With shifting political alliances, worldwide mobility, instant connectivity, global commerce, and the general acceptance of situational ethics, it may seem that there are few natural enemies left anymore. Even in the animal kingdom, we are witness to more species peacefully coexisting in a changing world – sometimes out of sheer necessity. It seems to me, however, that creativity and inertia will (and should) always be natural enemies.
One of the definitions of creativity according to Webster is “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas.” The very essence of this definition is that creativity is an active process. Creativity demands an interested party or parties working on a solution that addresses a unique circumstance or a perceived shortcoming in the status quo. Inertia on the other hand is a passive mindset. Look again to Webster. Inertia is defined as “a property of matter by which it remains at rest; indisposition to motion, exertion, or change.” Common synonyms for inertia include words like idleness, laziness, and sloth. Synonyms for creativity elicit words like imagination, ingenuity, and originality. Could these be more opposite? I don’t think so. Well, so what!
OK, here’s what. In my humble opinion, we are inundated with so much information and so many “expert views”, that it is easy to get lost in minutiae and discouraged about our own “lack of influence.” I heard a productivity guru the other day preaching a philosophy where his disciples ignore most events in the world and instead concentrate only on those things (mostly his books and CDs) that further individual, personal goals. I agree that being an “information junkie” can be both depressing and counter-productive, but being clueless-by-choice is to hand over our natural abilities to be creative. It is the essence of inertia or, as a popular TV commercial says “a body at rest tends to stay at rest.”
And here’s what else. In addition to being an activist disposition, creativity demands exercise. It is never at rest. It may sometimes be restful but it is never completely shut down. Sound daunting and unachievable? Actually, the process is frequently referred to as exhilarating and supremely satisfying. The musician Charles Mingus said, “Anybody can play weird. That’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” The American inventor Edwin Land stated, “Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity.” And the famed movie maker Cecil B. DeMille said “Creativity is a drug I cannot live without.”
If it’s been awhile since you’ve experienced a “creativity high”, here are three quick hits to get you buzzed again:
- Get Moving. Remember, one of the synonyms for inertia is laziness. So, don’t be lazy. Explore. Go. Experience. If creativity is your goal and you want to look at things with a fresh set of eyes, then feed your senses by simply getting out. You’ll probably be shocked at how small you’ve allowed your world to become.
- Seek Difference. Fine, you’re moving… but to what? Well, err on the side of the different. Different people, venues, practices, habits, experiences, engagements, challenges. If you want to spark creativity again, it will only happen if you scramble the routine a little. No good high ever came from a look-alike drug.
- Embrace New. Well you’re different now… but what’s permanent? I say it should be a commitment to the new. Don’t toss everything that’s worked for sure, but ‘new’ should not mean ‘bad’ or ‘enemy’ either. It has a tendency to be that in business unless it’s a potential new revenue source. Not every ‘new’ idea or practice that you embrace will love you back, but you’ll be better for having taken the risk.
Finally, remember the old advice to keep your friends close and your enemies closer? It never applies here. Anytime. For any reason. Inertia is always the enemy of creativity.