Creativity and Productivity

100_2684At the beginning of a new year, many people implement innovative strategies to increase productivity and meet specific goals. I usually consider ways to make better use of my time, work smarter, and get more accomplished. Like others who work creatively, I struggle with bringing projects to completion.

Is it possible to be productive and creative? Doesn’t creativity spring from quiet contemplation while productivity is achieved only through focused work?

While quiet contemplation is often the catalyst for writing poetry or discovering creative ways to phrase a thought, I believe it’s possible to be productively creative–or creatively productive.

Are you there with me, thinking about ways to increase both productivity and creativity? Maybe you’ve already started a new schedule or time management technique. I usually attempt some new practices, but few strategies last the year.

Success comes more from attitude adjustments than band-aid strategies. Some helpful advice I read last year wasn’t directed specifically at writers. But the basic principles apply to anyone whose work is creative, people commonly known today as “creatives.”

In The Creative Habitdancer Twyla Tharp describes how routine generates creativity. If you’re not familiar with and practicing the steps daily, new ways to use them won’t occur to you. It works the same with writing. If you’re not writing every day (or nearly every day), creativity remains elusive. Near the beginning of her book, Tharp writes:

I will keep stressing the point about creativity being augmented by routine and habit. Get used to it. In these pages a philosophical tug of war will periodically raise its head. It is the perennial debate, born in the Romantic era, between the beliefs that all creative acts are born of (a) some transcendent, inexplicable Dionysian act of inspiration, a kiss from God on your brow that allows you to give the world The Magic Flute, or (b) hard work.

If it isn’t obvious already, I come down on the side of hard work. That’s why this book is called The Creative Habit. Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is a result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell (p. 7).

Tharp’s words resonated with me. I used to think writers were an elite few, born with a creative brain and blessed with a special endowment of creative imagination that made the words flow effortlessly from their pens. Now I know they use keyboards. (Just kidding!)

I also now know that writing takes work. You may be blessed with a high intellect and a great imagination. You may receive revelation or direction that you recognize as a divine gift. But that doesn’t mean you can write a book without work. I don’t know anyone who crafts a manuscript of literary excellence without applied effort. Period.

The most basic principle of writing is you must work at it. You can’t fritter away time on Twitter (I still resist that siren song) or Facebook (I confess my guilt), simply hoping inspiration will hit while you’re browsing status updates. Many of those updates only increase your guilt or feelings of inferiority. They certainly aren’t going to inspire you to write the next paragraph in your novel.

But authors are encouraged to be active in social media. It’s part of building our platforms and increasing our tribes. So what to do? It’s all about finding balance, that aspect of the writing life that feels like standing on the backs of two circus ponies. Kind of like this viral Volvo truck ad with Van Damme doing his epic split.  If you haven’t seen it, check it out. And then watch this spoof featuring Chuck Norris, which made the rounds during the Christmas season.

Did I mention part of my productivity problem is that I’m easily distracted? Back to recent reading I’ve found helpful.

As I was saying, writers need to find a balance between building platform and allowing social media to sap their time and energy. More and more people recognize the addictive character of social media, and many post helpful suggestions for curbing technology urges.

John Meyer, founder and CEO of Lemonly, provides a list of Eight Simple Tips to Banish Low Productivity (the link takes a bit to load, wait for it).

An interesting book I purchased last year is Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative. While Henry writes primarily for a corporate audience, I found his basic principles intriguing. Essentially, he advocates establishing a “Creative Rhythm” in your life through structuring these five elements: Focus, Relationships, Energy, Stimuli, and Hours. Henry writes:

Practices in each of these five areas (F-R-E-S-H) provide the foundation for a life that is prolific, brilliant, and healthy (p. 22).

Who doesn’t want to be prolific, brilliant, and healthy? While that sounds like a claim more far-fetched than the Churck Norris split, I appreciate Henry’s FRESH formula because he includes the crucial elements of relationships and stimuli. These things are often overlooked in corporate models, but are important aspects of the Christian life.

A believer’s relationship with Christ affects his or her relationships with others. And a Christian’s most inspiring stimuli often comes through worship and meditation.

Busy writers tend to view relationships and stimuli as distractions, but the right attitude can help us appreciate these aspects of our lives and recognize them as part of a rhythm that increases productivity AND creativity.

What helps you increase both in your life?


3 thoughts on “Creativity and Productivity

      1. Of all things: civil engineering. Even when I began college I was very doubtful I’d continue through with a science or engineering major, but it seemed best to at least give it a try. Thankfully, switching out of an engineering major is a lot easier than switching into one!

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