March brainstorm

Mar 05 2012 by Jurgen Wolff Print This Article

This month, some thoughts about taking risks, inspiration to help you overcome obstacles and barriers to creativity, a new take on the "to-do" list and some words of wisdom from Bruce Lee.

1: Creativity and the search for the sure thing

An article on SheKnowsEntertainment, titled "Lazy Studios Recycle Old Titles into 3-D," argues: "According to one Hollywood insider, "Hollywood only wants a sure thing right now, and since adaptations and remakes have been hugely successful, studios are doing what Hollywood does best... rinse and repeat. They think they've hit a groove or a guarantee of success. The truth is that Hollywood isn't green lighting anything original because it's too risky right now."

A couple of nights ago I saw the Academy Award for best picture go to "The Artist," a decidedly non-3D, even mostly non-talking movie. Talk about risky!

ACTION: Trying to decide between what seems like a safe bet and what seems like a real outside choice? There's no guarantee that anything will succeed-neither the familiar, like sequels ("The Next Karate Kid" was one of many sequels to flop) or the innovative, like one of my favorite recent films, "Hugo," which looks like it will end up losing something like $100 million. So you might as well go with the one that tries something new.

2: The two questions that led to a book that sold 430,000 copies

Rosemund Lipton's first novel, Sister, was on the UK best-seller list for more than three months and sold more than 430,000 copies there. This is her description of the process:

"I was an unknown, unpublished author when I was writing this story, with my manuscript going into slush piles. I needed to write a book, which would leap out from the slush pile. The goal for myself was to write in a way I was happy with. I would go back to a page, or a chapter, and think 'is this the best that I can do? Is this good enough?' Often, it was a no, and I rewrote."

It wasn't a quick process: "I'm also a mom so it took three years. I'd write when the children are at school. As I was writing the house was in chaos because I'd drop them at school and then return to write. My husband is a hospital doctor and was working mad hours. Towards the end I had about four months to rewrite about 200 pages so my mother came to stay with us to help take care of the kids."

The explicit question she asked was, "Is this the best I can do?" The one that was implicit was, "What do I need to do to keep writing this book, regardless of the obstacles?"

ACTION: What are the questions you need to ask yourself in order to reach your creative goals? What could you achieve if you showed the kind of dedication Lipton displayed?

3: It's not too late

On the Huffington Post, Karma Kitaj writes, "I grew up with a much older brother, RB Kitaj, who became a famous artist when I was still in my teens, so the idea that I might have any creative ability never entered my mind... until one year ago."

Having a talented sibling is just one of many things that stop people from doing anything with their own creative impulses. Sadly, some people never get past those. For Karma Kitaj the thing that set her free from her sense of limits was playing in an art studio that someone she interviewed owned.

She writes, "I fell in love with using the materials and have not stopped since that day. In the past year, I've set up a studio...I've even had my first art show, where I sold paintings! I'm in love with this process and work at it any free moment I get."

ACTION: Have you been stopping yourself from expressing your creativity? Do you fear it may be too late? Kitaj is a baby-boomer, and finally daring to explore her creativity has changed her life. If you've had such fears, what could you try playfully, with no pressure, to explore yours?

4: Find your genre

You've probably heard of one of the most unlikely huge successes on the publishing scene, the picture book called "Go the (Bleep) to Sleep." A satire of a read-aloud picture books, it was written by Adam Mansbach, who was the Rutgers University-Camden New Voices Professor for 2009-2011.

A Rutgers Today article written when the book was released said, "Writing down your passions and not shying away from different genres is not only what Mansbach practices; it's also what he teaches...during Mansbach's visiting professorship he taught multiple courses that spanned topics and genres."

Manbach said, "One of the things I had done at Rutgers is to help students to experiment with genre, to write outside of the box of the genres they see themselves in...I taught screenwriting to poets and fiction writers, which made them think about their own work in a new light. I encourage students to write what they're passionate about in whatever form that fits."

ACTION: Don't dismiss ideas that may not fit the genre or medium with which you are most comfortable or experienced. Letting the idea determine the best medium may lead you to a breakthrough.

5: If your days seem to disappear, start a "done" list to find out where they go

I use a to-do list but often things come up that need to be handled but aren't on the list. At the end of busy days I sometimes wonder where the time went. Not very many of the items on my to-do list have been crossed off. One helpful tool in this situation is the "done" list. It's exactly what the name suggests: a list of the things you do, jotted down as you complete them.

If you look at your to-do and done lists after a few days, you'll probably come to one of these conclusions.

Either you're letting yourself be distracted by too many not very important things (these won't be on your to-do list but will be on your done list). Or you're forgetting to put important things on your to-do list (again, these will show up on your done list).

ACTION: If your time seems to vanish, try keeping a done list for a few days and then see which of the two conclusion above applies to your situation. Brainstorm a strategy for deflecting the unimportant tasks, or better planning the important ones.

6: And a quote to consider

"Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is specifically your own." Ė Bruce Lee

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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".