How Not to Be Creative

By Angie Dixon | Posted 5/23/06 | Updated 8/3/23

These days, it seems everyone has a tip for how to be creative. Because I like to be a little different, I've come up with some ideas for how NOT to be creative.

First, never talk to strangers.

Of course, we're taught this as children, but somewhere along the path to "grown-up-hood" we realize that it's okay to engage the person in line behind us in Taco Bell in a conversation.

Soon there's no stopping us. We talk in elevators, at the grocery store, in doctors' waiting rooms.

But these conversations are very risky, because it's just way too easy to get an idea from an impromptu conversation, and that's the best way to be creative, getting an idea is.

Secondly, if you want to be as uncreative as possible, make sure you don't go to new places.

The best new places not to go are art museums, galleries, and any place selling art supplies or books. If you go to any of these places, it's a pretty foregone conclusion that Something Will Happen. That Something will probably be creative, and No Good Can Come of That.

But also avoid like the plague new places such as parties or meetings of new groups. These can be Idea Nesting Grounds, and we know what happens in places like that.

Third, never ask "what if."

What if is the ultimate creative question. Just don't ask. Now, you may think I'm talking only about going into a meeting of creative people and saying, "What if we…"

Nope. I'm saying, don't ask what if, ever. Don't ask your mechanic, "What if we recharged the air conditioner? Would that keep the car cooler?" Don't ask your waitress, "What if I substituted a baked potato for the fries?"

Don't ask what if, ever, because if you do, you might ask it again, in less favorable (that is, boring) circumstances, and what would happen then? What could happen then?

Fourth, never think about the alternative.

This is basically asking what if, and we've already decided not to do that.

Let's look at an example of this. You're working in a job you hate, doing something with numbers, say. You think, "What's the alternative?" Well, if you're lucky, you'll soon think, "None. I have to stay in this job. There is no alternative." But if you're unlucky, then things start getting sticky.

You might, for example, start looking at the want ads. And there you might find an ad for a different job, one not involving numbers, but actually involving something you like to do and are good at. Graphic design, maybe. And that's just getting too creative.

So don't think about the alternative. Better yet, just don't think at all; it's safer.

Finally, never ask "what do you think?"

…unless the person you're asking is definitely going to give you a negative, uncreative answer. Just assume they think what you think.

The problem with asking, "What do you think?" is that most people assume you really want to know, and they WILL tell you. This is a Bad Thing if you're trying to avoid creativity, because if what they think is something completely different from what you think, you could well end up with a Creative Idea, and we've already talked about that.

There you go. Five great tips for how not to be creative.

The thing, of course, is that very few people have trouble with NOT being creative. What you were probably looking for when you started this article was advice on getting creative ideas.

There you go. Five great ways to get creative ideas.

Just turn them around and do everything I just told you not to do. Be creative. Take a risk.

Copyright ©2006 Angie Dixon. All rights reserved.