Creativity for Photographers...and other life forms

I'm always looking for new ways to boost my creativity and ability to focus. The magic pills are too expensive and something about them coming in a plain un-marked wrapper doesn't sit well with me. So, I have to find other non-chemical means to sharpen up. When I teach workshops on creativity, I relate several things that I've learned and used over the years that work. One of them, and it's no surprise, is exercise. But I discovered something this morning that throws a little kink in that notion. So it's been a few months now. My 12 yr. old son and I started taking Karate class together and last night was our first test for our yellow belt. It went great, we did well, and we are now the proud owners of some sunshine around our waists. Our Karate class is HARD. We go 3 days a week, whenever possible, and I come out panting and soaked with sweat. The pain usually subsides a couple days later - just in time for the next class. The first couple of months was really tough. I just felt tired and sore all the time. I wasn't sure I could take the added stress. There was no way I was giving up - I loved the class, the instructor, and of course, doing this with my son. I had the motivation. In the past couple of weeks, however, things started to change. I found myself becoming anxious to go work out, not in a bad way, but excited, Jonesing, eager. My body began to crave the exertion and cathartic blasts of energy. I was also focusing better at work. 

What started out adding stress to my life became the very thing that relaxes me and helps me focus.

I'm in the middle of a huge project, writing another book. I often have a hard time sitting at my desk and just writing. My mind and attention is scattered in so many different directions and I have a tough time tuning it out and just focusing. I know that multi-tasking is generally counter-productive, so I try to minimize that. But I also know, and share in my workshops, that we need creative mind breaks - time for an ingestion period to let ideas brew in your subconscious. This has always worked well for me and I know that solutions to some of my most vexing problems only came after walking away from them completely for a little while then re-approaching them with a fresh mind.

Here are a few things I know about enhancing creativity, and a few new things I recently discovered that I'm putting to the test as well:

  • Exercise enhances creativity and many other things. What I didn't know was that exercise is only beneficial once you are reasonably in shape. If you are very out of shape, exercise will actually make you more tired and drained until you get in shape. But that's the goal, right? (Looking back at my Karate class, this is now apparent)
  • We need to take creative breaks when you feel like you are "hitting the wall". Multi-tasking with petty tasks is un-productive. However, what I didn't formally know (be inherently felt) is that shifting between multiple creative projects actually CAN be more productive. When you hit the wall, switch to another creative project for a while.
  • I just learned this, which is very valuable to anyone who has assistants or a team: telling someone to "think creatively" doesn't work. Telling them to "Do something that only you could come up with, something your friends or family wouldn't think of" is far more effective.
  • Travel and experiencing other cultures boosts your creativity, compassion, and problem solving abilities. Putting yourself in these challenging situations forces you to learn to adapt and be flexible.
  • When you find something you love to do, do it whole-heartedly. When compared to trying many different things half-assed, following a passion and becoming really committed and focused on it will build an inherent ability to deal with problems and overcome.

Now, I have to get back to writing my book. I'm feeling the groove again!

Here's a great article from Newsweek that talks about some of this new research:

Newsweek: Forget Brainstorming