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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Creative Doing vs Creative Thinking

I read an interesting post on Mark McGuiness's Lateral Action creativity blog the other day.

Mark was arguing the importance of 'creative doing' over 'creative thinking'. He wrote:
We so easily associate creativity with creative thinking that they are often treated as synonymous. Whereas, in fact, you can do a hell of a lot of creative thinking (brainstorming, lateral thinking, daydreaming, etc.) without creating anything at all.

On the other hand, if you start with creative doing - i.e. rolling your sleeves up and trying to actually make something amazing, the 'creative thinking' bit tends to take care of itself. If you're hammering away at a prototype in the garage, or the first draft of your novel, or the first iteration of your website, it's hard not to obsess about it, and keep thinking about it - even when you’re supposed to be relaxing out of working hours.
I was struck by the truth contained in this. I wouldn't want to take the argument too far - there is still (of course) an important place for creative thinking, in the planning stages of projects especially.

However, I do think it's a common mistake among aspiring writers and entrepreneurs to spend too long in the 'thinking' phase. The risk then becomes that you confuse yourself by trying to think through every aspect before you start (paralysis by analysis, as it's sometimes called). The result can all too easily be that you never start work on the project, and eventually abandon it.

Personally, before starting any large writing project, I like to have an outline to guide me. However, I know very well that this will be just a guide. New ideas and approaches will occur to me as I work, suggested by new things I learn and fresh insights I gain into the subject matter. The finished project will undoubtedly be different from my original outline, but almost certainly better as well.

I guess what I'm saying is that both thinking and doing are important to any project, writing or otherwise - but (as Mark says in his post) doing can be just as creative as thinking, if not more so.

So if you've been thinking about a project for ages but haven't got any further than that, why not make today the day you actually start doing it? Who knows, the results may just surprise you!

Photo credit: kwerfeldein on Flickr.

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Anonymous Tammi Kibler said...

I am a big fan of "doing" something to fan the creative fires. Whenever my thoughts are swirling, a long walk or other physical activity often helps my brain sort it all out faster than just sitting at my desk and trying to force the creativity.

5:01 AM  
Blogger Dianna said...

I love creative thinking-it's what I do when I'm in class and don't have the time to focus on real writing. But I also love of 'creative doing'. It just feels so nice to get a chapter of my novel finished or a blog post written.

10:50 PM  
Blogger Flint said...

I'm a great believer that we use as many different tools as we have at our disposal, even if sometimes it feels as though we're engineering a piece of writing rather than creating it. I usually find that somewhere - past there - is another opportunity to put a stamp on whatever we're doing that we're happier with...

12:03 AM  

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