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Two Causes of Creative Blocks and How to Break Them

Overcome your creative blocks

The most common cause of creative blocks is fear. Fear of failure, fear of not living up to the hype of a previous success, fear of doing something wrong, fear of not being accepted, fear of rejection, fear of disappointing someone – yourself, your families, you friends… There are a thousand fears that can stymie creativity.

While you will never be able to eliminate fear, you can face it and break through it. Sit down in your creative space and get to work. It doesn’t matter what you create, just start the work. Once you get started, the fear will go away. You don’t even have to work on your next project. Give yourself 20 minutes of freestyle creativity to get the juices flowing and then start on the project that has you scared. And it is always the project that scares you the most that you should work on. It will be the most truthful, the most artistic and lead you to the most happiness and success. Facing your fear and working on that which you fear is the only way to overcome a fear-based creative block.

Another cause is the exhaustion of the creative well. If you’re a full-time creator, chances are you’re on the treadmill of having to produce content or something creative every day. Day after day, you have to have new ideas, make new art, and do everything that comes with marketing because if you don’t you may not eat next month. If you have a job and are creating on the side, just the job can be taxing enough that it makes it hard to come home and spend time on doing what’s really important, being with your family, creating, and not succumbing to (insert addictive entertainment of choice here).

Creators will tell you that ideas come from nowhere or everywhere. But the truth of the matter is, ideas can only come to you when you have a well full of information, experiences and emotion. Being numb is the artist’s worst affliction. Hopefully, you have some tricks that will help you be creative even when you feel like you’re out of ideas.

Keeping a journal, going for a walk, and faking it ‘til you make it are among tried and true strategies. Read a magazine or a book that’s outside your normal reading material. Travel to someplace new, even if it’s a nearby park. Contact your inner child and explore the edges of your yard. Observe, observe closer, observe again; too much of life is spent on auto-pilot engage with your surroundings, ignore your phone and see what you’ve been missing.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improving Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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ABCs of Creativity: Mistakes

shoes basketball nike lebron

If you’re doing something that you know how to do, you might make a mistake. It doesn’t matter what the task is or how many times you’ve done it before, being human means that you make mistakes sometimes, even when you’re doing something you’re good at. Professional basketball player J.R. Smith dribbled out a clock when his team needed a score in the playoffs; he’s on a team with Lebron James. Smith made the mistake in spite of being an NBA player who was probably told by his teammates what was going to happen.

Creativity means you’re doing something new to you. If a pro player can make a mistake when he is doing something he’s been doing for years, imagine how much more likely it is that you’ll make a mistake doing something new. It’s going to happen. Accept it and then do something that will set you apart from others, learn from your mistake.

In creativity, mistakes are the stepping stones to better products, better hypotheses, and better results. As long as the mistake leads to learning something, it’s okay. You don’t have to make the same mistake twice, you can make new ones every day! Go try something new, and make your mistake so you can learn.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate: Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Pre-order “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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My Niece, the Haunted Mansion and Fear

Niece and Minnie at Disneyland

When my oldest niece was about five, my mom and I took her on the Haunted Mansion. We went through the Stretching Room, down the Portrait Gallery and boarded the same Doom Buggy. As we rolled up the stairs and into the mansion, I was getting into it. The Haunted Mansion isn’t scary, but it’s fun to pretend it is.

So, I was taking everything seriously. The armor, the endless hallway with the floating candelabra, the chair that seems to be staring at you. Each new “horror” made me look more fearful. As we rotated to see the body trying to get out of the coffin, my mom hit me in the shoulder.

“Lighten up. You’re scaring your niece,” she whispered at me.

I switched the way I was looking at the mansion and laughed at its humorous elements. I kept smiling through the ride, and my niece had a great time. She wasn’t afraid of no ghosts.

Fortunately, the team of Claude Coats and Marc Davis helped to provide the elements of a frightening atmosphere and comic presentations. (Of course, there are plenty of contributions from other prominent imagineers, like Rolly Crump and his human-like furniture and wallpaper and the effects pioneered by Yale Gracey with Crump.) So, you can see the Haunted Mansion the way you want to. It is the creativity that the team put into the mansion that makes it a classic attraction that everyone loves.

For more on the Haunted Mansion and creativity, preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” You can also get “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve your Creativity for a Better Life and World.”

For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

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With Creativity, Go Big or Be S.M.A.R.T.?

Big ideas are what people are told businesses want and the world needs. Humanity needs ideas that will solve problems that threaten the planet’s habitability and human beings with extinction. Businesses need solutions that will generate billions of dollars of profit. Big ideas are what propel people to fame and fortune, and they allow us to live up to our full potential.

When you hear sayings like:

  • Go big or go home.
  • Shoot for the moon! If you fail, you’ll at least wind up among the stars (Les Brown or Norman Vincent Peale).
  • Big, hairy, audacious goals (James Collins and Jerry Porras).

You get inspired. Elon Musk’s SpaceX isn’t exciting because it’s successful; it’s exciting because it’s doing something that’s never been done before. Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Disneyland were exciting because they had never been done before. There’s something intrinsically motivation about doing the something that people say can’t be done.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” – Walt Disney.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’” – Audrey Hepburn.

But oftentimes, the person with the big idea is shutdown by management, circumstances and other people. Even if the idea is sound, people are afraid to implement it. The would much rather rely on what has already been produced. No one wants to be the first through the door because that’s when things get bloody. The status quo is easy. Maintaining the current situation doesn’t threaten anyone. New ideas do, even when people understand that new ideas are necessary for the survival of the business or the species.

For people who are looking at trying to maintain the status quo while moving forward, S.M.A.R.T. goals are the answer. The anacronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Ugh. If you know they’re attainable and realistic, there’s no challenge in these types of goals, even if you think you’re stretching yourself a little bit. People weren’t meant to be just stretch a little. But S.M.A.R.T. goals are a lot less risky than the “impossible” dream. Businesses jump all over these types of goals. A new flavor of chip? A new edition of a phone? A car model based on a successful car from last year? These are all S.M.A.R.T. goals that are profitable and easy to green light. They won’t get you to the next level, but they will most likely keep the profits rolling in.

The truth is it’s a little of both. Set the big goals, go after the grand ideas, and use the S.M.A.R.T. goals to get you there. If you know where you want to go, you can get there, step by step. Cutting the big goal into smaller pieces will help get you there without getting overwhelmed.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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One episode in: ‘Mars’ Proves We’re Not Ready to Be a Two Planet Species

Mars Rover is a result of the creative process in science

National Geographic’s “Mars” interchanges documentary footage with interviews from 2016 of the people trying to get there and scientists and authors who theorize what it’ll take with a science fiction story set in 2033 about the first manned mission to Mars. It’s a creative and ambitious attempt to get people interested in space travel again.

In the present day, the series focuses on SpaceX’s rocket building and failures. Interviews with Elon Musk are cut with scenes of rockets exploding and the SpaceX team reacting to the failures. Neil de Grasse Tyson has a small segment, and the author of “How We’ll Live on Mars” Stephen Petranek also makes his suggestions for successful colonization.

‘Mars’ celebrates humanity’s reaching for the stars while exposing everything that people will face, including the unknown, as they head to Mars. Humans are still in the infant stage of rocket control and production, even though rockets for transportation to space have been around since 1957’s Sputnik.

Sputnik, instead of inspiring an international cooperative effort, sparked a space race that sent Americans to the moon. It’s the international collective in “Mars” that’s still missing in real life. It exists in “Mars,” but in reality, the collective has yet to emerge. So, humanity is relying on Elon Musk, his SpaceX program and his ability to build a viable company in a capitalist society to send people to Mars.

SpaceX has already faced numerous failures, which is a part of the creative and innovation processes. They are attempting to do something no one has ever done. The failures and mistakes should be celebrated and learned from. They are the stepping stones to Mars. But what happens if SpaceX fails as a company? Who gets those records? Who will learn from the failures? If they stay with Musk or get lost in the dissolution of the company, those mistakes and failures are for nothing.

The 2033 depictions are entertaining, but given what we know now, 2033 is too ambitious of a deadline. With only 14 years left to get there and no infrastructure in place, the deadline will need to be pushed further into the future. At least, if we can judge by one episode.

Going to Mars is going to take more resources than one man has. Musk has the right intentions. He has the goal. The real question is how long his fortune can hold out while he pays people for failure after failure, and how much tie he’s willing to wait for success. At age 47, he’s got another 30 years or so left assuming an average life span. It may not be enough to get to the red planet. And the last unknown for Musk could doom SpaceX long before it gets to the end of its proposed road.

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The ABCs of Creativity: Lifelong Learning

Professor Penguin studies for greater knowledge.

There are plenty of jobs that require employees to keep up with new developments in the industry. Doctors and nurses are among the people that need to have continuing education credits to keep their licenses. However, lifelong learning should be a part of everyone’s agenda and career development.

Unfortunately, few businesses recognize the importance to creativity of learning something outside of your industry’s best practices. They may offer the opportunity to improve your education in your industry or job field, but they won’t pay for a class in say pottery or ancient history. Still, these types of classes, books, and subjects should be on your list of learning about something new.

Learning new things allows your brain to keep its elasticity and flexibility. The brain is a lot like a muscle. If you keep having the same thoughts and knowing the same thing, your brain runs in those ruts. Just like doing the same exercises for your muscles allows your body to adapt to the activity to make the exercise less efficient for getting fitter.

When you learn things outside of your field, you’re able to “connect the dots” between domains. If you stay within your field, you won’t be able to make the connections that creativity requires.

Lifelong learning helps you improve thinking and seeing. Learning is a skill that needs to be practiced. It keeps thinking fresh and allows you to cultivate the curiosity you need to counteract your natural inclination to ignore everything that doesn’t pertain to your current situation. You’ll be able to see things you never thought were there.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Want More Creativity? Figure out Where You Can Save Time and Decision Making Energy

clear glass with red sand grainer

According to Csikszentmihalyi in “Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention,” Albert Einstein wore the same sweater and pants every day, so he didn’t have to decide what to where, he could focus his attention on the more important things he was thinking about. Choosing what clothes to wear may seem like a trivial thing to worry about, but every decision takes energy and time, and little moments add up to large chunks of time when put together (p. 351).

Charles Dickens rejected a friend’s invitation on the basis of time. He had so much to accomplish and so little time to do it in, so while it may seem only an afternoon or a lunch to his friend, it could be an entire day lost thinking about how the whole encounter would go. His art wouldn’t allow him to use his time in dalliances because time is the most precious commodity, we possess (Kevin Ashton, “How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery,” p. 71-72).

Fidel Castro said he didn’t shave because shaving took up to 10 days a year from him. The amount of time he saved by not shaving every day was precious enough for him to sport a long beard.

Finding ways to save time that can be put to better use is one of the projects that every creative person should take. Hiring a housekeeper can help free time for more creative activities. The same could be said of hiring a gardener. Moving closer to the day job, cleaning the home less often if you can’t afford a housekeeper, and learning to say “No” to obligations you don’t need or want are other suggestions.

Tell us in the comments what your favorite ways are to save time.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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ABC Stores, ‘This Week Oahu’ and Creativity

In an interview with “This Week Oahu” (Nov. – Dec. 3, 2018, p.28), Publisher Kent Coules asked ABC Stores President and CEO Paul Kosasa why Kosasa would explore opening restaurants and other businesses rather than just continue to open more stores in his already successful franchise.

“’We like to experiment,’ says Kosasa ‘Doing the same thing over and over again breeds complacency. You have to take risks… By expanding our expertise, we’ve learned things that we’ve brought into the ABC Stores – and vice-versa.’”

Risk taking is essential for creativity. When you do something new, it is a risk. You could fail; you could make a mistake. It’s all part of the learning process, and risk-takers use those mistakes and failures as stepping stones to success.

Creativity happens at the intersection. With the expansion of his business operations into other fields, Kosasa has been able to bring what he’s learned from one domain (restaurants) to another (convenience stores).

One more point Kosasa made in the interview is that he drew inspiration for the Island Country stores from magazine photos. The Island Country stores are upscale grocery stores on Oahu.

Media is a good way to get inspiration and to refill your creative well. With more information input, you can make more creative decisions. The hardest part is knowing when inspiration is going to strike – maybe in a free magazine with an article about a local business that has extended its reach internationally.

For more on Oahu, check out these links. For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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‘Up in the Air’ Takes Flight with Destructive Innovation

airplane wing towards clouds

Up in the Air” provides and example of creativity and innovation being applied in a destructive and dehumanizing way. CTC is contracted to go to other companies and fire people though they never use that term. The position is no longer available, or there is no longer a position for you at this company are phrases they would use, and they offer re-placement services in theory. Newly hired Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) proposes a way for CTC to save thousands of dollars by moving from an in-person firing process to a virtual firing process.

Her innovation would allow a person to sit at a computer in Omaha to fire someone anywhere else in the world. The person that would do the job would have a script that he or she could follow, which would make the job easier theoretically. Long-time downsizer Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) sees his whole lifestyle collapsing in front of him and confronts his boss, Craig Gregory, (Jason Bateman) and Keener.

Gregory instructs Bingham to take Keener on the road and show her the ropes. He does so reluctantly, but through their partnership, it becomes apparent that a human connection is important in both their work and in their lives.

Firing someone is a personal (for the one being fired) and destructive consequence of capitalism. In the United States, it’s a devastating blow to one’s identity and social network. To have it be done by someone who isn’t a part of the company is bad. To do it over a conference call akin to Skype is like breaking up using a text. It’s a cowardly act that causes psychological harm to both people involved in the transaction. The lack of respect in dealing with the elimination of an employee’s position and hence, his or her employment, in such a way is underscored by Keener’s and Bingham’s girlfriend’s reaction to Keener’s boyfriend dumping her via text. It is further underscored and remarked on by Gregory when Keener quits with a text and he says the act is because of the lack of respect in the younger generation.

Keener’s idea was innovative and would result in a windfall for CTC, but the human cost would’ve been too high. There are certain actions that should be done face-to-face because human empathy can help cushion the blow. Creative efforts don’t always result in something good. Be sure to find a way to make your creative efforts beneficial for as many people as possible.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories” for positive creativity. Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The Creative Spark: Make the World Better

man with fireworks

It’s in you; it’s in me. The creative spark is what humanity is made from. We’ve used it to advance. We’ve used it to live longer. We’ve used it to make beauty and to improve everything from transportation to entertainment. We’ve also used it to be destructive. From the falsification of data to the improvement of killing techniques and from the justification of social ills to the increase in devaluing technologies, creativity isn’t only for the good, it can be used for bad.

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