Think about this for a second: creative thinking is the process of thinking up new ideas or solutions to a problem, right? But in reality, that’s not completely true, because every new idea – every “creative” idea you come up with – is based entirely on the factors of other ideas already stored somewhere in that cranium of yours.
When we look at creativity, we’re essentially looking at the way we think as human beings by default. New ideas are the children resulting from collaboration of pre-existing ideas. Is your mind blown yet?
If you want to be more creative, it turns out, you have to have a better understanding of how you specifically think. When you’re sitting in a room, say a room you’ve been sitting in for six months or longer already, what is your thought process? Are you noticing every crack or cranny in the ceiling, or do you happen to know which way the light is coming from and reflecting or refracting?
Or consider the conversations you have through-out your day, what is going through your head in those conversations? Are you listening intently and then taking a minute to consider possible questions that might invoke the conversation to take a certain course, or are you patiently waiting for your turn to speak and not really hearing a word of what is being said to you?
What thoughts are racing through your brain right now, as you read this? Are you thinking of something elsewhere, or are you considering each word and what it could possible mean? Have your thoughts caught-up with the realization that what you’re thinking right now impacts your level of creativity in the next moment?
If you want to be creative, you have to first look into your own internal thinking process. What ideas about the world are you storing in your brain? What possibilities are you ignoring (subconsciously or otherwise)? Where do your thoughts go when you pursue new ideas?
It’s on this basis that our next creative essay is spawning from: understanding how thinking works, and how utilizing that understanding can help spur creativity and innovation. But you don’t have to wait for the essay to be published in order to start looking at your own thinking patterns and how they might impact your creative abilities.
Today, look at what you think and how thoughts seem to bubble in in your brain. Ask yourself how each thought could potentially help you move forward as a creative.
Then again, our next essay will help provide some insights into the subject matter. If you haven’t subscribed to our essay newsletter, you can do so now at Aspindle.com in order to be notified when the next essay is published!
An interesting thing happened when Aspindle closed down almost 60 days ago.
When we posted about the business closing here, when we sent emails to those who had supported us, when the small team behind the website went our separate ways, and when the dust settled from the storm, we heard from many of you.
People all around the world wrote in to tell us how sad it was that an innovative company was closing it’s doors.
A number of people and institutions came forward offering to buy up Aspindle’s assets. I personally heard from several people who called to let me know how inspirational the business had been to them.
So I thought long and hard about what the business had become and what I wanted it to be and found out that the two were very far away from each other. My love for writing and my curiosity into the power of creative thinking is what started Aspindle, but somewhere along the lines of trying to grow the business I forgot about looking at it as an opportunity to share my exploration of creativity with you and instead focused on growing the business (which was moving at an incredibly slow pace).
Today, I am incredibly excited to introduce you to the new Aspindle.
Starting now, we are no longer going to be focused on publishing creative books. We will instead be publishing short essays on the topic of creativity and innovation. Our emphasis on short essays will hopefully allow us to publish more articles more often (largely the biggest concern readers had with the old model) and allow you as a reader to experience more without having to invest more time or money.
Additionally, we will now only be publishing directly to the Amazon Kindle platform. This means that Kindle owners will get exclusive access to our essays, though anyone with the free Kindle reader application on their computer, tablet, or phone can also read the essays we publish. Even better: you can download any of our essays for free through the Kindle Select program, and if you purchase an essay you can freely share it with any of your friends, co-workers, or relatives.
This is an exciting time for Aspindle, with many big things planned for the near future. I hope you’ll stay with the business as it continues to change and improve, but more importantly I hope that you’ll enjoy the publications we distribute, including our newest essay: The Next Big Idea.
If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly: tanner at aspindle.com.
Say hello to the new Aspindle.
A few months ago I sent an email to Aspindle’s advisors and a few friends with one simple question: “When should you give up on an idea?”
For weeks the question had plagued me, as sales for our series of ebooks began to dwindle. A few of the responses to my inquiry were very basic – “never give up” – while others were much more elaborate and involved a few days worth of back and forth. For nights I could hardly sleep over the thoughts: am I wasting my time with Aspindle? What if all we need is another month of exposure?
At the end it was decided that the only time in which you should give up on an idea is when it’s costing you hours and resources that could be going to other, possibly more fulfilling, efforts.
For Aspindle, that time has finally come.
It’s with much disdain, and some relief, that at the end of this week we will be closing Aspindle. No new ebooks will be published, no new blog posts will come, but all of our old ebooks will remain on sale indefinitely.
Over the past year and a half that Aspindle has been running there have been a lot of incredible things that have come our way.
We’ve had the opportunity to work with some remarkable people, including Frank Chimero, Matthew E May, Julien Smith, Gregg Fraley, and Mike Brown. I’ve personally connected with a lot of incredible advisors (both officially and un), including members of Seth Godin’s Domino Project, and a number of freelancers and interns who have dramatically helped the company bloom behind the scenes. Personally I’ve grown to learn much about running an online business and customer care.
In just a year, the company grew from $50 a month in sales to 60x that. Then sales quickly fell back down again. While there’s undoubtedly a lot of potential to be had, myself and the small, consistently shifting team behind Aspindle can no longer dedicate ourselves – even in part – to where the company was headed.
Maybe the ebook market isn’t primed enough yet for a dedicate shop like ours. Perhaps by targeting one specific niche (creativity) we tied our hands and feet. Or maybe we just didn’t do enough.
That’s the hardest part of giving up any project like this, at any part of the process: the notion that you maybe didn’t give it enough of what it deserved.
It may be that we re-open our doors in another year, maybe not. For now, our team is off to other independent projects, including a creative iPhone app and various other ventures that have been in the works for some time now. We can’t continue to spend our efforts on something that is yielding such little return. We’ve got plenty of other things in the works, so we’re excited just as much as we are saddened.
A new creativity-focused book is in the works, but will not be released on Aspindle and instead will be available in paperback and via Amazon Kindle.
For future updates follow @tannerc on Twitter. For now…
– Tanner, Jon, Robert, and Elisha.
Life is a problem waiting for a creative solution. At least, we can imagine that it is.
If you look at each aspect of your life as a piece of the larger puzzle, a piece that makes a little bit of sense by itself but feels that it could be part of something much larger, all of the little places where new ideas can change anything and everything start to show up.
It’s these little crevices of the every day puzzle we call “life” that caught the attention of young Albert Einstein. As he grew up and started to question why some pieces of life were one way while others were a completely different way, Albert began putting various pieces together and as a result created multiple theories that have influenced the history and future of all mankind. Einstein’s exploration into the aspects of not only his own life, but all life, led him into theories around relativity, and energy quanta, and wave–particle duality; which basically says every particle in the universe has both particle and wave like properties. Things that still run circles around my brain.
Then a man by the name of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi came over to the United States after living in Italy for 22 years and he had a lot of questions about the puzzles of his life too. So he wrote about his questions and did tests and studied the questions and little spaces between each puzzle piece in his life and eventually helped postulate the concept of “flow” which is the state of full immersion in an activity.
Artists from history, too, have done amazing things by peeking around the world they surrounded themselves in, and the results have shaken the very fabric of society. Mozart with his concertos, Leonardo da Vinci and his paintings and inventions, Caravaggio who fathered Baroque painting, and Pollock who stirred an entire field of mathematics with his abstract fractal works of art.
What was it that spurred the countless creative men and women through-out time to become such vibrant examples of creative thinkers? How can anyone today do the same, if at all?
The answer is big, much larger than a simple article on a creative blog can deliver. One very important piece, however, that you and I can address starting today, right now, is to ask questions about the problems around you. And, fortunately, everything is a problem. Everything is a puzzle piece. Go find out how they all fit together.
Let’s start this article off with this: if you really want to be a creative writer, you need to write, not scour the internet in search of writing tips or insights.
I can guarantee you that the most successful writers – the J. K. Rowlings and Leo Tolstoys and C. S. Lewises – didn’t get to where they are as writers by spending a good hour of their day looking for advice.
That’s not to say that sometimes we all need a bit of a kick in the pants to get going, and advice from other creative writers can be that kick, but if you’re spending more than 1% of your workday looking for advice rather than writing, you’re wasting your time.
One of my personal writing heroes, Merlin Mann, explains extremely well in his article “Real advice hurts.” Merlin explains:
“I don’t doubt for a moment that the right tip at the right time can make all the difference in the world… But, here’s the problem: In more instances than we want to admit, tips not only won’t (and can’t) help us to improve; they will actively get in the way of fundamental improvement by obscuring the advice we need with the advice that we enjoy. And, the advice that’s easy to take is so rarely the advice that could really make a difference.”
So, by offering to give you a snippet of creative writing advice that you probably haven’t considered and starting it off by saying “tips are usually garbage” aren’t I contradicting myself?
Not completely, because the advice is just that: instead of doing what you’re doing right now, you should be writing.
Write like hell, write like it’s the last thing that matters in life, write until your pencils are completely unusable and until the little “c” key on your keyboard is worn completely down. Because if you want to be good at creative writing, you have to write.
You might feel like the advice is commonsense (and, as with most things, in hindsight it always is), but you wouldn’t need this tidbit of wisdom if you were actually sitting there writing, would you? Right now you should be completely overwhelmed with words, words that mock reality or don’t make sense. To excel at creative writing you have to drown yourself in words.
To quote the great poet Hart Crane: “One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.” Adding to that, Mark Pilgrim proclaims: “Picking the right text editor will not make you a better writer. Writing will make you a better writer.”
If you’re really having a hard time improving your writing, it doesn’t even matter what you’re writing, just write. Right now, go.
As a creative professional, people often ask me how they can be more creative. I even regularly find myself wondering the same thing, because even creativity experts can grow and improve.
So how do you become more creative? Here are seven ways you can start today and see results within seven days.
When he was alive, Albert Einstein proclaimed that he had no special talents, that he was “only passionately curious.” Curiosity is by far one of the most important aspects of growing creatively. If you aren’t curious, you’re missing opportunities to fix what’s not broken, to see what others are overlooking, and to see connections that nobody else has made.
We all have certain times of the day when we’re most productive. For some, early morning is when they feel energized and ready to dive into work, for other people it’s late at night. Whenever you are most productive is the ideal time to work on solving problems or working on projects, so start to track when you’re feeling most productive. Doing so allows you to hold off on ideation until your perfect time.
It’s easy to get into a routine these days. Many of us wake up, head to school or work, do what we’re told to do, then end up watching TV or some other menial task. If you haven’t heard: your brain is a muscle. The more you challenge your thinking daily, the more creative connections will build in your brain. Michael Michalko has a great list of creative experiments you can use to challenge yourself daily.
Your experiences every day impact how your brain formulates ideas. Give yourself new experiences – ones that scare and challenge you at least a little – and you’re essentially giving yourself fuel for creativity. When you experience something new, your brain stores everything from the experience for connecting later on. As Steve Jobs once explained: “creativity is just connecting things.”
Many of us are taught to pursue perfection, but that’s a wall for creativity. If you’re always seeking out one specific outcome to a problem or situation, you’re likely to overlook the millions of other functional solutions. It’s a hard habit to break, but giving up perfection is a great way to open yourself up to new ideas.
If you make an effort to hear somebody else’s thoughts or ideas at least once a day, you’re guaranteed to find some insight. This goes back to point 4 above: by exposing yourself to ideas that you otherwise may not have, you’re giving your brain fuel for connecting ideas down the road. Who knows, maybe you’ll hear something one day that changes your entire future.
Hustling is important if you want to be a creative success. You have to work hard and be diligent in coming up with ideas. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a break at least once in a while. The important thing is to identify when and how much of a break to take. This is a personal preference that you’ll have to spend a few days getting right, but once you find the right mix of working hard and giving your brain a break, you’re bound for creative greatness.
Time lapse photo by Miguel Mendez.