Summary: Creative insights take years and decades of experiences to get, so you’d better engage your grit yesterday already
We are down on the month with just two days left. Get me something good NOW. Nobody leaves until we’ve fixed this. Be creative!
-Bobby Axelrod in Billions being his typical unreasonable and incredulous larger than life self
Be creative. Now.
Wanting to be creative just doesn’t work
Sometimes I want to be creative.
Sometimes I feel as if I haven’t produced anything of value for some time, and just want to make something worthwhile, be it an investment, a blog post or just a witty or insightful tweet.
That’s exactly what I typically come up with. Regarding investments, that’s probably a good thing.
The silent YouTuber
The same goes for my YouTube series in Swedish: Listening to several hours of scientific and economic podcasts every day usually triggers shareable thoughts by the handful. However, if I don’t write them down the insights are often gone just like that. OK, to be honest, I can keep a few fresh in my mind for several hours if I really want to. The problem is that forcing my memory that way severely limits the amount of new information I can digest.
What’s sometimes frustrating is that despite churning hundreds of ideas through my mind and commonplace each and every month, if you (or I) put a video camera to my face and request I pull even one out of my theoretically shock-full hat of ideas…
It’s not stage fright. I mean I can say something. I can whip up some old wisdom about patience, or whether to aim high or low. I can even be a bit witty, talking about investor mistakes (mostly my own), or gym stereotypes. What I can’t do is create something new, connect some dots, do what some people seemingly effortlessly do all day long in social media. (oh, I know most of them only do it when they have those automatic strokes of insight, when they’re hit by that strange type of boson called inspiratons, just like I am every now and then)
I have no problem accepting this, not least as I know I’ll have new ideas tomorrow.
Inspiratons hit those heavy in experience
That’s the message here really, that you’ll get your inspiration when you get it. That there are no short cuts to creativity, that it’s not like lifting weights or some other performance activity. That your moments if insight are the product of everything else you have done over days, weeks, months and years. When you hear something new, creativity is the automatic process of connecting dots from that to the sum total of your experiences.
At least that’s my perception of creativity. All the books I’ve read, all the podcasts I’ve contemplated, all the deep conversations I’ve had, all the projects I’ve struggled with, it has all taught me something and given me a platform from which to interpret everything else I come across today. Trying to force creativity in the moment just blocks it for me, but constantly seeking out interesting and rewarding experiences means I will get strokes of insight in the future.
So, you want to be creative?
You think you’re entitled to?
You want the truth?
You can’t handle the truth!
My apologies… I couldn’t help myself. Perhaps it’s some lingering effects from the creative brainstorming activity from last week.
Anyway, to be creative you need 1) experience & knowledge, and 2) curiosity to find and identify inputs.
I suggest you start experiencing as much as you can: reading, listening, conversing, doing, experimenting, all the while keeping structured and interlinked notes of what you’re doing and why. Creative insights will come “for free” once you’ve had enough exposure.
However, “for free” doesn’t mean you can be lazy about it. Including in “experience” is working for it, working through tough projects, reading and understanding complicated articles and books, engaging in and losing arguments etc.
Failure is the mother of creativity. Sweat its father.
The dark part of this message is that if you’ve already spent the better part of your life watching action comedies and soap operas, scrolling on your phone during your commute to and from work, you won’t become creative overnight. Because creativity can’t be plucked from thin air. The inspiratons are only attracted to bodies heavy in thoughtful, gritty experience – sometimes referred to as deliberate practice.
Nevermind trying to be creative.
Focus on learning and experiencing.
Your insights will come later, once you know enough, understand enough. Put your mind to connecting dots whenever you can – keep flexing that muscle – but don’t expect true creativity until you truly understand a topic.
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