I believe the key to creativity is to not think too hard.
Whenever I hear someone say, “let’s think outside the box,” I know that they’re trying too hard to be creative or original. My response whenever I hear someone say that is, what box?
When you try too hard, you stifle yourself.
Examples of trying too hard abound. Just two days ago I was working with a coder who thought too hard. When I offered a simple solution to our problem she rejected it because it seemed too easy to her. Artists love to be creative/original. How many creative people do you know who would talk about an amazing idea they have, then consciously shy away from making that thing in their heads because in their words, “it has already been done”? It could be anything from a novel, a song, or a photograph.
Whenever someone says that, I know that they are imagining themselves as famous artists, trotting down the red carpet before fawning fans. They love the reward of their work more than the work itself…and they think that doing something completely new is the path to that imagined fame.
What they forget is that their work—whether it’s programming or art—belongs to a larger craft, and that like all crafts, one must learn its rules. Imagine trying to become a famous pianist without ever playing something that was “already done before.” Yet that is what many people do who try too hard to be creative.
Everybody starts off playing the piano by doing some version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars.” Why would it be any different if your craft is programming, or novel-writing, or drawing? Would you try to take a picture of something “completely new” if you were a beginning photographer, or learn from the masters first?
Don’t waste your brainpower trying to come up with “something totally new” or think outside the box. There’s nothing new. And there is no box.
“Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” ~ Charles Mingus