In my last post on Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative, I introduced Henry’s argument that time, rhythm and process are unavoidable components of creativity that we have to nurture if we`re going to be creative, and to create quickly. In addition to those three factors, Todd Henry says that there are three “assassins” that threaten our creative processes and, if they dominate, yield “rationalization” and “mediocrity:”
(iii) Escalation of Expectations
(i) Henry argues that “dissonance” arises when the “why” of why your work differs from what’s already been done, and doesn’t align with the “what” of your daily activity. He says that one’s creative problem-solving energy is wasted, trying to line up these “incongruities,” so as to keep you from knowing how to engage in work. When you don’t see the “why” that underlies your daily activities, or feel bombarded by elements that don’t belong together and that aren’t easily resolved, you lapse into mediocrity and “fossilize” comfortable coping practices. This outcome of such dissonance is a death-knell to creativity. For instance, a busy web designer might drag her heels on testing some new design software, if the salesperson’s aggressive sales manner overshadows the new program’s graphics capabilities, that could in fact help her. Or a copywriter might feel stuck after interviewing a seasoned politician for a case study to revitalize his campaign, if he only reiterates old political issues.
Henry writes that some dissonance will always come from the process of doing complex, creative work; however, squashing it early before it takes over allows Creatives to maintain focus and energy for the work itself.
Afraid to finalize your website revisions and see if revenue from members will increase? The second assassin of the creative process is “fear” of failure, as well as of success, in our organizations. Henry says that to address fears of failure, we should try taking small risks in relatively safe circumstances, until we have confidence to perform in situations under increased pressure. For instance, a Copywriter could write a few high-profile blog postings on a given topic, before turning to write a book-long manuscript on it.
The final “assassin” to Creatives is an “escalation of expectations”–when we expect that our creative output will be higher or better, we can often get paralyzed by fears of “not measuring up.” Too much comparison can inhibit creativity and should be avoided in our organizations! We might find ourselves wanting in relation to that white paper we wrote two months ago, under a now-retired boss. Seth Godin observes that Picasso painted thousands of paintings, but is remembered for only about three. Todd Henry reminds us that the reality is that all brilliant creative work began as “infant ideas” that needed development and changing.
So these are three tensions of, and three assassins to, the creative work of associations. What’s the bottom line? Henry says that any efforts we make to alter our approach to creative work that do not address these tensions and “assassin”-like assumptions in our thinking and practice, will be futile.
In my next (and final) blog on The Accidental Creative, I’ll visit Henry’s strategies to reduce the influence of these negative, anti-creative factors, while increasing our capacity for creativity. For now, good luck with what you’re creating!