Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Creative Hats (2)

Firstly (if you haven't already) I recommend you read my previous blog Creative Imaginative Hat (1).

Way back when, Tony Buzan published his book "Use Your Head" which was a companion to a BBC TV series. Unlike successive books, which specialise in single areas of things that help our brains work, this one also covered things such as, how to improve the speed at which we read and improving our memory. (I perhaps should stop lending books out as it's another one I haven't got back). However, I do remember the section on Mind Maps.

Many people are familiar with Mind Maps, but still seldom use them. I use them far less than I could. In essence they are a means of noting down all your ideas so that they appear in a similar way to the way in which we think them. So, whether it's a novel you're writing, a business or project you're devising; a party you're organising or frankly anything which requires ideas being noted down, Mind Maps are a great way to do it. Here's mine for this blog...

Couple of things I'd like to point out. Most Mind Maps start with a central hub which is usually the subject of the idea e.g. organising a party or wedding. I didn't know what I wanted to include for this blog so I just jotted down words and scribbled and doodled to my heart's content whatever came into my head.

You don't have to go through a central hub or even have one at all. You can draw arrows connecting anything to anywhere. I've also included an image of a computer which isn't connected to anything in mine because I recognise that the brain does sidetrack even when in creative mode. The computer is to remind me to contact a colleague about a project we're working on and because (by drawing this Mind Map), I've come up with new ideas for that project. Nothing to stop you drawing or starting several maps if this happens to you.

The Creative Hat is good for random thoughts; things don't have to link at all and it doesn't matter, nor do you have to use them all when moving on to develop ideas further. You can be selective. What matters is exploring your own creativity, downloading ideas. You can organise them later but the point of Mind Maps is just to freewheel.

It's good to do so as it gives the other hats (or parts of our brains) a rest and can act as safeguard against the build up of stress if done as a relaxation. Putting pressure on yourself to 'be creative' is like telling someone to 'be funny'. If I put myself on the spot like that suddenly I find it really hard, an effort and a chore. Only with practice (until it becomes a way of life) are people able to do that on demand for a living.

The most wonderful thing about creativity is that it has no real rules. If you want to mix watercolours with oil, plaster, rubbish and kitchen waste; do it, try it! No one need know but you. There are no such things as mistakes when you are experimenting creatively; and aside from not harming or distressing anyone including yourself, no rules.

Imagine a kettle drum made out of water and rice paper rising from a volcano, flying into space that polkadotted millipeds wearing hob-nailed boots and ballet shoes, navigate around the universe so that a flamenco-dancing Japanese-speaking horse (whose skin changes as it projects films about Henry Moore sculpting), can introduce aliens (resembling sycamore seeds) can learn about music. Yep, it's mad, but now it's in our imaginations, it can happen too. How else did Lewis Carroll come up with his Wonderland? With imagination all things are possible, which is why it needs its controls.

If you want to - now try to draw, paint, write a poem or story; sculpt, sing, compose music to this totally insane scenario I've just described. Or devise one of your own. Once you start downloading ideas randomly like this, it's very hard to stop. I found I ran out of room to fit all the things that were popping into my head, but I also found I had enough images and words by then to prompt and remember the ideas that I had. Nothing to stop me starting another Mind Map to explore them in more depth.

To help further with your creative endeavours, think in opposites. Think of contrast and impact. Think of texture, of pace, of moods. Where possible don't go with what you think you'd like as an end result... go with wherever it leads you. You can always plan to paint a red tomato, but what would it lead to if you radically decided to paint it blue instead?

It is important to remember that we live in a world that is geared toward learning from mistakes as we never spend as much time analysing our successes as we do errors and misfortunes. With this in mind, it pays to capitalise on this by the bucket load when being creative by making as many mistakes as possible. In the process you will find all sorts of accidents that trigger yet more ideas for when you want to do that serious piece of work, planning or project.

And for those of you who say 'I'm not artistic'... rubbish! Aside from anything else creativity is thought to enhance other brain functions such as logic, probably because of the increase of ideas and the rest you give it from the logic and reason we demand of it all day every day. Most importantly, without imagination, we have no hopes, dreams or aspirations and lose motivation.

Remember though, go too far with this for too long without contact with the mudane, laborious trivialities of reality and you almost certainly will end up very ill indeed. Before long you could find yourselves convinced that 5 oranges + 2 apples = 7 bananas. Yep you'll be bananas, as that's what happens in psychosis. The logic is still there, but it's distorted. 5 oranges + 2 apples = 7 pieces of fruit.

Best keep on the side of fruit than veer toward bananas folks! "Be fruitful!"

After any creative session leave it alone. Don't think about it at all, distract yourself with cooking a meal, doing the washing, the accounts or watching a film. This is fermentation time and it stops the initial dismissal of mistakes we think we've made as well as safeguarding our mental well-being.

By going back and visiting our ideas with fresh eyes after a suitable enough break (sometimes even weeks, months or even years), we look upon them as if for the first time. Not least, by then new ideas will have formed and new influences and sources of inspiration will have entered our lives, which also help us to view our old ones with a new (more objective) perspective.

Next time I will reveal how I arrived at what to write for this, my Creative Mind Map.


  1. This is a fabulous post. Inspiring me to get my paints out again, from the box in the spare room. Creativity "has no rules" - I love that, being rule-bound in real life. I really need something that isn't, to balance out the control freak I can be at work! And so, so true that we spend more time analysing our failures than our successes.

    I love the idea too of "fermentation time" - like dream time, absolutely necessary. I just typed "dream time" and remembered that last night, I unearthed some information about Australian Aboriginal dreaming that I picked up at Uluru. Plus some examples of Aboriginal artwork. This is giving me ideas ...!!!

  2. Won't be hearing from you for a while then! LOL!

    People knot themselves up so much that they convince themselves they can not be creative. It's nonsense as we are all naturally creative from the way we choose clothes, the pictures we hang, to the words we use to construct a sentence.

    Ideas are gold-dust when they shouldn't be, whereas 'can't do' is like a plague crippling a very important and necessary release valve and ignition point for all our hopes, dreams and aspirations.


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