Private Out Loud Creativity Storm 

Hmm, how can you be private and also out loud? And what is a creativity storm? And what do they have to do with each other?

First, let’s remember that we are intentionally speaking to creative outliers here. And for us, the idea of a creativity storm, I suspect is one most of us are not strangers to. We sometimes have so many ideas at the same that it can be overwhelming but even if it is in a good way and welcome, Creativity Storms can be problematic, for there is all of this good stuff we want to capture, but it is incoming way too fast. 

This is where the notion of journaling comes in as part of a morning practice. If some of you are like me, you may wake up with way too many ideas to be able to process, never mind to make use of. Sometimes this can occur in the middle of the night, inconvenient unless you live alone. A journal is a place where you can be “Private Out Loud”. You can stem the flow of too many ideas by talking to yourself in a journal, privately but still out loud to yourself. Some bits and pieces, and even large ones may end up being public. This is more about having a conversation with yourself both to help sort out the too many ideas and to stem the flow so you can get back to sleep if you want to. Or, to get on with your day without being in the middle of an immobilizing Creativity Storm.

Now, I do not know about the rest of you, but I can not type nearly as fast as I can think. I also can not speak as quickly as I can think either. When in public, this can get you in trouble, because you can speak more quickly than you are evaluating and filtering which can create a mess. Maybe some of you have been there?  Hey, as creative folks sometimes the idea flow is faster than the word flow, and sometimes the word flow can get out of control. These are all aspects of Creativity Storms and good reasons to journal as a regular practice to calm down enough to be civil and intentional. If not, you run the risk of burying those around you with too many ideas. 

Some well-adjusted creative people are well self-managed and prevent themselves from over-communicating or under-communicating. Congratulations, if you are well balanced enough to manage your larger than Bell Curve normal emotional dynamic range.

Essentially, we are proposing storytelling as a therapeutic tool. We all tell ourselves stories. Our journals are examples of private out loud storytelling.  We do know that reality is of greater dimension and velocity than the stories we tell ourselves. We experience life faster than we can type and faster than we can speak. Emotions are way faster than logic! This is why we had to invent storytelling in the first place. 

When a lot of external events impinge upon us, some read, watch or listen to the news, whereas others condense the incoming, to a story they tell. Professionals tend to say they are covering a “fast-breaking” story which allows everyone to pretend that this story is the “truth”. Well, maybe not so much?

When internal events are proceeding at greater velocity and complexity than we can rationally process, there is no channel to tune into to “get the story”. This is where journaling comes in. Whether you find yourself in an emotional storm precipitated by external (the news or others in your life) or internal events (as in a creativity storm), the same simple powerful process can be fantastically effective. Tell a story to yourself – privately and out loud. This does not have to be spoken or sonic. It can be a picture, a diagram, text, longhand or spoken, sung or danced and it can be very helpful to tell the story at least to yourself first.

Telling the story to yourself in general precedes telling the story to others. If you are a creative outlier trying to make a living monetizing your creativity or an innovator getting insights adopted, you are going to have to tell a story. No Story = No Stakeholders! Often you can not make things happen completely by yourself.

So, whether you have one person-size dream or world-changing large-team dreams, or just have to cope with a Creativity Storm, you still need to begin with the story. That story will have to be expressed in a way that is Private Out Loud. 

The More People

Well, let me tell you a story about someone with More. More what you ask? More of almost everything but energy mostly, followed by imagination, followed by a willingness to try new things, and the audacity to believe he might be able to accomplish them. Of course, this was largely contextual for he was born into the fast-moving life lane of New York City and born to parents, one of whom had these exact same More traits and who lived her life according to the same intense More proclivities and the desires they inspired. 

Leaping ahead almost seventy years, this same child now a  man at least in some ways, with More, found the More was unabated and no, he never did quite calm down and become like everyone else, even though he was a little better at seeming to reside within the bell curve. Or perhaps this was an illusion created by the fact that almost everyone he spent time with for those almost seventy years was to some degree just like him. You see this individual with More discovered even you one was, one in a thousand there were another 8 million people on the planet who were also one in a thousand, and that there were also a seemingly infinite number of ways to be one in a thousand or an outlier. This seemed because there were an infinite number of possible bell curves to occupy, to indicate that perhaps everyone was an outlier.

And this provided some solace and some opportunity because exceptionalism can also breed exclusion.  At least exclusion from the bell curve. 

Do you recognize aspects of yourself in this narrative? Do yo too not seem to fit into the “norms” society had to have invented statistics to describe? After all the is what More means – not the average or mean indicated by bell curve dwellers. If you even picked up this book or began reading this blog posting or whatever form you have encountered this story in, then I suspect this state of More may afflict you as well, and I chose the word afflict, because More is both a blessing and a curve, or in eastern parlance an opportunity and a danger. 

This is a story mostly about, and mostly for, creative outliers who are well aware of this state of More and the troubles the can arise from it occasionally causing the More people to wish they had Less in order to better fit in. 

The Hybrid Life

Time to admit and celebrate that we live in a new world. No, we are not going back to the pre-pandemic world and no we are not entirely embracing a virtual digital-only world either. Economics prevents the first, and psychology and biology prevent the second.  

It is a matter of return on investment. For most of us, Trade Shows are going the way of magazines and CD players.  It is simply far less expensive and requires far less effort to telecommute than to hop on a plane and fly across the country to stay in a hotel in order to have a meeting with someone for the first time. We are used to prequalifying in-person meetings with phone calls and now we can prequalify them with zoom or the equivalent. Reading currently breaking information about topics you care about is a lot easier online than buying or subscribing to magazines and newspapers and having even several streaming music subscriptions is far less costly and far easier to manage than buying CDs and records. The business model for the digital version is simply extremely compelling, so no virtual is not going away unless human society truly unravels by some sort of apocalypse.

On the other other hand I like meetings people in person, and I like reading magazines and I like CDs and records. Also psychologically people do need people to socialize with as we are social animals, and then there is the issue of procreation. Biology vs. Economy? Obviously we need both. So neither are going away.

We are all to some degree or another, living hybrid lives where some things we do are online and others are in person. We had better get used to it and be ready for a world with many new business models which take into account the hybrid nature of things.

This impacts creative outliers more than most, for a disproportionate number are either self-employed or part of smaller organizations. None of you are surprised that for most, creativity does not flourish in gigantic organizations. Of course, there are always exceptions.  

Hybrid life impact upon creatives will be largely positive because the overhead associated with creating and launching new initiatives is lower than it has been in generations. It is increasingly easier to start a company or a band or anything else than it has been in years.

It is time to create new business models. It has always been harder to make a living in the arts, than in say engineering, medicine or law and this is in part due to the prevailing business models in these arenas. It is a lot harder to get a gig at Carnegie Hall than at a restaurant, but can cost a lot less and in some ways be a lot easier to launch a virtual concert series. 

Better than either is providing a choice to customer-audiences. If they live nearby and can manage and afford the logistics fine, open the doors. And if they are on the other side of town or the world, then okay accommodate them too. 

Invent hybrid ways to earn a living, to collaborate, to socialize and in short invent your own hybrid life. This is a fantastic opportunity, not something to resist and run away from as we know – resistance is futile!

Time Bucket Convergence Constraints

As creative outliers tend to be dealing with fairly unbounded sets of idea much of the time, the issue of convergence comes up often. How do we focus our idea flow on something concrete and small enough to actually complete? Much of the world may have a hard time imagining having too many ideas and too many options. But creative outliers know first hand that this can be the curse that accompanies the blessing of simply having MORE. 

Bay Manning a brilliant Silicon Valley San Francisco Bay Area philosopher I know does not like to refer to people as gifted. He says it just creates problems down the line so he calls people who are gifted as those who simply have MORE. More ideas, more options, more opportunities and of course more problems because to be exceptional is also to be excluded (from the Bell Curve). The world is mostly designed to accommodate people within the Bell Curve.

In any case there is an extremely simple way to apply a force of convergence to ones creative process. Apply constraints. Only play in one key, one draw in black and white, only take pictures with last years phone.  Of course there are also infinite constraints one could imagine which sends us down yet another infinite gifted MORE habit hole. 

This calls for an even simpler constraint and calling forth the one that is generally applied to all of us usually expressed as I need this by ____________.  Basically hardly anyone wants to pay people to do what they do not know how to do. They like to pay you for something that you already know how to do. I had the good fortune to manage to avoid this for fifteen years by being in research at Bose and at Apple where I was actually paid to do things I did not yet know how to do. At least some of the time. Eventually people do like to see results. 

Basically the entire hardware tech world until fairly recently in part due to the global pandemic, used trade shows as the time to introduce new products. We all knew that there were particular times when we had to demonstrate something that work or at least mostly worked. The software folks moved away from this earlier when they realized they could have successful product introductions online especially if they were tech giants who already had decent market share. 

Now it is appearing that all of this time consuming expensive flying around and staying hotels to rub shoulders with thousands of your closest sort of friends, colleagues and contacts may not be necessary. Of course our shared hybrid future will still have trade shows because they do generate sales and are also fun (kind of – at least for the first ten years of them).

As we creative outliers are increasingly supervising ourselves and in our own spaces convergence can become a real issue. Last night I discovered I had been carrying around a solution in my pocket for ten years.  Sometimes creative outliers can know things that no one else knows, and other times there are things that everyone knows but evidently I don’t. This was pointed out to me fairly early to me by my little sister in trying to explain to others what on earth I was up to.

Back to the simple solution I could have just put forth 500 words ago but hey context is important. 

Did you ever use a stopwatch with a lap timer or just assume these were for people swimming or running laps. I discovered by accidentally swiping the timer in my iPhone that there was a beautiful chronograph lap timer built into every Apple Clock app which of course means counting up all of th phones and tablets I won that I guess I have a dozen lap counter timers. And why should I care you are saying?

Here is the use case I find myself in as a composer who sometimes needs to write, perform and record pieces of music of specified durations. And say there is a part A, a part B and a part C rattling around in your mind that you want to get out. Actually it is more like there are an infinite number of part A’s and maybe twenty part B’s and more of a glimmer of a part C but of course all of this is situation dependent and time varying.

Here is where the stopwatch with the lap button, that I did not know I always had with me or even wanted or needed comes in.  Sing or play your musical idea first starting the stopwatch and then when you get to where the next section begins click the Lap button, and continue until you have mapped out the larger arc of a piece. When you are done you will not only have the total elapsed time but also all of the separate parts all nicely mapped out with different colors and different durations (if desired).

Since for me music is kind of infinite applying the constraint of simply filling a time bucket turns out to be a fantastic easy portable and free tool. All of you may already know this but it was news to me and a terrific constraint to the creative process which I am sure to apply to many other things the music now that I know it is in my pocket.  Since I have not had a boss or external pressures to get things done by specific times for much of my life, and I was not swimming or running laps with my smart phone since it would not be invented yet for decades it simply never occurred to me that a lap counter timer would be of any use at all but guess what it may be more useful than the majority of the tools I have and I have a lot fo tools with over 300 apps in phone and another 300 apps on my computers.

This may be in the category of something everyone else knew and I didn’t but it makes me realize that in some ways having MORE may actually be LESS.

Check out this cool feature of the free clock on your phone. I knew about the alarms and the countdown timer and the world clock and the stopwatch from day one but never noticed the lap timer counter – who knows maybe it was not there before as these phones continue to grow in capability so rapidly that no one person knows all they can do today, never mind in the future.