María & Rosi recently attended a workshop at Atlanta Tech Village called “10 Keys to Unleash Creativity, Inspiration and Innovation.” The event was presented by Michelle Chappel, a veritable Renaissance woman and self-described creativity expert. As the “right-brainers” at CSR, just the title of this event struck a chord with María and Rosi…
The most interesting/useful of the 10 tips were two that can be implemented fairly easily if you have the motivation to do it.
1. Unplug & Recharge – Michelle challenged us to think about the time of day that we notice a dip in productivity. For most of us it is between 2 and 4 PM. Instead of trying to work through this time, we can insert an activity that will clear and re-activate our mind. Suggested activities are walking, dancing, sweeping, showering, yoga, jumping on a trampoline, etc. Notice none of these include any electronics and they all involve getting away from your desk and getting your body in motion. Adding your preferred activity to your afternoon routine for a 15-20 time period can unleash your creativity and problem solving ability. Studies have shown that when you take a break, you end up getting more done than if you had worked nonstop. It applies in the workplace, as well as in the classroom. Giving our brain and body what it needs will yield better performance. Makes sense, doesn’t it. Now, make the commitment! Set an alarm on your phone and plan what you will do for your break.
2. Find your Groove – This tip refers to the notion of “flow,” about which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a whole book. Flow refers to that optimal experience of creative production where the person forgets that they are working and is completely focused and immersed in what they are doing. In flow, time disappears. We can wait until flow happens serendipitously, but we can also figure out settings and activities that facilitate and trigger flow. Chappelle challenged us to block off one hour per week of peak time for flow. The idea is to just show up for that hour and do the activities that often result in flow for you. For María, that activity will be working on a book she has had in mind to write for a while. For Rosi, it’ll simply be playing piano.
An aspect of Michelle’s talk that Rosi immediately objected to was the notion that you have to be original in order to be creative–yes, you can put someone else’s ideas together in different ways, but don’t copy them! Rosi and María both hold the strong belief that it is extremely useful, even essential, to meticulously copy an expert’s work when learning a new skill. Whether it’s tracing serifs from a magazine or playing the exact bassline from a rock classic, walking through someone else’s process can show you what you want to do, develop the skill, and inspire you to be creative on your own. “Imitation is suicide” (an Emerson quote that Chappel shared) is just not true. Imitation is a beginner’s best friend! If we want to develop our skills and creativity, we have to start by “tracing” as Maria was recently reminded while reading a post from Justin Wise. This is what Steve Jobs did when he practiced calligraphy. Imitation is the first step toward creation.
So start tracing and creating this week. Set aside your daily recharge time and your weekly flow time and you’ll be on your way.