The Creativity Paradox: What Perspective Serves You Best Right Now?

Creativity is full of paradox. In fact, the “rules,” philosophies, guidelines and perspectives for creative success often contradict each other:

Get outside the box to free your thinking vs. Set parameters to focus your thinking

Defend your work with claws if necessary vs. Accept and incorporate relevant feedback and criticism into your work

Easy is a sign you’re not stretching yourself vs. Easy is a sign you’re in creative flow

Good is the enemy of great (the keep perfecting as long as you can philosophy) vs. Great is the enemy of good (the don’t let saboteurs around perfection stop you from even getting started philosophy)

By the very definition of paradox, of course, all perspectives or positions are true, valid and useful.

So, how do you know which “rule,” philosophy, guideline or perspective to adopt?

For a more powerful creative experience and greater creative success, what you choose to believe about creativity, where you choose to stand on creativity and what you choose to do creatively, needs to be informed by the current moment.

Meaning that, ideally, you’ll choose your creative perspective based on what will serve you most and based on where you currently are in:

  • The creative process for a specific project (what phase you’re in)
  • Your personal creative journey (how your creative self is currently showing up; your desires and goals for your creative life)
  • Your personal growth and development (what you’re currently working on overall in your life; where you want to make strides in terms of self growth)
  • Your current life or work situation (what’s going on around you; the creative circumstances or environment)

While you may look at where you are in all these areas cumulatively, it’s more likely that only one or two are relevant, important or pressing at any given time.

For instance, if I’m working with a client who’s struggling to believe she’s creative or is just plain stuck in the starting gate because of fear, or both, the most important areas for her are likely:

1)  Where she is in her personal creative journey

2)  Where she is in her personal growth and development overall

Given this, I want to support her in developing creative beliefs, navigating her saboteurs and taking action from perspectives on creativity that will result in what she wants and needs most in these priority areas. In other words, I’d want her to consider adopting beliefs about creativity that will help her make the progress she wants to make.

Someone else might be better served (because of their priority areas) to stand in the perspective that “good is the enemy of great,” whereas this client might be better served standing in “great is the enemy of good” – because, for her, the most important thing is to overcome her fear and simply realize her ideas. So, getting something done, for her, is vastly more important RIGHT NOW than the quality of her output (which she can choose to take to the next level later,
or not).

Equally, it’s likely better for this client to adopt the “defend your ideas” perspective rather than the “accept and incorporate criticism” perspective, because, at this point in time, the most important thing to her is building creative confidence and trusting her own creative judgment.

Another example: Let’s say a looming deadline means that “current life or work situation” is the most pressing area for a creative professional working on a project. Where that person might normally want to push and push in defense of their idea, in service of meeting the deadline and for the success of the project overall, they may choose to adopt a “be open to feedback” perspective in order to move the project forward faster (not waste time arguing and just do what others are asking). While it’s easy to make judgements from the outside and say something like, “you should always stand up for your ideas because the quality of outcome is your responsibility” OR “you should always be open to feedback because collaboration is important,” the reality is that both stances are legitimate,  and it’s okay to be fluid in what you believe pending what will serve you most at any given time.

The point is that we get to choose our creative perspective. In every creative moment, during every creative project, we can consciously adopt the perspective on creativity that will serve us best.

If we can learn to make empowered choices about who we want to be and how we want to move forward creatively based on the current moment and situation, then we can stop running on auto pilot. We can prevent old, entrenched beliefs and/or fears from running our show. We can take creative control.

Here’s to consciously choosing our creativity beliefs.

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