“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun” ― Pablo Picasso
What are some unconventional ways to be creative?
This is Part-2 of the 2 part series on how to be creative by unconventional ways.
You can read part-1 here.
A summary of the first 5 ways:
1. Salvador Dali’s Slumber with a key
2. Edison’s Technique of Hypnagogic Creativity
3. The Art Of Wabi-Sabi
4. Dr. Seuss’s Bet
5. Functional Fixedness
*Announcement: I recently contributed to a free and awesome book idea conceived and put together by Michaela Cristallo who blogs at For The creators. The book is titled “How to Craft a Daily Creative Practice (that works for you!).” The book highlights the daily creative practice of 16 creators. Please sign up for free updates on her blog to get immediate access to this wonderful resource!
Let us move on to the rest of the ideas!
6. Chindōgu: The Art Of The Barely Useful
“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking” ― Albert Einstein
Chindōgu is the art of creating things that are so absurd that they are barely useful and even almost unuseful.
Japanese inventor, Kenji Kawakami coined and invented the term Chindōgu.
The literal translation of Chindōgu is an unusual, odd or distorted tool.
Kawakami describes Chindōgu as:
“Invention dropouts, anarchically brilliant ideas that have broken free from the suffocating historical dominance of conservative utility.”
Chindōgu is a fun way to break out of the mold of convention creative ideas of form, function and utility. It is all about creating something new and absurd.
Chindōgu is a fun way to experiment with creative ideas and develop mental agility. In Chindōgu, you do not worry about utility or making money.
Some examples of Chindōgu from Kawakami’s book, 101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindōgu:
Putting together slippers with a brush and pickup tool at the end of them.
The lipstick seal or a roll of stick-it and removable adhesive stick-on tabs that can be placed on cups while sipping a beverage. The seal allows for smudge less sipping of your favorite beverage. Just peel off the one of many red lip cutouts and stick to your cup and sip away. Remove and throw away for a smudge less cup.
Lady’s coffee mug: If the lipstick seal proves ineffective and unfriendly, Kawakami suggests a mug with the sipping area colored lipstick red built-in. This red area based on the idea of camouflage is present both inside and outside the mug.
The noodle eater’s hair guard is a device that prevents noodles from making contact with your hair. The hair guard consists of a flea collar type device made of cloth that sits at the edge of the face and strapped into place.
In an interview to Pingmag, Kawakami says that Chindōgu should follow a set of principles. Some of the principles are:
It is not actually useful.
It needs to have some function to it.
It needs to be a tool for everyday life.
It should not be sold or have commercial value or for the purpose of making a profit.
It should not be only for the sake of humor and you can use it internationally.
It needs to have an anarchic element to it.
Check out this video on Chindōgu:
7. Maya Angelou’s Retreat
The famous writer and poet, Maya Angelou used to leave for a hotel room in the morning at 6:30 am. She would write in the small and bare hotel room till 12:30 or 1:30 in the afternoon.
In an interview to The Paris Review, Angelou said:
“I have kept a hotel room in every town I’ve ever lived in. I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses. I never allow the hotel people to change the bed, because I never sleep there. I stay until twelve-thirty or one-thirty in the afternoon, and then I go home and try to breathe; I look at the work around five; I have an orderly dinner—proper, quiet, lovely dinner; and then I go back to work the next morning.”
Angelou only carried yellow pads, a sherry bottle, a dictionary, a Roget’s Thesaurus and her bible to her writing retreat.
She also insisted that all art and objects be removed from the room. She would go into the room and feel like all her beliefs were suspended and nothing held her to anything.
I have previously written on the importance of having a creative ritual in place to unleash your creativity. You may not be able to rent an ongoing hotel room or a retreat for your creative adventures.
However, if you want to break the mold of conventional creative ideas, you may benefit with a change of environment. Taking a retreat is a great way to shake the creative routine up.
The idea is to get away from your conventional stuff and get new ideas by a change of environment and by beginning with a clean slate.
8. Gamify Creativity
“Now, why a game? I knew from researching the psychology of games for more than a decade that when we play a game — and this is in the scientific literature — we tackle tough challenges with more creativity, more determination, more optimism, and we’re more likely to reach out to others for help. And I wanted to bring these gamer traits to my real-life challenge, so I created a role-playing recovery game called Jane the Concussion Slayer.”- Jane McGonigal’s TED talk.
Do you remember playing a video game or watching someone else play one?
Usually the game increases incrementally in difficulty. As you feel like there is no hope and game is about to end, you receive a new lease on life or receive a power-up.
The power-up provides you enough boosts of motivation and inspiration for you to stay in the game. You begin your effort in a renewed and refreshed manner.
Rewards to keep you in the game.
Bonuses to motivate you.
Power-ups when you lose all hope.
A clear destination or a common goal like getting the crystal and so on.
I got interested in gamification and its possible beneficial effects after watching Jane McGonigal’s TED talk.
Jane is a video game creator and suffered a brain injury. As she struggled to recover from her injury, she had the brilliant idea to create a video game called Super Better to assist her healing process.
She received power-ups and bonuses as a means to engage her and inspire her to boost her resilience.
Studies are recently finding the traditional carrot and stick model of motivation to be ineffective.
But, I believe that gamification keeps us engaged by offering quick and immediate rewards. Gamification challenges the status quo and pushes you into enhanced creativity.
How to gamify that next creative project for enhanced creative inspiration?
Reward the little milestones and victories along the way .
Appreciate and feel great about the little steps of the creative process, the small things.
Challenge yourself in small increments of difficulty, not enough so that you quit.
Award yourself lifelines or power ups in the form of assistance, feedback or support.
Keep your sight on the big picture while rewarding yourself the little victories.
Effective games capture our attention and keep us engaged by offering us rewards and power-ups just in the nick of time before we give up.
Offer yourself rewards and bonuses to stay the course and to inspire you!
9. Beethoven’s Notebooks
“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents.” ― Ludwig van Beethoven
Do you have a notebook handy or have the habit of using a digital notebook to jot down those creative ideas?
The famous composer Beethoven was quite organized with his work even though he had a wild and unruly image.
I got introduced to Beethoven’s unusual method of notebooks from Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit.
Beethoven had notebooks for the different stages of his idea development process.
“I carry my thoughts about with me for a long time… before writing them down… once I have grasped a theme. I shall not forget it even years later. I change many things, discard others, and try again and again until I am satisfied; then, in my head… [the work] rises, it grows, I hear and see the image n front of me from every angle… and only the labor of writing it down remains… I turn my ideas into tones that resound, roar, and rage until at last they stand before me in the form of notes.”- Beethoven
Beethoven had a readily available initial pocket notebook where he would scribble down an initial rough idea.
He had notebooks for developing the rough idea into a more well developed one when he would revisit it.
His creative method consisted of improvising, pushing, adding and improving to the rough idea to transform it into a middle stage idea.
Then he would allow it to sit, incubate and percolate, sometimes for six months and then develop it further into a fully developed idea. This would go into a final stage notebook.
“I alter some things, eliminate and try again until I am satisfied. Then begins the mental working out of this material in its breadth, its narrowness, its height and depth. “-Beethoven
These notebooks provide a sequential step-by-step progression of the creative process.
These notebooks provided a way for the otherwise chaotic Beethoven’s life and his creative process to anchor someplace and take root.
All through the creative process, Beethoven shook ideas and added and removed them to re-energize and repurpose them.
“He might take an original three-note motif and push it to its next stage by dropping one of the notes a half tons and doubling it. Then he’d let the idea sit there for another six months. It would reappear in a third notebook, again, not copied, but further improved, perhaps inverted this time and ready to be used in a piano sonata.”- Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
10. Use Creative Icebreakers: Bob Mckim’s 30 Circles
“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” – George Bernard Shaw
Do you use any creative icebreakers or warm up exercises to stimulate and enhance your creativity?
The Stanford Creativity researcher Bob McKim developed the 30 circles method. I came across this from IDEO’s Tim Brown in his TED talk on creativity.
McKim was a creativity researcher in the 60’s and 70’s and lead the Stanford Design Program.
McKim’s 30 circles method consists of 30 circles printed on paper.
Download the template here.
You have one minute to complete the exercise.
During that time, fill in as many circles as possible with objects of some form or another with a pen or a marker.
The idea is to fill in as many circles as possible within the time period.
For example you can use one circle to put the first thing that comes to your mind, perhaps a smiley face.
I will post an insights response to the challenge in the comments below. Please check out the comments section if you are interested in the 30-circles method and challenge.
Another technique that McKim used was drawing a quick sketch of the person sitting next to you in a group.
You have 30 seconds to draw the sketch and you will show it to the person after completion.
Do you have any unconventional icebreaker activities that you use to get into the creative mood?
Now over to you!
Did this post resonate with you?
What are some ways that you get through the creative doldrums?
I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Harleena Singh says
Interesting post indeed, or shall I call it ‘really creative’ 🙂
I liked the way you went into such details and wrote about all the various creative people and their unconventional creative ways, thorough research indeed! Honestly speaking, I hadn’t heard of some of them, and certainly not of Chindōgu – reading that was amazing!
Yes, I can well relate to Maya and her way of working, quite a lot like bloggers who have to work from home! Sometimes you have to get away from home, or have your own working place, which should be a little away, so that you can sit to work and let your creative juices flow. Going to a hotel room for a few hours in the morning, which are the most productive ones, and really writing, was her key to success – and later she was back home to do the other tasks. Great lesson to learn from her, isn’t it?
Thanks for sharing. Happy weekend 🙂
Thanks a lot for your comment and your kind words, Harleena!
I agree with you that some of these methods are quite surprising and amazing! When I first came across Chindōgu, I was interested! It sounded counter intuitive but seems like a great tool to shake up the creative thinking process and generate novel combinations and ideas.
I can also relate to Maya Angelou’s way of working. I agree that sometimes we have to get away from the familiar to generate ideas and get the creative process flowing. Understanding how one’s unique creativity works and them implementing those practices is the key to creative success. This distraction free writing example from the great Angelou is indeed very inspiring and shows the importance of prioritizing the creative process!
Thanks again and have a wonderful weekend!
Ravi Chahar says
When I read the word creative, I feel like something is going to be great here.;)
I like the way you have examined many people and gather their details which you have mentioned in this post.
Though its hard to do like these creative people but still it is believed that we all have something unique in us. The only thing we need to do is to explore our talent.
Doing practice regularly can do that.
Thanks for writing this article.
Have a nice day.:)
Thanks a lot for your comment. I totally agree with you that everyone’s creativity is unique and it is best to use other people’s experiences as a template but then go ahead and find what works for you. I am with you on the importance of regular practice and making creativity habitual. I think that every bit of creative work counts. And it is also important to try other methods and see what works best for your unique situation. There may be no one size fits all for creativity and creative practices.
I have found that testing and experimenting what works for me has been the most beneficial for my creativity. In innovation terminology, it is called rapid prototyping and making new iterations. If we get stuck on one method for too long and it does not work, it is best to try other stuff to see which is the most beneficial for our unique project. Getting quick and unbiased feedback is also important in my opinion.
Thanks again and have a nice day!
[…] This is the end of Part-1. You can read part-2 here! […]