Category Archives: Creative Expression

Fulfilling Your Creative Purpose

Think creativity is just play-time fluff? Think again.

In a survey of 1,500 executives conducted by IBM in 2010, creativity was cited as the single most important factor for future success due to the ever increasing complexity of an increasingly interconnected world. From the C-Suite down to the factory line or the reception desk, every member of an organization needs to be tapped into their innate creative abilities.

Complexity

People who exercise their creative abilities and potential at work typically like their job. The constant engagement and challenge provides a kind of freedom that creative types absolutely need.

But, we know that more than half of all workers don’t like their jobs. A lot of factors contribute to this, but in another survey conducted by the Office of Personnel Management in 2011, only 42% of workers said that creativity and innovation were rewarded.

Hmm. Seems like there is a disconnect here. On one hand leaders say that creativity is the most important factor in achieving success. But, it seems leaders aren’t rewarding creativity. No wonder so many people would trade their current job for a new one.

“Creativity is not a fixed quantity, but rather a renewable resource that can be improved and nurtured by optimizing the environment that allows an individual’s creative potential to blossom.” From Inspiring a Generation to Create, Center for Childhood Creativity.

Let’s face it, the workplace has changed and it hasn’t. It has changed in that more and more organizations are employing part-timers, contract workers and freelancers while phasing out full-time jobs. It’s tough to implement part-time creativity (unless one is hired for a specific creative task like a designer or writer). The workplace has not changed in that most successful businesses rely upon tried and true systems to get the job done.

Tried and true systems don’t rely on creative thought or action. They simply need execution.

So, what is a worker to do?

Creative expression is a basic component of living a fulfilling, authentic life that you love to live. Most people desperately want to employ their creative abilities on the job. Evidently less than half of workers really are encouraged to do this. For the half that feel like zombies stuck in a rut walking on a treadmill, here are three choices you may want to consider:

Innovate as best as you can. While organizations depend upon reliable systems, just about every business is focused on performance. Can you find ways to make the system more efficient? Is there a way to tweak what you’re doing in order to make it more enjoyable while improving performance? Innovate if you can. If you’re not in a position that gives you much opportunity, consider the 2nd choice.

Design your own gig. Most of us can’t just quit if we’re not happy in our job. We have bills to pay, after all.  But, according to a report done by University of Phoenix in 2014, 40% of workers want to start a business. If you aren’t happy where you are, consider designing your own gig. Every skill on the market can be freelanced. And there are thousands of service-oriented businesses that can be entered. Focus on something you want to do and then find people who need what you want to do. Simple concept, not necessarily easy.  However, most people I know have something on the side. If your side gig finds some traction and a market, who knows, maybe your gig will become your main source of income and satisfaction.

Piano Hands

Fulfill creative expression outside the workplace. There are a lot of actors and artists that sling coffee and wait on tables. Conversely, I know high level executives who turn financial deals during the day, but pick up a paintbrush at night and on the weekends. Remember Richard Gere in the movie Shall We Dance? He was a corporate attorney whose train passed by a dance studio on his commute home. One night he got a shot of courage and got off the train. He began dancing in secret. Every day on that train the tension within him grew – something was missing. He didn’t want to leave his well-paying day job – he just wanted to dance. His life became richer and more fulfilling – especially so after his wife discovered his secret passion.

So…what’s your art? If you don’t care about income and just want to give freedom to your creative voice, what are you waiting for? Get off the train!

Embrace the Box

“A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God” – Ray Bradbury

ArtistHow often have you heard, “We need to think outside the box?”

Seems like a lot of folk use that phrase or something similar (my favorite is, “The solution came from left field.”).

While I believe that every human being is a creative type, everyone thinks differently. My experience is that most linear thinking folk are more apt to use terms like “outside the box”.  There’s nothing wrong with that – it means they are willing to go outside their comfort zone and consider more abstract, perhaps even illogical solutions or ideas.

I’ve always been a non-linear thinker. One of the benefits of having ADD is that my mind tends to race ahead, see the big picture, and identify connections that maybe a linear thinker wouldn’t necessarily see right away. While it is a benefit, it comes with potential problems in communicating with my linear colleagues.

When I was younger I would often become frustrated while I stubbornly tried to make people see the distant, abstract connections, or explain a complex concept. Over time I learned to have patience and empathy: the linear thinking people were just as frustrated with me! And, Heaven forbid, maybe even thought I was a bit looney or weird.

That’s okay with me. I don’t mind being a little weird or abnormal.

Then I discovered a concept that changed everything.

There is no such thing as “out of the box”.

Human beings, no matter how creative, abstract, modern or innovative, are designed to create order. In fact, in his beautiful little book, The Courage to Create,  the noted psychologist, Rollo May, makes a strong case that it is the artist’s job to bring form to chaos.

This made me think deeply about the nature of art, about life, about the universe. The fact is that there is an order to everything – even when it is not readily apparent. In essence, everything has a box. Even if we’re pulling an idea out of the chaotic swirl of cosmic matter, that idea was born from some type of order.

While I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill here, I think it’s an important distinction. Most people are linear. For that reason, knowing that everything intrinsically has a boundary can actually make the creative process easier and less overwhelming.

Our job is to either expand or contract the box.  It is to recognize the current order – and then to change the form. Artists do this all the time. Ask five painters to look at a scene and we’ll typically get five very different interpretations.  Their perceptions help us all to expand the box.

Same thing rings true when five colleagues are sitting around a conference table looking at a problem. We’ll get five (or more) different solutions that expand the box.

I think the key to solving problems is to first embrace the box. See the existing form as a reality. Begin there, and then go to work expanding the box with the realization that only God can exist outside the box.

The Value of Plan B

plan-763855_1920The creative process is messy.

The journey you will take toward giving authentic expression to your creative voice is rarely a straight line. You may begin at Point A, completely miss Point B, and end up at point D. The road will be filled with potholes, pit stops and occasional smooth pavement. There will always be bumps.

One of the most influential people in my life is a man named Richard King. When I was in high school, and had just discovered the freedom that writing could bring, Richard encouraged me. It meant something coming from Richard because he had creative chops of his own.

A singer/songwriter with an amazing voice, Richard wrote songs for numerous country music stars during the 1970’s, including Mel Tillis and Roy Clark. Richard also appeared on stage in Las Vegas. It was a rocky road, though. As Richard would tell it, “I had terrible stage fright – it would take a lot of whiskey to give my performance courage.”

That path was unsustainable, so his creative expression took another form. Besides music, Richard also had a gift for designing and crafting very high end pieces of jewelry. Each original piece was a work of art – and he made his living making custom rings for many years in his Northern California studio.

The music industry is a tough business. Richard had the stuff to be a star – but it was messy and extracted a price he no longer wanted to pay as a performer. His Plan B, though, not only made for a nice living, but still fulfilled the creative expression his soul needed.

And he never gave up music. In fact, he had a small recording studio in his home. He even occasionally played local gigs for charity.

Richard always had – and still has – a certain star power, It just wasn’t on the road he originally set upon.

You see it in most creative types – a diversity of interests and talents. Jessica Simpson designs clothes. Ice-T is a rapper turned actor. Stephen King plays guitar in a band. NFL star Vernon Davis is also a gifted visual artist.

Sometimes Plan A and Plan B run side-by-side. Sometimes they merge. Sometimes Plan B becomes Plan A or Plan C.

The secret is to be open to new ideas, new thought, new action. Richard’s path was his own and chosen with conscious intent.  It was authentic, allowing him true expression.

There was tremendous value in his Plan B – and there will be value in yours. Plan B doesn’t mean forsaking a dream – it could mean writing novels instead of screenplays, or painting murals instead of portraits. It could also mean directing plays instead of playing the lead. Whatever it is, if chosen with integrity it is the right and true choice for you.