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32 Traits of Creative People
Robert Alan Black : Little Things Can Stop Creativity

Little Things Can Stop Creativity

By Robert Alan Black, Ph.D.

"No money can stop a creative project."

"No resources can stop a creative project."

"No support can stop a creative project."

Yes major things or forces can stop creativity. Yet when we look at the history of invention or in general the history of new ideas we can discover that these major forces truly do not stop the devoted, committed, dedicated creation person.

No money, resources, support did not stop:

  • Ghandi
  • Mother Teresa
  • Charles Goodyear
  • Harriet Tubman (underground railroad during the Civil War)
  • Henry Ford
  • Chester Carlson (inventor of the Xerox process)
  • nor many others from the distant or recent past.

One key difference for them was their determination. Yes eventually money, resources and support came or was acquired. They enabled the creative person to take their idea and turn it into a larger and larger solution.

Yet the little things are what stop most of us from utilizing our creativeness long before we get to tapping the big resources for future giant success or breakthrough.

While reading Alexander Lockhart's book: POSITIVE CHARGES, recently I came across the following item:

#79
Understand there is only a letter difference between change and chance.

It got my attention as another small thing that often stops my creativeness or the creativeness of others I know and work with.

Being creative produces change. Many to most people resist change or at least resist being "changed". Being creative often requires that we take a chance or chances. Being creative requires that we venture into unknown territory and chance failure.

To be more creative we need to accept change and chance and that with either the other will occur. If you change something you take a chance of potential failure. If you take a chance change will normally be the result. Examine the changes your ideas will produce. Explore and test the chances you will be taking. Do not let change or chance stop you.

About a 18 months ago I had an aha that came from another small difference. While teaching Fundamentals of Marketing courses for the American Management Associations one issue that I stressed, similar to many presenters, speakers, and professors; was that as Americans we tend to be REACTIVE rather than ACTIVE or better yet PROACTIVE. An emphasis and purpose of marketing and marketing plans is to help people take charge and be PROACTIVE.

Often becoming PROACTIVE requires many paradigm shifts for individuals, departments and entire corporations or even industries.

The "Aha" I had was a simple change. Instead of being REACTIVE, simply rearrange one letter in the word and become CREA TIVE or creative. I have always found it much easier for people to be creative than for them to change and stop being reactive to become proactive.

Still another simple change has to do to a major barrier to success or creativeness. That is "limitation."

I can't be creative I can't draw. I can't sing. I can't dance. I can't understand computer software. I can't. I can't. I can't.

If you are a fan or reader of motivational books you no doubt have read the quote always accredited to Henry Ford....

"If you say you can or you say you can't, in either case you will be right in the end" (paraphrased)

Making the philosophic choice could be a simple chance that would greatly affect your creativeness.

That is not the simple change I am referring to related to "limitation."

Look at the word "limitation." It has 10 letters. 9 of the letters are the root cause why so many people are not creative. The 9 letters spell "imitation." Too often we copy, mimic, reproduce and do not think for ourselves and create.

Still another simple change can be discovered by examining the word "RECREATION." Back up in linguistic history and respell the word as it would have been originally spelled as a hyphenated word...

RE-CREATION

Re creation. Creating again.

Many highly creative people discover that when they experience "a blank wall," "writer's block," "creative staleness" or other forms of creative blocks that if they simply stop and take time to recreate they will then be able to re-create and re-tap their creativeness and move on.

Graham Wallas referred to the space between the second and third stages of his creative process as a good time to relax and play or recreate. By doing this you allow your subconscious to work on the challenge and provide you an aha or enable you to be in a state that makes you open to discovering an aha.

Oz Swallow in 1978 shared a simple change that has major implications and effect on the creativeness of people. One night as a group of 100 or more people crowded into a small classroom at Buff State College during the Annual CPSI meeting, Oz encouraged us to...

"Change the metaphors in your life."

He followed by explaining that all words in all languages (nouns, adjectives, and adverbs used as adjectives and possibly verbs) are metaphors. They are not the thing or action but rather a word referring to your interpretation of it. Therefore he suggested that we examine the words we use. See them as metaphors. Then change our metaphors. Or change our definitions.

An example I have used with students from elementary school to college and with participants in workshops of a range of ages was the one...

"I Can't Draw!"

First we clearly defined the word draw as making lines, shapes, marks, or shaded areas. In turn the results could be used to represent existing or imaginery things. Then we would redefine the act of drawing as the making of lines, shapes, marks, or shaded areas with materials such as pencils, pens, chalk, crayons, etc. using our hands, feet, arms, teeth, etc. to hold them.

The simple change in this case is establishing a realistic defintion and comparison. Most people tend to compare themselves and their actions or skills with the "giants" in the particular field such as art, music, dance, engineering, etc.

To learn to draw is a simple act.

To learn to draw at the level of a major artist is generally not.

Still one more simple change that can be discovered by examining the word we use. Most to all of us have problems with daily communication. The root cause for most of us is poor listening, either on our part or the other person's.

The change. To improve your communication listen. To better listen simply re-arrange the letters for the answer.

Listen becomes silent!

Therefore to improve your creativeness...

  1. Accept that being creative will produce change and that simple change often will produce creativity.
  2. Accept that creativity requires some chance. Continually work at taking bigger and bigger chances. One small step at a time.
  3. Work at not reacting and instead work at creating.
  4. Work at reminding yourself over and over "I Can, I Can,
    I Can" and ask "How Might I or How Might We So That I Can or We Can?"
  5. Stop imitating. Look for new ways for yourself. Examine the principle or main idea behind successful creative ideas and adapt them rather than simply adopting or imitating them.
  6. Take time to recreate: relax, play a game, have fun at least for awhile.
  7. Look for the metaphors that are stopping you and change them or your definitions for them.
  8. Take time to truly listen to others, yourself, nature, your problems. Learn from Eero Saarinen, famous Finnish and American architect...
    "The solution lies within the problem.
    Continue looking. It will tell you."

Look for your own "small changes" that will release and expand your creativity and creativeness.

Being creative is your choice! •

© 1990 Robert Alan Black, Ph.D.

Robert Alan BlackRobert Alan Black, Ph.D. is a Creative Thinking Consultant and his company is Cre8ng People, Places & Possibilities. More »

5/9/06