Every job demands a certain amount of creativity. Some jobs—like graphic design or copywriting—require creativity in a more straightforward way. But any job in the business world needs creativity, because improving, problem-solving, developing and adapting all require you to use that right side of your brain.
There is, however, a difference between being creative within a framework, and what I like to affectionately call “free creativity.” For most people, being creative falls into the former category: we have problem X in department Y, how do we come up with a solution that respects procedure Z? Or Client X wants to launch product Y, how do we come up with a novel way of doing that for target market Z? Free creativity, however, has no bounds. If you had a totally blank canvass, what would you do? If you didn’t have to worry about how something was received, how would you create?
Now here’s the big question: how are you supposed to apply free creativity to your job? Well, you can’t. In the business world, there is always a set of requirements that have to be respected. However, you can do whatever you want outside of your work life, and it’s surprising how the benefits there will trickle down into your job.
A couple of months ago, I decided to set aside a few hours a week to try some free creativity. Since a big part of my business is writing (within a very strict framework), I decided to try creative writing for the first time in many years. At first, it was hard to sit down and commit to giving my little pet project the time it deserved—but after a couple of weeks, things just took off. It was exhilarating do so something where the impact on the business part of my life was irrelevant. I just did it for fun. Every week, I did a few hours, and every week, it became easier, as if I was oiling some gears that hadn’t been used in a long time.
Then something interesting started happening: I started getting better at being creative within a framework. It was as if the free creativity part of my brain was energizing the analytical side. I’m sure there are a million reasons why this happened, but I think it comes down to variety. We are all creatures of habit: we go to the same restaurants, watch the same kinds of movies and tackle business challenges in the same ways, over and over again. Doing something that’s purely creative is a way of forcing yourself to do something new. In a way, it relaxes your brain, makes it more flexible… and just helps it to work in new ways and go in new directions.
To me, adding free creativity to your life is analogous to varying your diet. Not only is it more satisfying, but it also brings other benefits to your system. In the case of food, a variety of nutrients and vitamins can help make you healthier.
No matter what walk of life you’re in, there’s room for free creativity. If you’re a graphic designer, try painting. If you’re a carpenter, try sculpting. And if you’re not sure how you’d practice free creativity, then start brainstorming, and make sure to do so without a framework, totally free. You might find that the process itself might just be what you need to get the creative juices flowing.