By Dean Yeong on April 17, 2017
This may be a lousy piece. I have my title ready, I have my outline ready, but then I’m stuck. It sounds contrasting to admit it since my title is about the process to boost your creativity and generate great ideas.
Yet, I have to say it again—I’m STUCK.
Part of the reason why I’m stuck is because I set too many rules for myself when coming to writing. After a year plus of publishing an article every week, I created a framework to write. The way to outline my article, the storyline to implement, the workflow to do the research. Then, after all of these warm-ups, I get into another framework to write my article, to generate graphics, to format and edit, and to promote.
I believe in constraints because it is the mold of great work. However, at some point sometimes, these rules kill creativity.
So here it goes. The first way to improve your creativity is to break the rules. Think about it, most great ideas are only great because it is unique. If everyone else has thought and talked about it, it becomes the same old idea that gets buried under the noise. This also means great ideas usually break some rules.
MacBook, Facebook, Tesla, and many other great inventions and breakthroughs wouldn’t exist if the inventor and founder are following the rules. I may not be writing if I didn’t break the invisible rules within me that told me that I can’t write 1.5 years back.
However, to break the rules, we have to learn the rules well. That’s why it wasn’t effective for me to do it back then when I don’t have a concrete framework. But now, breaking the rules occasionally helps to expand my thoughts and improve my creativity.
Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.—Dalai Lama XIV
In fact, this is not the first time that I’m stuck. The first six months of writing was a serious struggle to me. I don’t have the process, I don’t have the vocabularies, I don’t have any readers. But I managed to stick to one and the only one principle I set for myself–publish one article a week. Read Never Break the Chain
This simple rule (I don’t break all rules) forced me to create. It forced me to produce regardless the circumstances and the quality. I agree that quality is important, but it’s very difficult to justify the quality before you have a significant amount of quantity. If I was dwelling on the quality, I wouldn’t come this far.
Many think that creativity is a random act and happy accident. They believe that great ideas strike them or they don’t. They work when they’re inspired and motivated and stuck in their own head when times are tough. That’s a very wrong approach.
Creativity comes with deliberate practices. Musicians can only create extraordinary music when they learn every single note, authors can only write great books after they threw away hundred (if not thousand) of drafts, artists can only produce great arts when they went through tons of bad arts.
Frequency is the mother of creativity. It allows us to make tons of mistakes so that we learn, it trains us to express ourselves shamelessly, and it builds the foundation that allows creativity to grow.
There is no unique idea in this world. All ideas are someone else’s ideas. Our beliefs and thoughts are the sum and combination of everything we consume from people around us, the music we listen, the books we read, and the movies we watch. Ideas are only unique by their process—how to paste each puzzle together and how to deliver them.
That said, to produce creative work, consume great work. Watch materials and read books by people you’re looking up to in your niche. If you’re a writer, read popular books by great authors. If you’re a film-maker, watch award-winning films by famous directors, if you’re an entrepreneur, read biographies of successful businessmen.
If you want to go further, go beyond recommended books and materials. Explore materials that most people aren’t consuming because again, the works we produce are the sum of what we consumed.
That said, creativity is not a moment of inspiration. It’s not something you do once in a while, but something you do routinely every single day. A creative idea is not one “a-ha” moment when you’re lying on your bed watching Netflix all day, a creative idea is the one that stands out among the sea of bad ideas you had created.
Creativity is a habit.—Dean Yeong (hey that’s me!)
The three subtitles above are indeed a step-by-step process, in reverse. To boost your creativity, consume great works, produce frequently, and break the rules occasionally.
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