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Take a new perspective on your creative process. This episode presents some of my favorite quotes from the book Think Like A Freak by . How can we apply these ideas to imagination and creation? The book written by the team behind the Freakonomics book and podcast. Here’s some favorite quotes from the book and some commentary and how we can use these concepts as artists and designers.
Tip 1: Action is more important than words
“Don’t listen to what people say; watch what they do.”
One way to understand preferences is measure action. An interesting study found we’re naturally persuaded by what other’s say they like. We listen less to what they actually do. Learn to notice actions.
As artists, knowing our habits is so important. As an artist, ask ourselves how much time do we spend working on our art? What risks do you take? How does your audience respond?
One example. If I haven’t worked on my art work recently, I know it’s time to make it more of a priority. What do I say it’s important to work on? I want to finish work, share it, and adapt my processes. What actions can I set to improve those habits? Scheduling tasks, brainstorming, and identifying my real hurdles in making that happen.
Tip 2: Believe in opportunities
“Solving a problem is hard enough; it gets that much harder if you’ve decided beforehand it can’t be done.”
We tend to see only what we want to see. Due to confirmation bias, we see what we want to see. We ignore evidence of what we don’t believe in. Instead, be conscious of signs that your creative process is headed in the wrong direction.
Working a design at work, if I forget to double check that I’m following instructions, I’ll notice a huge change I need to make later. This can take up valuable time. The worse case scenario is that it makes it to the client’s first draft. Not the end of the world and at the same time, having a system of checks can make you look like a rock star.
Tip 3: Facts are important.
“One thing we’ve learned is that when people, especially politicians, start making decisions based on a reading of their moral compass, facts tend to be among the first casualties.”
We need to have to understand facts before we can make opinions. Even with art. The more our thoughts, actions, and emotions are based off of facts, the easier you will have on understanding your end product.
Way back in episode 10, Seeking Criticism, I talked about knowing what kind of criticism you’re asking for. You can give and receive better critiques if you use facts as much as possible.
For example, if a painting is meant to be highly realistic note when the perspective is off and correct it.
Tip 4: Have fun
“Why is it so important to have fun? Because if you love your work (or your activism or your family time), then you’ll want to do more of it.”
I thew a small gathering for friends a few weeks ago. The next weekend, I happened to visit my mom and tell her that I threw an event. My mom loves to host parties and events. She always had since I was a kid. So I casually mentioned that it’s not something I due often since it can be stressful. My mom’s response? You really have to love it. If you’re going to do it, then love doing it.
Don’t lose sight of what makes your creativity fun. Every moment of being an artists isn’t fun. Knowing why you’re doing even the less fun parts… That’s what makes it all worth it. Some days I don’t feel like drawing. Then I start doing it anyway. There’s a good feeling to that!
Tip 5: Data Versus Anecdote
“The plural of anecdote is not data.”
It’s interesting to share anecdotes to help us make a personal connection. At the same time, personal experiences aren’t to be confused with more substantial evidence. As I shared in the episode on Creative Optimism, our Mental First Draft isn’t always right. Even when our initial thoughts use some facts to make a point. Data can be misrepresented by stories.
Tip 6: Admit when you don’t know
“It has long been said that the three hardest words to say in the English language are I love you. We heartily disagree! For most people, it is much harder to say I don’t know.”
When I was a kid and young adult, I would say I don’t to everything. Then at other moments, I would fall into the overconfidence trap. It take practice to balance what we know and what we don’t. Have confidence and don’t be afraid of the unkown.
Tip 7: Think like a kid
“But wouldn’t it be nice if we all smuggled a few childlike instincts across the border into adulthood? We’d spend more time saying what we mean and asking questions we care about.”
When told to think like a child, adults have more ideas. Thinking like a kid helps stimulate ideas.
Tip 8: Failure is a good thing
“When failure is demonized, people will try to avoid it at all costs—even when it represents nothing more than a temporary setback.”
In the episodes on how to be wrong and how to fail, I’ve discussed some tips that help me when I’m trying to turn failure into something more helpful
Tip 9: Know when to quit:
“Resources are not infinite: you cannot solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.”
Quitting one thing is just saying yes to something else. Every time you decide one painting is finished, you give yourself a chance to start another.
Tip 10: Use Stories
“If you really want to persuade someone who doesn’t wish to be persuaded, you should tell him a story.”
The brain doesn’t completely know imagination and reality. A team of researchers from Emory University tested metaphors and brain function. Sayings such as “singer had a velvet voice” and “leathery hands” activate the part of the brain responsible for sound and touch.
Words describing motion activate the part of the brain coordinating body movement. A series of tests at the Laboratory of Language Dynamics.
A basic story is a cause and effect. Use stories in your artwork and in your creative process. If your see your first thoughts as your Mental First Draft, then you can edit your next thoughts and actions. Be ready to change the story about how you create
Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.