I came across John Cleese presenting a talk on "how to be creative". He admitted up front that he had know idea how creativity works and can't explain it. He did, however, go on to explain the magic that comes from our unconscious minds, for within it rest solutions to creative problems and that there are two modes that we can choose when faced with a creative challenge.
If you're anything like me or most people, a blank piece of paper, canvas, or mound of lumpy clay can cause sheer panic. Cleese addressed this when he talked about the importance of accepting that uncomfortable feeling of not having any idea of how to proceed but start we must on that book, painting, sculpture or business plan in spite of the anxiety. He relates that moment when we feel completely lost and stuck to being in a "closed mode" versus the moment we pick up that brush or pen and commit to the "open mode". When we operate from the open mode we allow our imagination to percolate even if we aren't fully aware of what's actually happening. According to Psychology Today, the unconscious mind is the "source for intuition and dreams." This can be very exciting to some and a source of anxiety for others.
Cleese's "modes" are quite interesting, especially since I had the incredible fortune recently to meet Carol Dweck, a Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dweck wrote the mind changing book Mindset. I found it so intriguing that I finished reading it in two days.
The premise of Professor Dweck's book is that we have a choice of two mindsets: fixed or growth. A fixed mindset believes that people are born with a fixed amount of intelligence, skills and talent. A growth mindset believes that anything can be learned and mastered with hard work and time invested. (Read Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers: The Story of Success) Growth mindsets love challenges and don't give up when things get uncomfortable. Even geniuses like Einstein and Picasso had to learn and put a lot of what they learned into practice. If they hadn't we never would have heard of them. Einstein famously said, "I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious."
Both Dweck and Clesse speak to the importance of taking frequent breaks along with playing and having fun, especially, when faced with the big "C" word, Creativity. With open or growth mindsets the answers will seemingly come when least expected. Wherever they come from, I can say that after reading Professor Dweck's book and watching the Cleese video, I have had a very productive week in spite of the initial uncomfortableness.