Feeding Your Creative Animal

Dear Christian Radio,

You know the scenario…the meeting has been going on for about an hour. It’s almost lunchtime and your stomach is letting everyone in the room know it with embarrassingly loud growls and gurgles. Then, just as you think the meeting is coming to a close, your boss drops a bomb:

Looking directly into your lunch-starved eyes, your boss says, “I’d like to see our plan to solve this issue by the time we get together again next week.”

“You got it,” you answer reflexively.

Goorrruiick?” your stomach asks.

“Exactly,” you think to yourself. “How in the ‘goorrucick’ am I supposed solve this problem by next week?”

You know the answer. Deep inside you there is a source for seemingly impossible tasks just like this one. When well fed, it’s a powerful—almost primal—force that can be unleashed to solve any problem. You’ve used it before…it’s your creative animal.

When it works, it works like a charm. However, when it fails you, you feel like it’s ripped your heart out with its bare claws. It’s not that the beast isn’t up to the job; it’s just that it is so unreliable sometimes that you’re unsure you can trust it, especially in a clutch situation.

The pathway toward accurately predicting what your inner animal’s output will be is directly tied to its care and feeding. In other words, what you do to sharpen your creative skills will determine how reliable they will be. Your creative side needs to be nurtured. Beyond proper rest, diet, exercise, prayer, time in the Word, and so many other things, your creativity has to be fed and given care. For you, proper care could be playing a beloved sport, spending time in nature, listening to great music, drawing or painting, playing with your kids, or just sitting and dreaming a little bit. You have to make time every day to think creatively. This practice will prepare your animal for when it is truly needed. When tasked, your problem-solving skills will be honed and ready for whatever is thrown your way.

It’s important to note that creative energy is often unpredictable. We never know when or where inspiration will strike. In the dark ages—which is where I’m from—we used to tell our team to keep a notebook with them so they could write down ideas as they occurred; this was a form of written processing. Today, we have even better note-taking devices…smartphones. Regardless of which method you choose, be open and ready for creative ideas. They’ll most certainly pop up whenever and wherever they want…so be ready to capture them.

Not everyone processes ideas the same way. While some people easily process ideas through written word, some people need to process verbally. This is the second of four main ways creative people go about processing ideas. Verbal processors need to brainstorm with others. They benefit from sharing the problem with their spouses, friends, and co-workers. They need to openly explain how they intend to solve it. By doing this, the answer tends to tumble right out of their mouths. If you are a verbal processor, your creative output lies in finding that person with whom you can verbally process—the one who seems to draw the best out of you. Consequently, your relationship with them is going to need some care and feeding of its own.

The third category is comprised of visual learners. They think in the abstract. These creative types may need to draw pictures to solve problems and explore ideas. Their journaling will often contain key phrases. The creative problem solving happens when they begin to draw a diagram or sketch out an idea.

Finally, there are left-brained creatives. When we think of math and numbers, creativity is likely the last word that comes to mind. Believe it or not, some of the most creative people in the world are actually great with spreadsheets, numbers, and concrete thoughts. Left-brained creatives solve problems by creatively seeing patterns in the data. They have the ability to draw inferences from information that no one else can see. As amazingly organized thinkers, they are masters at using reliable frameworks such as The Five Whys to analyze problems. In this process, one literally asks “why” five times. I suggest you google it to learn more. The bonus of having left-brained creatives on your team is that they are great with information. They are also masters of effective brainstorming. This benefits all types of processors on your team.

Here’s the bottom line: everyone is creative. Everyone has their own creative animal inside of them. Everyone has the power to problem solve. Personality, temperament, socialization and other factors make our creative processing different, but not ineffective. People who believe that they lack creativity are limiting their full potential. Perhaps it’s time we all learn to trust our creative animal again. As young children, we were openly expressing our creative instincts. Then, for some of us, the world and its disappointments sent our animals into hiding.

Your creative animal is hungry. As its master, it’s time you brought it back out. Consistently feed and care for your animal and it will never stray.

Dear Christian Radio…

1) Exercise care. Nurture your animal. Make time in your schedule to think creatively. You and your projects will benefit.
2) Be ready. Your animal will deliver great ideas at the strangest times; develop a way to capture them.
3) Change your perspective. Solve problems creatively by looking at them from different perspectives.
4) Know thyself. Learn how you process ideas. Make time to brainstorm using verbal, written, diagrammed, or patterned processing.
5) Try a framework. Learn more about “The Five Whys.”
6) Be confident. Everyone is born with creativity…including you!

In Christ,

Jerry Grimes
Vice President of Creative Services
Positive Alternative Radio

Jerry invites you to share your questions and comments at [email protected].

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