Is creativity a flash of brilliance or a sustained effort toward originality?
Perhaps it is both.
Saturday’s Wall Street Journal article, “Think Inside the Box,” challenges prevailing ideas about the creative process. Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg, authors of Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results say that brainstorming is overrated. Rather, “People are at their most creative when they focus on the internal aspects of a situation or problem – and when they constrain their options rather than broaden them.”
I make no claim to expertise on the creative process, but I propose that creativity involves a combination of thinking both “inside” and “outside” of the proverbial box. However, I agree with the authors that the most creative potential is found on the inside.
My own creative efforts over the last week have included both.
The leadership team of our Community Bible Study class retreated to Wisconsin last week for a few days of planning for next year’s study. We spent many focused hours generating, discussing and evaluating ideas. Some ideas resonated with all of us and we adopted them quickly. Others died natural deaths. Non-starters. And in one rather humorous discussion, we collectively inflated one proposal as if we were blowing up a balloon until it popped and we found ourselves right back where we had started. The risk of free-flowing ideas.
Personally, I found the process energizing, lots of fun and slightly exhausting.
But that’s only the beginning.
Now it’s time for each of us to reflect on the ideas from within the framework, the “box,” that we constructed. One thing will lead to another. Incremental adjustments to something familiar will suddenly become something new. This will be a longer term, more internal but no less a creative exercise.
Last week’s brainstorming meetings were like the collecting of kindling, logs, and matches, all the makings of a creative fire. This week we begin the more internal and longer term effort to assemble those raw materials into the products of our creative energy.
This same phenomenon occurs every time I write a blog post or prepare a teaching. Loosely organized ideas and thoughts get dumped into a document. It’s a mess, and it never feels terribly creative. But, somehow, while working within that mess an order, a focus, and even surprisingly creative ideas emerge. Amazing.
Thursday night, after a long day of brainstorming and planning, we built a fire on the shore of Lake Michigan. The sun went down and the stars came out as we conversed amiably around crackling flames while sipping tea and roasting marshmallows.
May our creativity burn as brightly.
How about you? What’s your creative process? Do you find the brainstorming or the processing most creatively fruitful?