Find The Time To Get Creative
Since it’s right there in our company name, you might think we do a lot of creative stuff around here. And you’d be right. But, as proud as we are of the beautiful work we deliver, we are still running a business. It’s not all raucous whiteboard sessions and brilliant design epiphanies.
For any company – no matter what product you make or what service you provide – day-to-day duties, decisions, and deadlines can tie up a good portion of available time and attention. Finding the time to cook up and unleash innovative ideas – the kinds of breakthroughs that can make or break a business – has never been more challenging or more essential.
In this edited version of a recent interview from the Harvard Business Review, author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about her latest book, “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” offering good advice about finding the time to tap into the creativity that she believes lives inside all of us.
What’s your advice for getting out of a creative rut?
When people say that they feel “stuck” or “blocked,” they usually also mention that they’ve lost their passion. The trick to reigniting that spark is to let go of the idea of passion and to focus instead on the idea of curiosity.
Why is it more important to focus on curiosity than passion?
We live in a culture that says “passion, passion, passion”… but that can be hard to find when you’re tired and busy. Instead, ask yourself: “Is there anything that I’m even 1/8 of a percent curious about?” If you can consistently do that, not just once or twice, but every single day, and be diligent about following your curiosity wherever it leads, you’ll find that creative spark.
You wrote your first three books while still holding down a “day job” — or sometimes, several day jobs. How did you find the time to be creative on the side?
Sometimes we think it has to be one way or the other — you have a responsible day job, or you live a free, expressive life. But for most of history, people had to figure out how to take care of both. Set your alarm a half hour early every day and work on that book or that new business idea.
What about the inevitable tradeoffs?
People get on Facebook and say to me: “I have no time to be creative.” And I think: cancel your Facebook account. If you have time to get on social media to tell me how busy you are, then you have time to pursue your creative interests.
You took a drawing class to help your writing. What are some other practical things that people can do to enhance their own creative thinking?
If you want to think more creatively, ask yourself “What do I want to play at?” My personal play is exercise. If I go jogging for an hour, I’ll come back with such better ideas for my books. Have you ever noticed how ideas come to you when you’re driving, or when you’re in the shower? It’s because you’re relaxed, and your mind is freed up to let ideas come in.
How do you handle criticism of a new idea?
When you’re doing something creative, you have to recognize that it makes you vulnerable. Do not bring your first iteration of a dangerous new idea to someone who prides herself on being brutally honest. Once your work is out in the world, you get brutalized enough. You don’t need to get it on the first round.
In “Big Magic,” you’ve flipped the usual question, “What would you do if you could not fail?” around to “What would you do even if you knew you were going to fail?”
The freedom to fail — as long as you’re failing in interesting ways — makes for tremendous success.