Oblique Strategies – Tips for Igniting Your Creative Fire

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“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” ? Scott Adams

Oblique Strategies    Tips for Igniting Your Creative FireCreativity is one of those elusive creatures that strikes you down at the strangest moments and can seem to abandon you when you most desperately seek it. No matter which industry you work in, all of us need to stoke the fire of creativity at some point, which can make its capricious nature all the more maddening. The greatest minds throughout history have all had to deal with the creative struggle, and some of them came up with drastic ways to extract themselves from the mire. Balzac and Voltaire are just two of history’s greats who turned to coffee in nearly-toxic amounts in order to rouse the muse and keep their fires burning; Voltaire was said to consume up to 50 cups in a day while Balzac occasionally took to eating damp, ground coffee beans to keep his brain ticking over with creative ideas. Many greatly admired artists have turned to drugs and alcohol to spark the creative spirit (occasionally to great effect), but today I’d like to take you through some unique, natural and proven concepts that you can begin implementing straight away! These are tips for igniting your creative fire…

Free Writing

We’re going to start off with a deceptively simple first tip – free writing. Although it sounds easy, it can actually be an extremely challenging exercise as it forces us to remove the constant, internal quality-filter that strives for perfection but actually stifles our flow. Set a time limit for yourself (i.e. 15 minutes), and once the timer starts, begin writing whatever comes into your head. Don’t edit, don’t spell check, and don’t think of a better way to write the line – just write for the allotted time. You will most likely feel an urge to stay on a topic, or correct an odd sounding line – don’t; this whole exercise is about letting the inner creative voice out. Once the time limit is over, go back over what you’ve written and highlight the sections that you feel have potential. A lot of what you’ve written will be nonsense, but within the rambling and frantic scribbles you may find your finest work…

Mindfulness Meditation

Artists often become caught up in the need to create, so tightly bound to the cycle of producing new works that it becomes, in effect, a mundane routine rather than an exciting moment of release and expression. Sometimes, the best way to do something is to do nothing. Instead of sitting at the keyboard, the easel or wherever else your creativity takes shape, try taking some time to meditate with mindfulness. By making yourself still, becoming aware of the moment (often by focusing on the breath), and releasing yourself from the busyness of the creative mind, you may find that a wave of clarity and flow ushers you gently towards your next great project.

Oblique Strategies

Originally created by musician Brian Eno and painter Peter Schmidt, Oblique Strategies is a set of cards adorned with esoteric aphorisms designed to help break artists out of creative slumps by inviting them to think about a problem or roadblock laterally. By randomly selecting cards containing phrases such as “You can only make one dot at a time”, “Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify”, and “Not building a wall; making a brick”, Oblique Strategies blended elements of the I Ching and Edward de Bono’s ‘Po’ method of lateral thinking to great effect, inspiring world-famous artists, including David Bowie and Coldplay, during moments of creative blockage.

Edward de Bono’s Po Technique

As mentioned above, Edward de Bono’s ‘Po’ technique (Po stands for ‘provocative operation) is an exercise in lateral thinking that can remove creative blockades and inspire you to find inventive solutions  to virtually any challenge. Edward de Bono’s premise is that the logical mind constrains creativity by overemphasising the need for a ‘right answer’. The Po technique encourages the exploration of seemingly contradictory ideas in order to come up with unique concepts, facilitated by inserting the word ‘Po’ into a phrase to initiate conflict. An example may be “Po cars have no wheels”. While at first the logical mind rebels against the apparently nonsensical sentence, further thought may lead to ideas about (for example) a mode of personal transportion that travels on maglev tracks.

Lotus Blossom Technique

Developed by Yasuo Matsumura, Lotus Blossom Technique is a form of mind-mapping that begins with a central idea or challenge and works outwards. Based around the idea of stimulating creative answers by organizing loosely related concepts, the physical layout of a Lotus Blossom matrix is a 9 * 9 matrix (think of a Sudoku puzzle layout) that is made up of 3 *3 blocks, with the central block containing a core issue and 8 sub-themes, with each surrounding grid using the sub-themes as their own core issue. Using this method we can ‘peel back’ the petals of an issue, finding unique solutions and unintended variations.

With the above creative strategies you’ve now come across a powerful set of techniques to employ when you feel that you need a jolt of creative energy. I hope that you find that this article has helped to ignite your creative fire and will spur you on towards your best work yet!

What other creative techniques have you used to spark your creative juices? Are there any famous techniques that you’ve employed to great effect? Share your experiences with us in the comments section; we’d love to hear your ideas!

Jacob E. Dawson works with delivery hero sydney and is an entrepreneur, futurist and inbound marketing consultant with a passion for creating value! Follow Jacob on twitter @jacobedawson and on Google+.

  • AliceMrongovius

    Great post Jake – and some new techniques to try! To clear my head and to invited the unexpected I also do automated walks in the style of Lone Twin and the Surrealists before them. Using some sort of external system – an arbitrary line on a map, a deck of cards with rules prescribed to them – head out in the city and discover!

    • http://www.livehacked.com/ Nick Thacker

      Thanks for stopping by — and for the great comment! Great ideas, and I like your thoughts on using a system!

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