Creativity

Deep work

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship. In short, deep work is like a super power in our increasingly competitive twenty-first century economy. And yet, most people have lost the ability to go deep – spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media, not even realizing there’s a better way.

– Cal Newport, Deep Work

Sugru mouldable glue

I’d love to play with this!

While studying for my MA in product design at the RCA in London, I had a bit of a crisis. A niggling thought stopped me in my tracks.

“Do I really want to design more products? There’s far too much waste in the world. I don’t want to buy new stuff all the time. What if I could fix and improve and reimagine the stuff I already have, to make it work better for me?”

Jane, Sugru Inventor

Creative play

You don’t have to make art for a living though, to know that the creative process is not what it was when we were children. As adults, it’s common to feel uncertainty when we create. My mind often swirls with thoughts, “Am I doing this right? What does this work say about me? I thought this was supposed to be fun…” And when it is fun, I think, “Shouldn’t I be working!?”

– Rebecca Green on Creative Play

Positive emotions and creative thinking

Lately I’ve been thinking about the future of work, and this morning I remembered this excerpt from one of my favorite design books.

Positive emotions are critical to learning, curiosity, and creative thought, and today research is turning toward this dimension. … The psychologist Alice Isen and her colleagues have shown that being happy broadens the thought processes and facilitates creative thinking. When you feel good, Isen discovered, you are better at brainstorming, at examining multiple alternatives. … We have long known that when people are anxious they tend to narrow their thought processes, concentrating upon aspects directly relevant to a problem. This is a useful strategy in escaping from danger, but not in thinking of imaginative new approaches to a problem. Isen’s results show that when people are relaxed and happy, their thought processes expand, becoming more creative, more imaginative. 

– Don Norman, Emotional Design

No matter

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

– Samuel Beckett

Where does creativity come from?

A few weeks ago, I discovered a wonderful talk by Dr. George Land, in which he gives a brief history of human innovation and the importance of creativity.

If you’ve wondered about questions like “Where does creativity come from?”, “Are we born with it?”, or “Is it learned?”, this talk will give you the answers. It will also show you how to tap into your imagination, so you can be more creative in your life and work.

I was also pleasantly surprised to hear Dr. Land talk about the 2 kinds of thinking that happen in the brain, divergent and convergent thinking, often used in the human-centered design process.

Creative work

Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work… we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has the ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste — the thing that got you into the game — your taste is still killer, and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean?

A lot of people never get past that phase. A lot of people at that point quit. And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be — they knew it fell short, it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have.

And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase — you gotta know it’s totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work — do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week, or every month, you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. It takes a while, it’s gonna take you a while — it’s normal to take a while. And you just have to fight your way through that, okay?

– Ira Glass. Via The Good Ship Illustration. A few weeks later, I read the same quote in Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon.