Is this you: Too many ideas?


Too many ideasMost of my creativity work is involved with helping people and businesses come up with more and better ideas for their work, their lives, their businesses, to help them innovate, develop new products or new ways of working.

But sometimes I hear this: “but I don’t have a problem coming up with ideas. My problem is I just have too many and don’t don’t which to implement.”

Is this you?

From time to time, it’s certainly me. I have two finished feature film scripts, ideas for three other films, ideas for four novels, twenty finished short stories, hundreds of songs that need recording, dozens of recorded songs that need uploading to iTunes, three business ideas for Dragon’s Den, three big marketing ideas for my own business, three non-fiction books three-quarters finished, ideas for three more non-fiction books, ideas for three public events and three ideas for some big corporations that could innovate their businesses.

That’s quite plainly too much to work on today. Too much to work on this week. I couldn’t get all that lot done in a month and the fact that some of those ideas have been hanging around for ten years tells me a decade isn’t even going to crack it.

It’s obvious that I have too many ideas to do before 2022. If I could work on them all full time, maybe I’d break the back of the to-do list by Christmas 2014, or perhaps not.

Because let’s face it, developing and working on speculative ideas can never really be our full-time role. Most of the time we have to get the donkey work done, the bread and butter, sort out family life, keep the wolf from the door, pay the bills, work for the Man, please the boss, firefight, ambulance chase, deal with people, manage stuff and generally ‘get on’. Only a lucky few have the luxury to sit back and pick and choose from their creative list or religiously work through every single idea one by one without distraction.

So is it simply a question of time management, of project management and the old chestnut, goal setting?

Partly.

Those are topics well described (by me in the past and loads of others). Here’s a summary: Prioritise your projects, break ‘em down into bite sized chunks and do a little bit of work on them each day. That’s goal setting. Not much more to be said really.

But does that solve the problem?

No really, no.

Because goal setting, time and project management only work when you know what you’re supposed to be doing. The reason people don’t achieve their dreams (or even get the most humble of tasks done like reading the papers or having a break) is not through lack of time management or not having goal setting techniques.

Could it be because all of those wonderful ideas we have, we know, deep down that they’re not really that great after-all, or would require far too much time and effort to transform into a good idea worth making sacrifices for?

To put it simply, we’re right back at the start, if we admit it. We actually have lots and lots of pretty average ideas and a few very poor ones. The reason we don’t know which to choose is because none of them excites us, ignites our passions or gives that shudder of a thrill as if buried treasure has been found.

The fact of asking the question, ‘which idea should I pursue’ gives us a clue that perhaps we need to be more creative still; take the present batch of ideas as practice for coming up with something worth pursuing. If you were asking ‘which girl or boy should I marry?’ and had to weigh up the pros and cons of a group of men of women, it probably means that you haven’t found the right person just yet. It’s the same with ‘the big idea’.

Why should there be a ‘big idea’ you may ask? Because we know perfectly well that we can’t do everything. We know perfectly well that we haven’t got the time. We know perfectly well that multitasking produces multiple average results.

We know from everyone who has ever been successful that they concentrated on one thing at a time, to get it right, to power it, to complete it.

So the next time you hear someone saying ‘I’ve got so many ideas, I don’t know which to focus on’ tell them they’re just not being creative enough. And that includes me if you catch me at it too.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Advertisements

Dare we discuss the F word?


smile, beach boysDare I write an article about failure?

The internet is so full of positive platitudes, feel-good quotes and testimony from all the rich, famous and celebrated (successful) people about how failure is a good thing – the best time to begin again – the another way not to do it getting you closer to success and so on…

But does that help?

Are there different types of failure that need to be handled in different ways?

Perhaps.

Here’s the first and most clear cut type. We can all recognise it. It’s where you fail to reach a set standard, such as a driving test, or get a silver medal instead of gold, B for your Mathematics GCSE instead of an A. It’s also a failure to pass through a gateway such as failing to get the job or the university place or to close the sale.

These I believe are all the same; there’s a target and you didn’t hit it. Maybe, depending on what it is, you can have another go and try for the bullseye again – re-take the driving test. Sometimes you can’t and have to settle for less – take home the silver medal, go to your second choice university, put up with the job for a bit longer.

But there is another kind of failure that attacks the creative mind that is unrelated to that first type. This more pernicious one is less easy to spot and deal with face on. No amount of platitudes or quotes from Marianne Williamson or Edison will make a dent it its blackness. It’s a creeping doom of an arbitrary dissatisfaction with your work, your abilities, your life. It’s a sense of having failed that unlike the first type isn’t matched to a clear and visible target. It has fuzzy edges. You can’t quite get a handle on it. It’s a feeling of failure rather than a printed out results page that clearly gives the grading mark. It’s something only you can see and often you can’t quite explain it.

Zig Ziglar said, “Failure is an event, not a person”.

That’s a great and useful quote, and clearly helps with Failure Type 1. But with Failure Type 2, when there doesn’t appear to be an actual event, it really does still feel like a personal failing.

It manifests itself as an over whelming feeling of not being good enough (rather than a specific and tangible failure to hit a target that can be identified and corrected). It appears as a holistic failure, of all systems.

So many artists, on completion of a piece of work, which may even have been labeled by the outside world as a masterpiece, often turn on themselves and their work and label it themselves as a failure, and sometime even destroy it. Authors have been known to burn or shred manuscripts, painters to paint over or destroy their paintings, musicians to wipe mastertapes.

It’s symptom is that of regret, focusing too much time on what might have been if we’d only chosen the alternative path.

We know we’re prone to it when we find ourselves comparing ourselves or our work with others.

In the mid-sixties, the Beatles and the Beach Boys vied for position as the greatest creative force in popular music. Inspired by the brilliance of the Beatles’ 1965 Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys felt the gauntlet had been thrown down and he had to better the Beatles’ efforts. The result was the excellent Pet Sounds. But it didn’t hold he crown of most innovative LP for long as the Beatles released their groundbreaking Revolver LP in 1966. This excited and enraged Wilson, who took it upon himself to bring in a new lyricist and the best professional musicians he could gather, ignoring the rest of the Beach Boys, in an attempt to produce his masterwork and trounce the Beatles once and for all. The Smile sessions were the most ambitious recording sessions ever attempted, but the complexities required were just not possible with the technology of the day. He also took it upon himself to produce the album himself feeling that no other producer could translate his vision. The Beatles of course had George Martin in their collaborative team, as well as being a tightly knit quartet. The overly complex Smile was hit by delay after delay and then, in January 1967, Brian Wilson was traveling in his car when something came on the radio. He pulled of the road to listen and broke down, tears falling on his cheeks. It was the Beatles new record, Strawberry Fields Forever. That was the moment that Wilson knew that the Beatles had won. That was the high water mark for innovative popular music. From that point on, everything to come would be variations on a theme as music fragmented into genres. It was cemented by the release of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper six months later making Wilson’s creative breakdown complete. He never fully recovered. Smile was abandoned and he left the Beach Boys.

44 years later in 2011, Brian Wilson returned to the Smile tapes and finished off the record. Technology and time had moved on sufficiently for him to be able to piece together the intricacies in a way he couldn’t back in 1967.

He had set himself up for creative failure by setting a goal that was impossible to reach, setting his ambition too high, by wanting to create the greatest music work every created (trying to get ‘one up’ on Revolver could have been attainable). He was also weighed down by the immense pressure of a mythical standard of his own making by judging his success by comparing himself with others. Instead he could have compared himself with his personal best (trying to beat Pet Sounds could have been attainable).

There is a reason that creative people create their own demons in this way.

Creativity is governed by right-brain thinking, by imagination, with subconscious inspiration in the visual arts, in music and in creative writing. One of its principles, or attributes, is uncertainty. It’s a by-product of how creativity works, it is not certain of itself, it is in flux and without logic or sequence.

Uncertainty is uncomfortable. We usually want to search for certainty, for an anchor, for something to cling on to. But we need this uncertainty to be able to create in the first place, but its dark side is that we turn it into self doubt and spiral down into our own meaningless lack of worth instead of spiraling up into transformational success.

So what’s the answer? In short there isn’t one. But there is hope in knowing that this is the path that we will find ourselves on at some point in our creative lives. Being forewarned is forearmed and knowledge that our despair is just a side product of our creative power can take the sting out of it.

Doom and glory are the extremes that only the creative mind tastes. Our job is really to surf the space in between as neither of those countries are places we should ever linger.

So perhaps the old platitudes were right after all. You actually can’t have success without failure as they are both manifestations of the same mechanism.

Churchill famously said “If you’re going through hell, keep going”. The same is true, of course, for failure. You’ve heard the one “Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the ability to take action in spite of it”.

Success favours those who continue to take action in spite of failure, those who keep going. So come on, let’s keep going, knowing that failure is perhaps not a false path after all, but is perhaps instead the fuel.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

The paradox of the creative soul


It’s often said that when an artist gets comfortable (either with enough acclaim or financial reward) they stop creating. John Lennon once said he thought it was a myth, saying, “It’s easier to write on a cushion”. But is it?

The paradox of the creative soul is that the driver for their creativity is often to attain a peace and order of their own making, in their particular medium, from the turmoil that surrounds them. The creative process is by definition a manipulation of the environment in some way. But that process can only be initiated from a state of a personal struggle, of chaos, an itch. So if the creator finds themselves in their perceived successful state, where all is already peaceful and ordered, their creative journey is over. They have no driver to continue.

Popular belief tends to suggest that not only is the poor, struggling, unfulfilled artist more prolific, but their work is often perceived to be more worthy. But is this true?

In music, the blues, songs of unrequited love and of melancholy, born out of struggle, heartache and sadness are ranked far higher in terms of artist merit than formulaic happy love songs that are deemed cheesy in comparison.

Because creativity and problem solving are so entwined, can it be that the creative soul needs problems to work on or they lose their raison-d’etre? Like the detective who longs for a mysterious murder to solve, without which he is nothing.

Do we as artists have a faustian pact with darkness, that we need it, to have the light we create have contrast?

But it IS easier to write on cushions. It IS easier to work productively on your art when you’re not trying to keep the wolf from the door, be that threat of personal safety or financial security. Urgency does fire creativity, there’s no doubt, but urgent creativity draws upon emergency quick fixes as the brain tries to effectively fight or flight. Urgency gets results but the brain doesn’t allow itself the luxury of tapping into deeper subterranean caves for more inventive solutions.

The reason there are so many stories of struggling artists does not suggest that poverty is a vital ingredient to creativity, but that it’s simply a feature of it being so difficult for anyone to gain superstar status. It’s especially difficult when the artist is busy doing their art and not selling themselves, and so often artists are better at one than the other. Neither is mental illness a prerequisite. Again, we know those stories well as news favours sensationalism.

Many creatives realise that their joy comes from riding the paradox. It is the creative journey that they seek to enjoy. It’s not about reaching the destination. In many ways, it’s not possible to reach the destination just at it’s not possible to touch a rainbow.

Many creative people are good starters but poor finishers, they’re more likely to kick start another process while the previous one is still in motion. This act of plate spinning itself causes more dark pain of chaotic struggle. This struggle requires, and conjures, the kind of creative energy the creative soul so desires.

Creative people are fixers. They spot problems and try to fix them, or reflect them for others to understand better. The artist is both hero and villain, harnessing both darkness and light, logic and chaos, art and science. This is the paradox that the creative soul must embrace and surf in order to play their creative role in the world.

(The picture is Salvador Dalí’s, ‘The Persistence of Memory’, 1931, showing softness and hardness and unconscious symbols of the relativity of space and time and the collapse of our notions of a fixed cosmic order.  © 2007 Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Dalí is a great example of an artist who produced consistent work during high levels of personal success, accolades and wealth.)

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com