I recently saw something John Cleese, one of the brilliant minds that brought us Monty Python, said about creativity. He said that in order to really get into a creative frame of mind, you need to have about an hour and a half of work time available to you. This allows your brain time to relax and get into what he calls “open mode”.
“It’s a mood in which curiosity for its own sake can operate because we’re not under pressure to get a specific thing done quickly. We can play, and that is what allows our natural creativity to surface.”
The reason this jumped out at me is when I have design work to do, I hesitate to get to work if I have any less than about two hours to work. I haven’t been able to nail down why I get that bit of anxiety, because when I think about it rationally, an hour is a decent chunk of time to get things done. But after seeing that quote, I realized that’s what it is! I need more time for my mind to get into creative, open mode.
I wanted to learn more about what he had to say on the subject, so I read the transcript of the entire lecture and the whole thing is so good. Go ahead, go read it. Or watch it. I’ll still be here.
OK, in case you can’t go watch or read it now, here are the five things he says you need in order to truly get creative:
Yep, time is in there twice. He says that you need not only the hour and a half of work time carved out for yourself, but also time to consider the problem or project itself. Time to mull it over. Time to chew on it. Time to come up with a solution that’s better and more original than the first thing that came into your brain. I’m talkin’ DAYS.
(I could go into the other 3 things too, because really they’re so true and worth talking about, but I’ll maybe save it for another post.)
“Because, and this is the extraordinary thing about creativity, if you just keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious, probably in the shower later. Or at breakfast the next morning, but suddenly you are rewarded, out of the blue a new thought mysteriously appears.”
I’ve shared on Facebook that thinking a project over while riding my bike or going for a walk allows my mind to open up, and that’s when the ideas come. I’ve also learned that when I’ve “finished” something, I need to leave it sit for a day or two. More often than not, I think of a tweak or something new to add that really changes the whole thing.
“…keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way.”
I love that.
So, now that I have Mr. Cleese’s permission, I feel like I can change my approach. If I only have an hour to get things done, maybe I’ll do more tasky, closed mode things like organize receipts, pay bills, or sort my paperclips.
“Because, as we all know, it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking.”
I feel like I can change my attitude about it too. I shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time to think; I can’t view thinking, considering, pondering as doing nothing. Using time in that way can only lead to creating something better.
The last thing I’ll say here is that I think he means creative in the broadest sense of the term. I don’t think that being creative just means creating art, or writing, or engaging in other traditionally “creative” activities. I think you’re also being creative when you’re solving a problem, carving out a new approach to something you’re doing, or looking for a new direction to take. Solving a problem, no matter what it is, requires creativity. And the first solution you think of isn’t always the best solution.
Taking TIME to be creative.
If it’s good enough for John Cleese, it is definitely good enough for me.
If you didn’t watch the video or read the transcript, I hope you will later. It’s worth it.
cover photo credit: user “free-photos” on Pixabay.com
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