The other day I asked my students how they planned to be creative this summer. Specifically, I was targeting my seniors. Their facial expressions were telling. They had no idea. Those who have jobs plan to be employed. Those who don’t are looking to get jobs. Other than that, no one had a plan. Upon realizing this, one student got so nervous she came to talk with me after class.
Creativity is a practice. Like so many other practices, if you don’t maintain it, your skills begin to wane. Eventually, the urge to create subsides. Some of the best advice I received during grad school was to pay rent on a studio before I graduated. What my mentor meant was that I needed to have some obligation, or plan to be an artist. Having a studio is an obligation. I had a bill, and I wanted to get my money’s worth. So instead of watching TV the day after graduation, I went to work in my studio as an artist. It’s so easy to put off things to tomorrow. But often times, tomorrow never comes.
The creativity to-do list for the summer should include three things: curious endeavors, creative goals, and creative output.
Curious endeavors: curiosity is the fuel for creativity. By poking around and looking at interesting stuff, we’ll be more compelled to find out even more stuff. Curiosity comes from the realization of a gap in our knowledge. Once we find there is a gap, we instinctively work to close that gap. If you see a door open, you walk to see why it is open. Taking interesting vacations, talking to interesting people or studying up on topics does this for us. Imagine going camping and looking at river rocks. Once you see how interesting the rocks are, you start picking up more rocks.
Creative goals: It’s funny how much creativity is about managing time. We often let time go by without making good use of it. Establishing short term and long term goals for the summer is a great way to overcome this. Short term goals could be as simple as making a list of 20 ideas each week. This is called an idea log. Long term goals could be to develop one complete design over the summer. While setting goals doesn’t sound all that creative, it ensures that you’ll actually do something. That’s most of the battle. It’s also fulfilling to meet goals.
Creative output: It’s not enough to think about being creative; we have to actually do it. Don’t let those good ideas stay in your head. Put them to paper. Creative people are productive. They make things. It may also be good to take time working on a network of creative partners. Much of creativity is about collaboration. Spending time over the summer establishing a network of like-minded people will help for those times in the future when we need help. How great would it be to have a famous designer critique your senior project before you hand it to your professor? Or, what if you need quick advice from an engineer on the solar light fixture you designed. To do so, you must establish the connection beforehand.