creative Self time and space to be in Open Mode where our unconscious can do the work it needs to do to come up with interesting solutions and connections. When you are in Open Mode, you have a wider, more abstract view of the problem, you can let your mind wander, play, wonder and embrace the unknown. This is when that spark of creativity can happen. This is why brainstorming can be so helpful, because you aren't imposing the normal rules of reasoning to the process. This might be why you get all your best ideas in the shower, when your mind is free, open and wandering.
After we spend time in Open Mode, we can then come back to Closed Mode and logically critique those ideas to see which ones fit or how to make them work. The trick is going in and out of Open and Closed Mode in order to give ourselves enough room for creativity. When you find yourself getting closed off, tightening up too much, try going back to Open Mode for awhile.
I know, I know, the Spock side of you is freaking out right now. To the logical mind this seems like a huge waist of time, but I've seen in my own work and life that this actually SAVES TIME! When we allow our brain to process freely and explore without restrictions it can come up with solutions faster. That's why you seem to have those breakthroughs when you least expect it, or struggle to come up with solutions sometimes.
What can you do to get into Open Mode and make room for creativity today? Try setting a timer for as much time as you can spare. An hour is a good amount of time, but if you only have 10 minutes, do that! Try coloring, doodling, free writing or even just taking a walk! Just try to get in that mode of receptivity, playfulness and wonder and see what happens!
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