I always believed creativity was a superpower.
I learned how to be creative by spending a lot of time in recording studios. Recently, creativity has become ugly. Emily Sinclair Montague said it best:
Creative brains are annoying as shit. I love ’em, of course, but they cannot, will not, RELAX. There is always something to analyze, unravel, spin into a narrative, or picture in painfully vivid detail at 4 am. Creative minds have no brakes.
This is how I feel as a writer.
A conversation becomes content.
A book you read becomes content.
A disappointment becomes content.
A romantic relationship becomes content.
A huge frustration becomes content.
A random email becomes content.
A movie you watch to relax becomes content.
Then your creativity muscle wants to riff on the idea you’ve discovered while you’re trying to do something else. Creative multi-tasking doesn’t work. When your creativity is switched on you can’t turn down the noise in your head.
All you can do is succumb to your creativity in the moment.
The problem is when your creativity takes over every moment. That’s the phase I’m in right now. I have to get off the creativity treadmill. You might suffer from the same phenomenon. Learning to put the brakes on your creativity is key.
It’s during your time away from being creative that your creative energy levels are restored. If all you do is let your creativity rage, like an out of control drunk, you’ll eventually crash.
Not everything you do in life has to have meaning. The things that have zero meaning can feel incredible when you know you need to relax.
The “do it for the hell of it” approach
What’s the solution to stop your creative brain for a while? I use the “do it for the hell of it approach.” I experiment with doing random stuff and promise myself not to creatively analyze it, looking for a content idea.
The do it for the hell of it approach is a rule. When you want to slam the brakes on your creative brain you choose an activity. The more meaningless the activity the better. I tried walking and it made things worse.
When you walk or have showers your creative brain seems to be amplified. It’s when all the ideas and experiences of your life seem to marinate best.
The do it for the hell of it approach works best when you do things you dislike. I dislike watching the tv show Friends. I hate trying on new clothes because nothing is made in big bird size for 6-foot giants who wear size 11 clown shoes. I don’t like cleaning windows because I always leave a streak mark.
But while doing each of these activities for the hell of it, I get a reprieve from the creative takeover operating my brain.
It’s as if frustration quietens my creativity for a bit. The frustration is calming. The challenge of the task I dislike takes over from the usual goal of doing the task and analyzing it for creative ideas.
Read your critics’ comments
Another way to shut down your creativity for a while is to read the feedback from your critics. If you’ve ever dared post anything online then you’ll have at least one critic. Congratulations. You made it in life.
If you read enough negative comments about yourself you’ll start to question your creative reality. You’ll think to yourself “Am I too much?” or “Is my creativity out of control?”
These are helpful pattern interrupts. They’ll almost certainly stop your creativity. Here’s the thing: every time your creativity is stopped by critics, it comes back even stronger.
You need to halt and question your creativity so you can come back better than before. Otherwise, you get stuck in an echo chamber of your own awesomeness — with random strangers telling you how brilliant your creativity is when, perhaps, it has become a rotten apple.
Let critics help you put the brakes on your creativity.
Slow down your creativity to speed up your progress
Writer, Sean Kernan, shared the quote “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Growing up around navy seals taught him this mantra.
Your creativity is amplified when you vary the speed and spend time slowing down and completely putting the brakes on it. It has taken me seven years of publishing thousands of long-form articles online to understand that lesson.
Progress happens when you go slow or completely stop, so you can reflect.
Emily said our creative brains have no brakes. I can resonate with the feeling as an overly creative person, but there is a solution.
Use the do it for the hell of it approach, read your critics’ comments for a pattern interrupt, and remember to slow down your creativity to speed it up.
Creativity can be a burden unless you vary the speed.