The tennis great Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Doesn’t seem like earth-shattering advice, does it? Yet, there is hidden magic to it, the notion that beauty and success begin with simplicity.
Many times, creative people, whether they are writers, painters, musicians, or a combination of all three, fail to recognize that the best ideas are often a matter of resilience and hard work. Of course, inspiration can come at any moment, and suddenly you might think or picture something amazing. Still, if that inspiration is not translated into effort and dedication, it will lead nowhere. After all, triumph is measured by accomplishments and the things you do, not by the things you think about and hope to get to in the future.
Inspiration is also a matter of collaboration and being open to criticism from others. From a business perspective, it means constantly adapting your idea as well as letting those who are better than you help you in shaping it. Steve Jobs had a wonderful vision, but he was neither an engineer nor a visual designer. So he hired experts and worked with people smarter than himself.
If you are a guitar player, either a bassist or a drummer can do wonders in helping you shape the melody of your song. If you are into mobile video games but lack the necessary artistic skill, you can mold the concept in your head but outsource your 2D artistic work to a specialist in the field.
Creativity doesn’t mean you have to be good at everything. Rather, you need to know where your skill lies and do what you can to maximize it.
With that in mind, let us look at two of the most important tips for overcoming a creative block.
Trust the Process
Leading experts in psychology and social studies believe there are five steps in the creative process. These are preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, and elaboration. As you can see, the first one is not insight, that instance of “eureka” where everything makes sense, and there is clarity to your ideas. The first one is preparation, which is to get ready.
Those familiar with the screenwriting industry will know that before a script makes it into the hands of a powerful movie studio or producer, it has been revised and rewritten at least 15 to 20 times. What this tells us is that true creativity and inspiration rarely occur at the beginning. Instead, it most often happens along the way.
If you are a painter and don’t know what to paint, start by sketching something terrible. The longer you keep at it, the greater the chances it will become something great.
Lean On What You Know
Innovation is only possible when there is a need for it. If there were sunlight 24 hours a day, Thomas Edison would have never come up with the lightbulb. If we could run as fast as the wind blows, swim like a black marlin, fly faster than a peregrine falcon, or have the strength of a thousand elephants, there would be no need for transportation systems.
Whether you are trying to think of an idea for your next company, a marketing campaign for the upcoming launch of a new product, or simply an article you need to write for work, creativity is a matter of looking at what is around us, incorporating it into our brains, and producing an output.
If your editor keeps bugging you about a topic for your next novel, look at your family and the daily intricacies of their lives. Better yet, explore your own experiences in the industry, your struggles with relationships, or even the boredom and frustration of not knowing what to write about.
One thing many successful, imaginative people will tell you is that creativity is honest. It is a process of looking inwards, not at the outside. Dutch genius Vincent van Gogh was inspired by the countryside and what he saw. But he also had very little money to pay for a model and, as a result, some of his greatest works are paintings of himself.
Historians say it took over 20 years to build the Great Wall Of China. Director Oliver Stone used his experiences as a war veteran to write and direct the acclaimed Vietnam War classic Platoon.
Time and personal experience, arguably the two most important factors as it pertains to the creative process. Regardless of what you see in movies or read in books, inspiration is not that something that appears out of thin air.
So next time you are stuck, be a little patient and look at your surroundings. You never know. The alchemy you want to create might be right under your nose.