The Odds of Being Creative

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why the theme of creativity makes me behave like I’m on a mission to discover the secret of mankind or something.

Maybe, I am – or maybe I’m just acting on my impulses like an alien just visiting planet Earth for a limited time. Whatever the reason, it’s fun so I will carry on. 

This transcendent act of creativity feels exhuberant. It anchors my life and pivots me in different directions of inspiration. It’s like a wave on the shore – you can’t catch it, or hold onto it but you can see the energy, the momentum, the cause and effect it has on all things it touches. And, I came to a conclusion that the reason why creativity can be trixy is because we sometimes restrict its natural flow. And, the flow originates from inside each and every one of us – even you, yes you. 

Let's start at the beginning
When you were first creative – you might consider the creation of you. It was pretty unique. In fact, the odds of you being born is about one in 400 trillion. I’m not down with the latest miracle this side of AD, but on the originality scale, it’s better than Uber, Snapchat and the iPhone put together. 

So, with those incredible odds why do so many of us shy away from being creative and feel unoriginal? 

And, I'm not talking about creating a drawing, dress, novel or product. I'm talking about creating the version of yourself that feels right, connects to your core and is inexplicably and undeniably you. Dr Suess said it best;

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

But E.E.Cummings nailed why being creative isn't easy;

‘To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, day and night, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.’

I just finished reading a wonderful book 'The Art of Creative Thinking' by Rod Judkins, an artist and lecturer at Central St Martins and he says;

‘Everyone is searching for originality, ironically it is right there within them, but most people are too busy being someone else. Creative people are prepared to be themselves. They make the most of their own experiences whether good or bad. The advantage of being themselves is that they are original. There is no one like them. This makes whatever they do unique.’

As a designer
I think in terms of patterns and shapes, colour and monochrome, flat and textured, landscape or portrait. But, that's just a tiny fraction of me. I also see the world according to my childhood, my parents, the battle of the roses and being the youngest of three sisters. The friendships and relationships I've been lucky to have and unfortunate to loose. The jobs, the places I've lived and the amazing communities visited. All of these experiences have shaped my world, in possibly expected and unexpected ways. But, the point I'm making is that they are uniquely mine. And, so are yours. Own them with pride. No one sees the world like you do, so don't be scared of being different. That's what makes the world an interesting place to live.  

'In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different'. Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel
The avant-guard french fashion designer Coco Chanel knew what she liked and what she didn't, she had a strong instinct and vision. In a world where corsets were the standard of good taste and stature, she believed that 'Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury'. She changed the face of fashion in the 20s and her little black dress is a staple in many women's wardrobe today. All it takes is to own your ideas, believe in them and don't worry what everyone else is doing. 

And, if you're still wondering how to connect to the raw creative flow. Go get a piece of paper, find a quiet comfy spot and write down all the things you loved when you were a child. Now, take time out to discover the things that pique your interest, engage your curiosity and go set yourself free and run with it.

Whether it's that you want to start roller-blading again after 19 years or have a desire to collect marvel comics. You want to start a charity to help neglected Guinea pigs (it's a thing) or you want to create the best party for your five year old son who loves Strictly Come Dancing or you want to start a coaching start-up for women in charity or improvisation classes in schools for disengaged kids. Don't wait for a sign or permission because you'll be waiting forever, just go do it. 

Finally, if you need an extra kick-start this is the quote from Judkins' thought-provoking book that inspired me to write this article.

'Don't be distracted by the views of others: focus on what engages and inspires you. The most exhilarating experiences are generated in the mind, triggered by information that challenges our thinking. If you're excited by a subject that no one else is, all that should matter to you is that you're interested. Revolutionary thinkers who create totally new ideas are driven by their interests, not whether or not others are as interested'.

Write it down. Read it everyday until you know every word and give yourself the permission you need, to be you.

The power of habit and community

I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed that many people these days want to lead more interesting, exciting and offbeat lives. It might be a phase or trend because everyone’s practicing mindfulness and addicted to adult colouring books - finding their inner Zen, but in my heart of hearts I hope it’s here to stay.

These people want something that is hard to explain. It’s not tangible or something you can physically grasp with your bare hands. It’s hidden in a place somewhere between old habits and dreams – a rich blend of creative courage.

Old habits die hard

Creative courage can be hard to find because irksome old habits get in the way. Mainly because at one point those habits were working incredibly well for us, so well in fact that we defend and fight to keep them alive, like growing apart from an old friend or a favourite pair of worn out trainers. So comfortable and familiar, yet no longer serving their purpose.

Switching on creative habits

Last year the 10 Day Switch was born. And for 10 days straight in December we sent out quick creative exercises to start shaping creative habits and building courage to form beautiful imaginative minds. Ok, so doing something for 10 days straight isn’t going to change ingrained habits immediately. But, it can be a boost to kick-start the formation of better habits.

During the 10 days everyone did their challenges individually - in their own space and at their own pace to fit in with their lives. We gave people the opportunity to share their day’s challenge on social media and here’s what I found really inspiring. 

‘The challenges gave me a real boost. That boost had a lot to do with your support and the support of others doing the challenges too, almost like I was being given permission to indulge myself with these little creative tasks. In a world which demands that so much of our time and energy is spent on practicalities and responsibilities it was a relief to not just be given the opportunity but being actively encouraged to just be playful’. Carla, Leeds.

The power of community

Sharing ideas to a group of like-minded individuals gave people inspiration, permission, playfulness, a sense of unity and they wanted to put more effort into their creations and ideas.  

The challenge was of course a bit of fun but seeing everyone’s ideas pop up on Twitter during different parts of the day created a unique creative motivation. People connected, liked ideas, commented, asked questions and collectively people were encouraging creative behaviours as well as building an open community.

‘Knowing that someone else was going to see my creative effort made me work that little bit harder and think about what I was doing. I think there is real value in sharing your work with other people. The act of talking about what you have done and getting feedback from people can really help to spark more ideas. I also enjoyed seeing what other people had done, especially with the drawing challenge. I took one look at the shape and instantly thought it looked like an ice cream, I couldn't see what else it could be. When I saw what other people had drawn I saw that there were so many other options I hadn't thought about.’ Laura, London.

7 ways a community can help shape habits

For those of you who like a list – I know who you are. I thought it might be helpful to sum up the 7 reasons why a power of a group can work wonders for your confidence and your creations:

1.     You feel accountable to your group

2.     You want to do your best

3.     You feel inspired by others

4.     You form new behaviours

5.     You’re open to feedback

6.     You’re surrounded by like-minded people

7.     You feel part of something.

A heartening experience

For me, chatting to other people who did the challenge was extremely heartening.  Many said they actually felt happier in themselves and noticed a ripple of positivity in other aspects of their lives. After all isn’t that what we’re secretly longing for? 

So if you’re working on a project, creating something for yourself or at work and need inspiration and motivation, remember to use the power of a group to give you a boost to lift your ideas.  

PS - The next 10 day switch starts in Feb.