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Get Creative: How to Have More Fun With Intelligence

“Creativity is intelligence having fun,” said one of the most creative people around on the subject. And he’s right. Let the others tinker with boring numbers and “scientific” sales psychology! We’re getting creative now and going to have fun!

Of course, all of us online marketers are creative types anyway, or at least we think we are. So how can we channel our intelligence into creativity?

Oh, and just FYI: The quote above does not come from Shakespeare, Picasso or Mozart - but from Albert Einstein. The most important theoretical physicist of all time was also one of the most creative people in the world. Because without the one (creativity) he would never have managed the other (the theory of relativity). This should come as a welcome message for all scientists, nerds and assembly line workers who really want to excel at their job.

And another quote from Einstein: "Problems can never be solved with the same way of thinking that caused them." But now, let's get down to business!


1. Configure the Settings

Let's begin with our attitude towards the topic: "To be creative" means to create something new. You need at least two skills to do that.

But first: blood, sweat and tears.

**The ability to be able to create anything at all is "skill".**The first time you play a game like Battlefield, you will play it any way other than creatively. There will be many setbacks until the playing technique has firmly established itself in your subconscious, and your mind can play freely. And that's even more true for game developers: They not only have to have an excellent command of other games (and know when it gets boring or impossible) but also have to be able to handle graphics, video, sound and storytelling. Before Pablo Picasso cast his greatest works of art onto the canvas with a few brushstrokes, even he had to spend time perfecting the technique.

That's why I wonder how many authors and copywriters in my seminars don't write with ten fingers, but with just their two index fingers. It may feel normal, but writing requires as much attention as possible. Why waste time looking for the "k" or the "j" on the keyboard? It takes only a few hours to learn the ten-finger method.

So: master your tools!

Second: seeing through one's own eyes

The second challenge may be the opposite of diligence: your own head! We have to see the world through our own eyes and not only through the eyes of our target group or colleagues. Because it's about creating something new. If we only do what others want us to do, then we are useless as "creatives".

And that's where mindfulness comes into play. This not only sharpens the senses, but also creates its own image in your head. With mindfulness, we see how things really are, not just how the others say they are.

By mindfulness, I do not mean esoteric nonsense, but a calm, focused and distanced positive view of one's own body, one's own thoughts and the world. And exactly in that order. We have to be aware of ourselves first, then be aware of the world. Then we can think about what our own image of the world is.

Now, let's summarize a few points about our attitude:

  • Before the fun begins, there is first the work on the tools of the trade.

  • Failures are (almost) always useful because they help you get ahead.

  • Creativity can be learned - but not just on the side.

  • Your own perspective is necessary (and does not have to be discussed exhaustively on Facebook).

  • A closer look (also at yourself) is worthwhile.

For those who want to delve deeper into this, I recommend the book "Flow: The Secret of Happiness" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It describes why and how we get into the "flow". By the way, Csikszentmihalyi is a scientist, a Hungarian-American psychologist. So, very trustworthy.


Now, to get to the point: daily preparation

Literature distinguishes between ordinary and extraordinary creativity. One of them is needed for our everyday life, like decorating the living room and formulating e-mails. Here, however, we are talking about the creative moments that are usually sought after professionally, when we want to create something very special - perhaps even at the push of a button. Here are a few tips to make it easier to prepare yourself:

  1. Dopamine up: At first our actions are only a mirror of our neurotransmitters. It is true that dopamine supports creativity, among other things. If the drive-increasing and motivating hormone is released, it can turn into a real creative urge. And how can you raise your dopamine level? In short, you can swallow it in tablet form, but it is much better to produce it yourself: Coffee, meditation or yoga provide a higher level of dopamine. Drug use and stress combined with malnutrition can lead to dopamine deficiency. Well then, have fun!

  2. Lower adrenaline: When the body releases adrenaline, the blood goes from the head to the legs ("fight or flight"), coagulates and perception is restricted. That makes sense when you're facing a saber-toothed tiger - and that's exactly what adrenaline is for. Bungee jumps and even normal daily stress will release adrenaline as well. However, anyone who is currently facing a creative task should refrain from this kick - because when it comes to lyrics, you can't begin with the increased coagulation ability of the blood - and certainly not with the narrowing of perception. In other words: Reducing stress is a great way to prepare for major creative moments.

  3. Mindfulness: Of course, the perception of one's own body and mind does not go from now to later. More about this in the exercises below. Here's another thought: No online marketer really manages to eliminate all distractions. However, if you have trained your "mindfulness muscle" by doing daily exercises, you will also learn to focus your mind. Then you're not as easily distracted - and absolute silence or an undisturbed workplace is not as necessary anymore.

  4. Time: Generally speaking, creativity takes time. Of course, an ingenious thought can suddenly come to mind at any moment. Well, not in an otherwise hectic daily routine. This means: It takes time to develop skills, to reduce stress and to develop thoughts. And this has not only the dimension "quantity" but also "quality". An autumn walk in the forest prepares the body and mind for future performance better than an afternoon of being a couch potato. Yeah, that's a shame, I know.

  5. Every thought is a good thought: Setbacks are the most direct way to creative achievement. That is why it is important NOT to be disappointed by negative or even nonsensical thoughts. This can be perfectly put into practice when communicating with colleagues or on Facebook: Instead of defending every idea with all means, a quick switch to the thoughts of others is a difficult but meaningful intermediate goal on the way to creativity.

And one more thing: work on it every day! The historical image of the whimsical, creative artist, who sleeps until noon, is late for every appointment and has only contempt for the bourgeois virtues, is simply wrong. How could a Goethe, who was not only an "author" but also a father of a family, scientist, politician, diplomat, museum director and courtier, ever have slept in until noon?


Also, every day now: Practice

That's all for the preparations. Now, onto the exercises. These are a blend of mindfulness, writing and thought experiments.

  1. Automatic writing: This is perhaps the easiest exercise for overcoming writing blocks and other creative dead ends. The ingredients: A piece of paper, a pencil and 10 minutes. Use it to write fast and without reflection on anything. What comes to mind is put on paper with a pen - no more and no less. Without regard to spelling, grammar or meaningfulness. That works. Guaranteed!

  2. Journaling / writing diaries: Don't only teenage girls do that? No! A diary is not only a good friend, but also an excellent way to "store" the really important thoughts - which we don't (yet) want to share with other people. There are many different ways to write a diary. However, the best resolution is: daily. At least in the first 30 days it is important to disregard all excuses and resistance.

  3. Don't overlook photography: Nowadays, in the age of mobile phones with large memory capacities, the "A Picture A Day" exercise becomes an exciting one. The point is to take exactly one (!) photo every day for one week. Maybe it will increase the level of fun by forbidding to post this photo on Facebook. Everybody should decide that for themselves.

  4. Hear the silence: Meditate! There are presumably a billion different ways to meditate. They'll always be something that works. In most cases, starting off with a "sit still" meditation is probably the best way. And this is very easy to do. It costs nothing and only takes a few minutes (per day).

  5. The red wine meditation: Seriously? For non-alcoholics, shower or Nutella meditation also works. The idea behind this is to do something that we do anyway, but now to do it in a way that we're aware of what we're doing. Just how does the wine glass feel? How does the wine taste? Does the taste change when the wine is warm? And after the first half glass: How does it feel when the alcohol starts to work? Of course, this can also be applied to showering or to a eat a piece of toast with Nutella or something like that. "Just" get a feel for it. Have fun!

  6. Creative writing exercises: What if? What if Pippi Longstocking was still alive? What would her Facebook profile look like? And where would she live? This is one of many creative writing or thought exercises which you can do when you're bored (e.g. when riding to work on the subway).

  7. Extensive courses on mindfulness are available, for example, as part of the MBSR program by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Or maybe a book will suffice for now. The best place to google it is Amazon.


Finally: The creative moment!

Anyone who scrolled down here to find the shortcut will be disappointed. After all, when it's really stressful, when a hammer drill is hammering outside and it looks like it's going to rain, the time to quickly learn "creativity" is over. It's either there - or not. Nevertheless, a few tips on how to optimize the general conditions:

  • Adrenaline down, dopamine up: relaxing lowers the adrenaline. A coffee and a walk in the fresh air will help.

  • Peace and quiet: Conventional advice such as "mail & Facebook off", take a break from contacting colleagues or do home office - is correct. That's all there is to it.

  • Time: Creativity takes time. Always. It does not appear at the push of a button, but rather only when you really get in the flow. So: Preferably plan on 50% more time. No matter how much.

  • The start: A good start for a creative project is almost always a MindMap. Others write "automatically" (see above) about the topic, create lists or start painting. Essentially, it doesn't matter how you start - the main thing is to be relaxed and avoid having being overly tense about your goals.

What to do?

Of course there is not just ONE way to reach a more creative level. However, there is a single rule that makes this possible: "You just have to do it."

Let's go back to the two most important skills that enable creativity: First of all, there's the attitude that creativity doesn't just happen - it has to be mastered first. This takes time and effort. Impatience and a lot of self-criticism only interfere. Take your time and cut yourself some slack.

And second: Practice daily! It doesn't matter what. There's a lot of value in even just taking 10 minutes of your time and dedicating that to "journaling". Or a few minutes of meditation - why not whilst in the subway?

The only way to succeed in teaching your mind to have fun is to cut down on the adrenaline and build up a little dopamine every day. And this is about more than just "creativity."

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Published on Oct 25, 2018 by Eric Kubitz