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Foundations in Creative Thinking

Part 1 of #YourCreativeSelf Series
Reviewing selections of “Brain Storm: Unleashing Your Creative Self” by Don Hahn, the producer of The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast and many more.

If you read my previous blog, #YourCreativeSelf: Blog Series on Creative Discovery, then you already know we’re about to embark on a journey of creative motivation — dare I say, greatness — that will hopefully lead to creative action. Before we get stated, I want to make it clear that creativity — and these blogs — aren’t just for artists and craftspeople. Instead, the idea of creativity is for anyone who wants to think, create, and dream of something beyond their current confines; these blogs about building creative foundations are for anyone and everyone wanting to expand upon their passions. Whether your passion is your business, your art, your trade, your ideas, or your service, there’s something here — in the idea of creativity — for you.

For the skeptics who wonder, “Why do it at all? Why focus on creativity?” My generic answers is this: Creativity is the seed that, when given the right attention, can blossom into unique businesses, ideas, interiors, art, crafts, performances, scientific discovery, etc. In many ways, creativity is synonymous with personal growth, but it’s also the fuel that helps create new things and new ideas. Furthermore, if you’re at all like me when it comes to creativity, making, producing, etc., then you’ll understand my following sentiment: There’s great satisfaction in the creative process and its resulting products or ideas, so when this core element of personal existence is missing from life, the result is a gaping hole filled with poor self-worth and faltering pride.

Harsh — I know — but for me, it comes from a frustrated, personal place of knowing I need to make time for the things I love in order to feel more fulfilled. I think people of all creative or passionate interests can resonate with this feeling, and it’s one of the many reasons why I’m interested in Hahn’s book— because I want and need to rekindle and support my own creative environment. Funny enough, he seems to know it — or he’s at least wondered why we humans even feel the need to create. For Hahn, it’s because modern-day humans long for a sense of meaning and belonging in the world. He explains this need and our inherit abilities in a beautiful way by connecting us to the genetic gifts and potential of our recent familial relations but also to our ancient ancestors, who primarily focused on daily survival. Based on Hahn’s book, my quick takeaway on why humans need to create is this: Once you have a plan for and the knowledge relating to basic survival, humans search for a sense of meaning and belonging, and the result is often some form of creativity, organization, the forming of questions, and the cultivation of self.

Constructing a Creative Environment

Helping you construct a creative environment is one of Hahn’s goals or topics, which is great because it applies to so many different types of people, including: creatives, artists, artisans, writers, bakers, musicians, designers, developers, architects, and business owners trying to build their businesses in exciting ways. On the path toward a creative environment, Hahn describes three critical elements required to form the foundation of creative thinking:

  1. A huge amount of information.
    Good thing we live the “information age,” where we can not only find a great deal of information, but other people can find the information (or products and services) we emit.
  2. An untiring interest in your work.
    Passion and work ethic. Enough said.
  3. The ability and ruthlessness to edit or weed through your ideas, separating the great ideas from the duds.
    Numbers one and two require time and devotion, but number three…this one requires a certain level or skill and practice. For Hahn, making the distinction between ideas that are “gems or rocks” requires a balance between your taste and your gut feelings, both of which, he says, are made from a combination of your DNA, experiences, and exposure to the world’s ideas. When it comes to choosing between our good and bad ideas, the choices are completely personal, but they’re also choices that will likely change and grow as we do. Which leads to Hahn’s next point: Today’s bad idea could be the beautifully inspired gem of tomorrow (and vise versa). Take and do with that what you will.

Creative Environment Exercise

With the above’s, basic tips in mind, can you honestly say that you’re doing everything you can to construct your creative environment? Whether you are or aren’t, make it this month’s goal to at least do these three things:

  1. Research anything and everything related to your trade, skill, or passion. Find out if any new advancements or achievements have been made in your field. Research a new skill. See what your competitors are doing — both online, in-store, and in reviews. Make this kind of research a habit that you continue throughout your career.
  2. Reflect on your work. Take some time to think about your line of work. What about it are you so passionate about? What about it helps you get out of bed each morning? What aspects of your work energize you? Write these findings down, and put them somewhere you can easily revisit — a sketchbook, your back office, the mirror, etc. Let these notes remind you why you do the things you do, and why you’re passionate about your work.
  3. Audit your own work. Sift through your portfolio of work, as well as customer reviews and employee comments (if applicable), to find out what’s working — and what isn’t. Take a solid look at what you’ve done — and what you plan to do — in order to separate the gems from the rocks. While you’ll know what appeals to you, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from others.

Our Creative Brains

Our brains are creative…so creative that Hahn states, “Our brains are powerful, natural explorers hunting for ideas in the chaos of life.” The problem is, our time is limited and we’re constantly pulled in 5,000 directions. However, if we want support a creative environment, we must provide our brains with ample time for leisure, dreams, and energy. Want to do more to support your innate desires to be creative? Keep following this series with the next installment: Your Creative Brain.