Veer on Creativity: You Are What You Eat

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If you scan the digital shelves of your favorite internet bookseller, you’ll find countless books about creativity and how to jump start it. If you’re reading this blog, you’re likely more qualified to write such a book than you are to ever need one. As a professional creative, you can deliver something brilliant before the sun sets, any day of the week.

Still, we’re all dependent on inspiration as fuel to get us there, and the dietary idiom “you are what you eat” can be applied to creative appetite and output.

If we all listen to the same music, watch the same shows, witness the same world events, and are besieged by the same 24-hour memes, can we take those influences and travel in different creative directions? And if we draw our own inspiration from the same sources day after day, will we find a rut — or a groove — where we risk repetition?

Break from routine

If you’re looking for inspiration, it could be that you aren’t looking far enough. As creatures of habit who know what we like and where to get it, our influences may already be predestined by email subscriptions, feed readers, scheduled PVR recordings, and the daily commute. Rather than tampering with that curated delivery system, be on the lookout for things to broaden your inspirations. Hang out in a different coffee shop, watch a random documentary, ask someone with different interests for a book recommendation, or invite new people to your next brainstorm. When you blend your new influences with your old influences, it will change the flavor of your creative work.

You have to disconnect to reconnect.

Creative, inspire thyself

Consider your ten best concepts from each of your last ten projects. If you only used the best concept for each, that means you’ve got at least 90 unused concepts in your idea drawer. And depending on how long you’ve been creating, that drawer might be hundreds or thousands of ideas deep. They may not have been first choice for those earlier projects, but tweaked, reconfigured, or recombined they might be just the thing for something in the future. So, save everything. Keep old sketchbooks and notebooks handy. Archive text files full of half-finished rambling. Start your own logo graveyard. Then make a habit of coming back to thumb, search, and browse the stacks to see if your old ideas inspire new ideas.

Creatives understand.

Believe in original ideas

Some people suggest that there are no original ideas left. To others, that assertion rings of defeat, surrender, or woe. If you subscribe to a philosophy where there are no original ideas left, you’re robbing yourself of the thrills of exploration. If Columbus, Cartier, or Cook had set sail thinking “We probably won’t find anything”, they might have turned back before they reached new shores. Thanks to the breadth and depth of your imagination, there are still plenty of new places to go, creative executions to invent, and ideas to express.

And only a small chance of shipwreck, scurvy, or cannibals along the way.