Want to make this month your most creative? Our resident creative expert offers up a different exercise to complete each week. At the end of the month, see how differently you’re seeing the world around you and your work.
Week One: Approach one project in a different way every day.
Each day since the 1960s, the Japanese-born artist On Kawara has made thousands of “Today” paintings, hand-drawing the month, date and year on canvas after canvas after canvas.
Try a variation of Kawara’s routine. Pick a creative project you’re working on—or one you want to start—and spend an hour each day this week approaching the project in a different way. If it’s a visual piece, look at totally different styles, colors and sizes each day. If it’s writing, try different words, rhythms and points of views. If it’s a recipe, substitute different spices, cooking methods or plating options. If it’s a piece of music, play around with different melodies, lyrics or instruments.
Do the same project a different way every day. See what turns up.
Week Two: Add to your notebook every day this week.
Don’t miss a day. Enter insights and observations, quotes and sketches, whatever. Being firmly committed to the notebook this week will cause your eyes and ears to pay extra attention as you walk down streets, sit in restaurants, browse shops.
And if you aren’t already keeping a notebook, use this week to start. All highly creative people I interviewed for my book “IdeaSpotting” called notetaking a must-have creativity tool.
Notetaking tip: Write a reference word in the top right corner of each filled sheet in your notebook. When tracking down info later, you can easily thumb through pages to find what you’re after.
Week Three: Climb out of a box.
A friend told me about a woman whose cat wouldn’t budge from its litter box. She finally called her vet, who asked if she had recently moved into a new home.
“Yes,” she said, “I relocated into a new condo two weeks ago.”
“That explains it,” said the vet. “Cats crave familiar surroundings. The litter box is the only thing that’s familiar.”
Sometimes we humans are equally attached to comfort zones that aren’t attractive or inspiring—they’re just familiar and cozy. And those velvet ruts often keep us from expanding our creativity.
Snoop around your life this week. What familiar box are you sitting in that tires rather than inspires? What can you change to stretch out of that rut?
Week Four: Be for rather than against all week long.
During the 2006 Winter Olympics, Americans Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick—two of the world’s fastest skaters—were scheduled for the 1500-meter speed skating event. For weeks before the match, they bickered in the media about each other’s behavior and who would win the Gold. As it turned out neither did—the medal was won by Italy’s Enrico Frabris.
Their loss is a good example of what Dr. David Hawkins says is the difference between power and force—what we’re for empowers us; what we’re against weakens us. This week try not to spend time and energy being against anything. Instead, invest that energy in your creative growth and personal best.
Sam Harrison is a speaker and consultant on creativity-related topics and a frquent presenter at the HOW Design Conference. He’s the author of “IdeaSpottting: How to Find Your Next Great Idea” and “Zing! Five Steps and 101 Tips for Creativity on Command.”