February brainstorm

2013

This month, an argument for going against the flow, some suggestions for overcoming procrastination, why you should give yourself some time treats, how to make a creative project more appealing and what it means to have your own personal "creative license".

1: Should you go against the tide?

More and more the emphasis is on speed. There are products telling you how to write a book in a week, how to cook meals in ten minutes, how to do just about everything faster. Going against this tide is Harriet Rubin, author and founder of Doubleday/Currency publishers:

"One of the great acts of bravery is to go slowly. In the world of publishing and entertainment, I see products being ruined and audiences being short-changed by a false emphasis on speed. In fact, the best books are those that take their own time... The real challenge is to make products as beautiful and as individualistic as possible."

My hunch is that while the majority will continue to go for speed and quantity, there is room for a substantial minority that will opt for Rubin's approach--and they will be able to charge a premium rather than joining the race to the bottom in terms of price.

ACTION: If this push for the fastest and cheapest is happening in your realm, consider whether it makes sense to opt for the opposite. What would that mean for you and your customers or clients?

2: How the hero's journey can help you overcome procrastination

You may be familiar with the hero's journey, the basic story pattern that Joseph Campbell found in the mythology of many different cultures. The first step is the hero is in his ordinary world, the second is that he gets some kind of call to adventure - there is something new that he is called to do. The third step is that he is reluctant at first, he has a fear of the unknown.

This is a good model of procrastination as well. We're going along in our normal routine and then we become aware that there's something we need to do. However, we're reluctant because we are concerned that we won't know how to do it, or that it will be unpleasant and therefore to be avoided. What drives the hero forward is the help of a mentor - in mythology it's often a wise old man or woman, more recently think Obi Wan Kenobi.

The next step is the hero passing the first threshold, a mythological acknowledgement that often that getting started is the hardest part. That's why a classic and effective strategy for overcoming procrastination is dividing the task into small chunks and doing the first one to start to build momentum.

ACTION: Who could be your mentor? It could be someone you know who has done the task in question, or an expert you consult personally, or a book or video. Listen to those who have done it, not nay-sayers who haven't. And what is the first logical step that you can take as soon as possible?

3: Create 100-calorie time treats for yourself

You may have noticed that there are a lot of 100-calorie snacks available these days. The idea is to provide treats you can enjoy without adding too many calories (note to self: if you eat five of these at a time, it cancels the benefits).

How does this relate to time management? Well, rewarding yourself when you finish a task is a good strategy for keeping up your motivation, but the danger is that you lose track of time. That's why it's a good idea to create "low calorie" time treats for yourself. An example might be 10 minutes on Facebook, or 15 minutes reading articles you've bookmarked, or a 10 minute walk - but always with a timer so it doesn't turn into half an hour on Facebook, for instance.

ACTION: What "low-calorie" rewards would appeal to you? Why not give them a try? Want to jump-start or supercharge a creative project? Of just finally get your home office organized? This is your chance!

4: Two powerful things you can do to make your creative project appealing

Samuel Johnson said, "The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new."

For instance, in the film District Nine, apartheid was made new by showing it applied to aliens. In Star Wars, we were seeing a civilization different from our own, but the underlying story structure was as old as mythology.

This isn't limited to works of fiction. When e-readers were produced they were programmed to seem as much as possible like traditional books to make the new seem familiar. And manufacturers of just about every product strive constantly to convince you that they are "new and improved."

ACTION: If what you are offering is familiar, how can you make it new? If it's new, how can you make it familiar?

5: Your Creative License

You've heard of people "taking dramatic license," and I think you should be awarded a "Creative License." It gives you the following rights:

  • The right to stare into space (you're working)
  • The right to express ideas others consider outrageous (it's a trait of geniuses and fools, this license gives you the benefit of a doubt)
  • The right to be yourself (as someone pointed out, everybody else is already taken)

6: And a quote to consider

"The 21st century will be a search for meaning. We're going to find meaning in stories that tell us who we are. Story was the principal tool of Jesus Christ, the Bible, the Torah, Abe Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt. Story is what touches people. Story is what changes lives." - Bob Rogers, founder and chairman of BRC Imagination Arts Inc.

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About The Author

Jurgen Wolff
Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff is a writer, teacher, and hypnotherapist. His goal is to help individuals liberate their own creativity through specific techniques that can be used at work as well as at home. His recent books include "Focus: the power of targeted thinking," a W. H. Smith best-seller, and "Your Writing Coach".