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Let it happen: why you shouldn’t plan and judge and scheme

Creativity & Innovation

This blog post is late. I was supposed to write this post last week for publishing on Monday but it didn’t happen. I wanted to do it. I tried to do it.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t settle on something. I didn’t have that ‘click’ moment that I usually get – when I suddenly see my piece of writing there in my mind just waiting for my fingers to do the tap-tap-tap thing. I couldn’t make it happen. Then, all by itself, it happened.

It happened this morning.

This morning I awoke feeling pretty normal. I had a shower, a cup of coffee, all perfectly normal. Then, on the way to the bus stop I realised it was a really lovely morning; a proper autumn day with a bit of sunshine and a nice crisp breeze. There were some leaves on the ground and the trees were turning orange and brown. I suddenly felt pretty good. Then I put my music on shuffle and the first song that came on was perfect for my newly chipper mood. Then I got a seat on the tube! I felt great.

And then I realised something. None of these things are particularly unusual events. A pleasant morning, a good tune (picked from amongst tunes which I have already vetted for their goodness) and a seat on the tube are reasonable events that happen fairly often. So what was different about this morning? Why was it that on a perfectly normal morning three perfectly normal events made me feel so damn good?

This morning wasn’t different. I was different. And here’s how: I was open to feeling good. That’s all. I hadn’t chosen to feel good but somehow I was open to those little joys in life that can bring about happiness – those same little joys that pass me by most days.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – what’s this got to do with creativity? What’s this got to do with this blog?!  Is this some kind of therapy? Is the author about to reveal a religious experience and go off to live in the desert?! Let me explain.

People get good ideas and happen on clever notions often through direct and determined effort. I was doing that to try to write this blog. But then, when I wasn’t trying to find it, I just left myself open to it finding me. When those events happened I was open to their effect on me. And when I realised why that had happened I was open to seeing that process in other things too, including writing this blog. I wasn’t trying to find the connection, I just wasn’t getting in the way of the process.

Sometimes the key to being creative isn’t in proactive effort, focused on solving a problem. Sometimes the most creative mode you can be in is that of open, uncritical experience. When I was trying to write this blog my focus was narrow. Just like when I try to find reasons to be cheerful! But if you flip that around and instead allow yourself to let experiences and thoughts drift through you, a sort of meditative daydream, you can happen on things, ideas, opportunities, solutions and epiphanies, which you would never have found with your focus engaged.

Creativity is an active process – don’t get me wrong. But part of that process can often be actively suppressing your desire to be active. Sometimes you need to let the process happen to you. Don’t choose. Don’t critique. Don’t plan and judge and scheme. Just let it happen.

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