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Creative Links – January

OK I might have made a mistake by promising to do Creative Links on a monthly basis – there are simply too many good creativity posts. Or maybe it’s like buying a new car – as soon as you decide on the model you want, you see it everywhere. In the interests of keeping up and keeping things fresh I’ll have a go at doing Creative Links weekly from now on. But first here’s the edited highlights of what I found in January, sorted into categories to keep it manageable.

Where do ideas come from?
Scamp takes issue with a piece of research that claims Where Ideas Come From is other people. Beeker claims it’s ethical to Steal Well, and Faris, true to his motto that Talent Imitates, Genius Steals, Couldn’t Resist the joys of plagiarism. Neither could I – here’s the picture he doubtless nicked from someone else:

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If you’re looking for a balanced view, Doc Searls weighs up the pros and cons of disclosing your ideas vs keeping them secret in his post 10 Ideas About Ideas (via Creative Generalist); while Brian Lee advocates a middle way between plagiarism and the pressure to be original, reminding us that Creativity Is A Communal Act.

Tortured Artists
It may just be wishful thinking but I don’t see why artists shouldn’t enjoy themselves (and their work) as much as anyone else. I’m glad to learn that at least Douglas Eby agrees with me, in this great post on Pain and Suffering and the Artist.

Creative Partners
The subject of torture brings us neatly to relationships. Scamp continued his excellent series of Tips for Creatives with Finding the Right Partner and How to Have a Good Relationship with Your Partner – useful advice interlarded with (for me) flashbacks to my days as a couples therapist.

Synaesthesia
As a fan of creative synaesthesia and inter-disciplinary creativity I was pleased to see Mark Hancock catch the synaesthesia bug when he ventured out of the advertising world and spent time with videogame creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Noisy Decent Graphics did a brilliant piece on What I see when I listen and Russell played around with Electroplankton, which looks a bit like an online, affordable version of the Reactable.

Creative Flow
Speaking of altered states of consciousness, Steve Pavlina wrote a great description of My Experience of Creativity, prompting my inner Creativity Trainspotter to tick off Csikszentmihalyi’s Nine Elements of Creative Flow – can you spot them all? Steve followed up that post with 7 Rules for Maximizing Your Creativity.

Planning
Adliterate hosted a cracking debate on the question Is Blogging Killing Planning? I’m not a planner so I’m not qualified to answer the question, but reading through the comments on that post and judging from the general quality of blogs in the plannersphere, I have to say planning is doing wonders for blogging.

Creative Collaboration
Staying with planning for a moment, John Grant argues the case for Planning as Mediation – between the (potentially conflicting) interests of the client, creatives and customer. Simon Darwell-Taylor bemoans the lack of inter-disciplinary communication in ‘the typical ad agency’, as opposed to the more collaborative approach of TV production. Yet the grass is always greener – Richard Wilson has started a wonderfully dour blog called TV Grouting, where he says:

TV and the internet don’t seem to me to be natural partners. The internet is based on the principle of sharing information and ideas and making everything cheaper. TV is about owning and jealously guarding ideas and extracting as much money as possible from them

He contrasts this sad state of affairs with the world of advertising, where planners like Russell are ‘willing to share their ideas ‘with any number of people who might be prepared to nick them’. (As if they would…)

So what can we conclude about creative collaboration?

  • Creative people need to share to be creative
  • Creative people get scared of sharing because someone might steal their creativity
  • Creative people sometimes need someone around to get them to share a bit more
  • Creative sharing looks terrific fun from a distance, it’s a bit messier close up.

For the pitfalls of creative collaboration, see Kathy Sierra’s brilliant The Dumbness of Crowds.

Creative Think
It’s almost impossible to single out individual pieces by Roger von Oech, they are all so consistently and variously creative, you might as well pick some at random – which is exactly what you can do if you click his picture on the Creative Think homepage. A couple of blog posts that stood out for me in January were Set A Deadline to Goad Your Creative Juices, countering the received wisdom that creativity is all about freedom from constraints; and his invocation of the God Janus to usher in the New Year by thinking something different.

Enterprising Blogging
Hugh McLeod knows a fair bit about blogging and being an entrepreneur, his random thoughts on the subjects are more memorable than most people’s considered musings.

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Making a Living as an Artist
The online opportunities for creative producers can be bewildering – Jonathan Bailey clarifies the strategic options available in an excellent post on The New Content Economy.

Writing
Delve into the voluminous archives of Liz Strauss’ blogs and you’ll see she’s no stranger to Unblanking the blank screen so it’s worth listening to what she’s got to say about it. She’s got loads more great posts on writing, but 10 Ways to Start a Blog Post should keep you going for a while.

For What Not to Write, look at Claudinho’s post about 20 Words Most Used in Press Conferences. ‘Best of breed’ anyone?

And just when you’re relieved that the words are finally starting to flow, up pops killjoy Brian Clark to tell you Why Creativity Can Kill Your Copy. Brian’s a master of the headline that draws you in – admit it, you’re itching to know what’s so bad about creativity, aren’t you?

How Coaching Creates Creative Flow

In my last post I described psychologist Mihaly [tag]Csikszentmihalyi[/tag]‘s concept of creative flow. Now I want to focus on how coaches and managers can help creative professionals achieve [tag]creative flow[/tag] more often in their work – and by doing so, produce creative work of a higher standard.

If you are responsible for managing or developing professional creatives or artists, I invite you to consider how you use the following behaviours, which can help you engage their full enthusiasm and continually raise the bar of creative performance.

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Flow can be unpredictable and elusive. It requires a delicate balance of many different elements, so it cannot be controlled – in fact, a controlling mindset tends to interfere with it. But through coaching it is possible to influence performance in a way that increases the likelihood of achieving flow. And it should be taken as read that the following needs to be applied with sensitivity to the needs of each individual.

Creative [tag]flow [/tag]is defined by Csikszentmihalyi as “An almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness” that occurs when we are working at the peak of our creative abilities.

See my previous post for a more detailed description of the nine characteristics of flow. Below I’ve listed these characteristics again, with each one followed by ways that you can influence it through coaching to help people achieve creative flow:

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Creative Flow

Flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who has devoted his career to researching happiness and fulfilment. His research has shown that although people enjoy indulging in pleasure, such as eating and drinking, sex and shopping, this eventually wears off, leaving us feeling unsatisfied. True happiness comes from learning and developing our skills to overcome meaningful challenges. When we are fully absorbed in doing this, we experience what Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘flow’:

Flow – “An almost automatic, effortless, yet highly focused state of consciousness.”

(from Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

When we are in [tag]flow[/tag], we are fully absorbed in whatever we are doing and find it easy to achieve peak performance. The experience is accompanied by intense feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.

Flow can occur in many spheres of human activity, physical and mental. Athletes call it being in the ‘the zone’, but we don’t have to run a marathon or win an Olympic medal do experience flow – we have all experienced the enjoyment of becoming absorbed in doing a task well.

Flow is particularly common in artistic and creative spheres, during those times when ideas, images, feelings and/or words seem to flow easily and the work takes on a momentum of its own. Many artists make big sacrifices in other areas of their lives so that they can pursue [tag]creative flow[/tag]. Professional creatives have typically had powerful experiences of flow, and can relate to the intense feeling of satisfaction when they enter flow – and equally intense feelings of frustration when they are unable to get into flow in their work.

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