The Dark Side of Creativity

From the Editor: Like Jekyll and Hyde, one of our resident creativity experts Stefan Mumaw is at battle with his dark side, Dr. Cattier Ivy, whose life mission is to suck the creativity out of pursuits and to replace it with mediocrity and normalcy. In this manifesto of sorts, the killers of creativity are outlined in this dark attempt to rid creative thought from society. Don’t fret though: we’ve also convinced Mumaw’s better half to divulge exercises to resuscitate creativity if you’ve fallen victim to the very “normalcy” Dr. Cattier Ivy prescribes.

My name is Dr. Cattier Ivy, and I am evil incarnate. I am a scientist, an observer and an ancient evil overlord brought back to life to rid you of the festering mire of novel ideas. I have theorized openly that the decay of mankind can be attributed to one pursuit and one pursuit alone: Creativity.

The wretchedness of society can be pointed to this ever-growing need to innovate, expand and conceive. Creativity is a virus, infecting the masses like a disease of the heart. It’s within mediocrity one can find the comfort of knowing nothing will change. There is no failure in its warm embrace. 

 I have summarized my findings in “The Comprehensive Instructions for Normalcy.” These mandates were derived from my research on the origins of creativity: how it manifests itself in the person and the conditions best suited for its growth. By avoiding these conditions, one can learn to suppress creativity’s degrading effect on society. Follow these mandates and rid yourself of creative thought forever.

If you want to achieve normalcy, read along:


Segment I, Will: It’s my belief that people who achieve creative stature do so because they first choose to pursue creative thought. They have a certain will that others don’t possess. In short, they want to be creative. They desire innovation in all that they do, regardless of opportunity, medium or purpose. Creative people have an innate desire to solve problems, often identifying problems that others ignore. This dastardly practice is the first indicator that one wishes to pursue creative thought.

Contrarily, people who don’t view themselves as creative don’t have the will to be creative. They placate the difficulty of the creative process by simply pushing aside any desire to be creative, citing any number of admirable reasons why they can’t think creatively. They don’t want to solve problems in any way other than what will require the least amount of effort. These people are to be applauded.

To stave off the desire to think creatively, you must first eradicate the will to do so. Without the will to be creative, one thankfully can not and will not.

EXERCISE: World’s Worst Teddy Bear
The world knows the teddy bear as the embodiment of warmth and safety. The cuddly accompaniment has been at the side of bed-seeking children for over a century, providing silent friendship to even the grumpiest of tykes. But how would children’s views of their snugly sidekick change if they found out that the teddy bear name was originated when then U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt mercifully slaughtered an injured bear cub he encountered on a hunt? This is probably not the bedtime story kids were envisioning, but it sets the stage for a devious creative exercise.

 You are to design the world’s worst teddy bear—the type of thing that would make children scream in horror at the mere sight. Consider its shape, feel, smell, appearance and features. Create the most unappealing teddy bear the world has ever seen. You have 15 minutes. Go.

Segment II, Doubt: The greatest ally we have in the fight against creative thought is the mindset of the subjects themselves. Often, it’s far easier to seed doubt in the feeble-minded rather than argue merit. Creative people often have a creative outlook, knowing that they can, indeed, express creative thought at will. They possess a self-confidence that surpasses any obstacle, using creative thought as the very elixir to the ailment of absence. They honestly believe they are creative and they muddle through life thinking that they can solve problems creatively whenever they please.

In order to keep one from believing they can generate creative solutions, it’s imperative that we seed self-doubt in the minds of the subjects. If the subject believes they can think creatively at a heightened level, they are more apt to actually accomplish such tasks, a fate we must avoid by reminding all that they don’t have the inclination.

EXERCISE: The Witches Brew To Turn Into You
Wanting to enhance your beauty? A witch can brew the magic elixir with a few rat whiskers and the eye of a newt. Looking to get rid of that bumbling boss of yours? There’s a brew for that. It’s all in the ingredients.

 Today, you’re going to concoct the witch’s recipe to turn anyone into you. Ingredients are key and they must be authentic to who you are and what you value. Consider what makes you, you and distill that down to the ingredients one would need to turn themselves into the greatness of you. Then cackle madly. It adds to the ambiance.

Segment III, Organization: A common trait of the creative is that they are well-organized in their affairs. They tend to track time accordingly. They have a deep-rooted understanding that failure is to be integrated into their process, so they plan the time required to fail early in the process. This organization allows them to explore new solutions without consequence.

 The proper faction, however, understands the greatest deterrent to creative thought is time.  Regardless of the disposition of the subject, if time is not available to explore creative options, it matters little of the intent. The disorganized find little room for creativity, instead falling back on what they know they can achieve in the time they have remaining. The glorious result is one of tried and true, ordinary and safe.

 To keep subjects from entertaining the thought of creativity, we must encourage distraction, procrastination and disorganization. The further away the subject is from accomplishment, the less we will risk creative thought. Misappropriated time is our greatest weapon.

EXERCISE: Dr. Franken-desk-supplies
When Victor Frankenstein began his grisly attempt to create artificial life, he assembled his monster from human and non-human parts he collected from morgues, graveyards and slaughterhouses. His creation became monstrous in size as he could not control the scale of his being. In many ways, Dr. Frankenstein was eerily similar to a designer. He made something out of nothing, his creation grew larger as he continued to add to it and in the end, it took on a life of its own.

 You’re going to mirror Dr. Frankenstein’s process and create a monster of your own. Using only the items you can reach from your current position, you are to assemble a free-standing, 3D monster. It can be whatever size or shape your twisted mind can conjure but you can not leave your environment for supplies. What you can reach is what it must be made from. Post a picture of your monstrous creature on Facebook and Tag HOW Magazine.

Segment IV, Purpose: It’s no secret that creativity is an attribute of problem-solving. There can be no creative thought if there is no problem to be solved.

Without a problem to solve, they will find out they can not be creative so they will instinctively look for a problem to solve. When they do this, creative thought is facilitated, and we can not allow this to happen.

 Instead, we must do what we can to make the problem vague, make the problem broad and undefined. If the problem can not be properly focused, the solution is guaranteed to be less than creative. We must keep the subject from whittling down the problem until its core is discovered. For if they find the undisputed core, they can apply creative thought.

EXERCISE: Zombie Happy Meal
Zombie’s get a bad wrap. Sure, they’re flesh-eating, undead corpses, but they’re not that different than you or I. They have needs, wants and cravings. Take fast food for instance. Just because they walk the Earth searching for human conversion, does that mean that they can’t enjoy the simple pleasure that can only be found in a Happy Meal? Of course not. It’s time you filled this need.

You are to create the world’s first Zombie Happy Meal. First, you have to define what the meal will be. Second, you’ll be wise to create the prize—that allure that will keep zombie’s coming back day after day. Lastly, you’ll need to provide the carrying container. Zombies deserve to be happy, and the Zombie Happy Meal should do the trick. But just in case it doesn’t, keep an overpowering weapon close at hand.

Segment V, Assumption: Vanity is a powerful tool. We must wield it whenever we can. To know is to abandon questioning, and what is abandoned can not be solved. To ensure creative thought is applied to the least amount possible, we must play upon the subject’s own vanity and convince them that what they know is enough.

In my research, I found that creative people constantly questioned their own processes, often reinventing perpetually. They rarely allow what they know to stop them from exploring more.

On the contrary, I found those who generated the more desired mediocre results tended to rely on what they already knew, filling in the spaces of knowledge with assumption—mediocrity’s kinsman. We must encourage subjects to place their confidence in their own experience and repel learning at all costs.

EXERCISE: Typography Gremlin
It’s said that the ancient art of typography originated when Neanderthals would arrange the carcasses of their kills into shapes to communicate to the rest of the tribe the manner in which they stalked their prey. As the innards of the animal began to seep, they often formed corners and extensions, the genesis of the serif. As their prey got larger, their stories got longer and the need to form more elaborate letterforms came to fruition.

OK, not really, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use that same practice to go the other way. First, choose your favorite typeface, then choose your favorite uppercase or lowercase letter in that typeface. Print that letter on an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. Now use that letter as the foundational shape to draw a gremlin. You can turn the paper to find the angle that best supports your vision, then turn that letter into a gremlin by adding the necessary gremlin parts, whatever those are. Gremlins have no defined look, they take many forms so the possibilities are endless.

Segment VI, Restriction: Fortunately, few recognize the creative fueling found only in restriction. The misunderstanding that restriction is the enemy of creativity is a myth we must perpetuate. Subjects often believe that less restriction equates to more creativity, a legend we would be wise to spread.

My research has discovered the opposite to be true. Creative people tend to understand that greater restriction equates to greater creative opportunity. The larger the obstacle, the more creative the solution required to overcome. They tend to create restriction where little existed before, focusing their questioning to determine the exact problem required to solve for success.

Our goal should be to spread the deceptive thought that more freedom is required to produce creative thought and without this freedom, creativity can not thrive so they should cease the attempt unless restrictions are lessened. If subjects entertain restriction as an accelerator to creativity, it will be difficult to stave off the creative result.

EXERCISE: An Epitaph On Your Behalf
As creatives, there’s little we leave to chance. We are control freaks by nature, obsessing over the smallest of details and choosing to work long into the night to avoid collaborating on anything we’ve developed. Should death be any different? Once we croak, the only public communication we have left to offer is our tombstone, are we really going to leave that to someone else? Don’t let your creativity die with you, show the world what they will be missing when you’re gone.

You are to write your own epitaph but there’s one catch: it has to rhyme. You must write at least two lines but no more than four. There’s simply not enough room on your tombstone for more copy and as a designer, you understand copy just makes the tombstone feel cluttered anyway. After all, if your epitaph is more than four lines, there may be little room for the Apple logo.