Make Your Life more Creative!

Are you fascinated by creativity or making your life more creative? What is “more”? How can we get to that space?

If you are as curious as I am about creativity. Have a look at this fantastic lecture by John Cleese back in the 90s. You might just learn a thing or two like I just did.

For those who have no idea who John Cleese is. Wiki him. As a brief intro, he is  an English actor, comedian, writer and film producer. Some of his well-known works include the Monty Python,  Fawlty Towers and etc.

So, how to be more creative?

Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating. – John Cleese

What does he mean by a way of operating? He explained, ” Creativity is not an ability that you either have or do not have. It is absolutely unrelated to IQ. McKinnon (investigative scientist) in his research shows that those that were regarded as most creative  by their peers were in no way or in whatsoever different in IQ from their less creative colleagues.

So, in what way were they different? 

In McKinnon’s research, it showed that the most creative has simply acquire a vicinity for getting themselves into a particular mood. (A way of operating!) which allow their natural creativity to function. McKinnon described his particular facility as “the ability to play“.

To play with ideas and To explore them

—- not for a particular purpose but just for enjoyment. Play for its own sake. 

John Cleese also talks about being in the open and closed mode. Closed Mode is the mode that most of us are used to and are in the most of the time. For example at work, “the feeling that we have a lot to be done” or ” when are we going to get these done”. An anxious mode and probably also impatient. A little of tension, a mode where we are very purposeful and where we can get very stressed and even manic. But not creative.

Therefore, creativity is not possible in closed mode.

While the Open Mode, one is relax, less purposeful, more contemplated, more inclined to humor and of course, more playful. It is a mode where curiosity for its own sake can operate. Because we are not under pressure to get a specific thing done quickly. We can play and that is what allow our natural creativity to surface.

We need to be in the open mode when pondering a problem — but! — once we come up with a solution, we must then switch to the closed mode to implement it. Because once we’ve made a decision, we are efficient only if we go through with it decisively, undistracted by doubts about its correctness.

To be at our most efficient, we need to be able to switch backwards and forward between the two modes. But — here’s the problem — we too often get stuck in the closed mode. Under the pressures which are all too familiar to us, we tend to maintain tunnel vision at times when we really need to step back and contemplate the wider view.

In this lecture, he outlines “the 5 conditions that can help you to get into the open mode and something creative would occur”.

The gist:

1. Space “You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures (Closed Mode). So, you need to create SPACE for yourself away from the demand. Make a quiet space for yourself where you will be undisturbed“.

2. Time “It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time. Know that your space will last until a certain set time and after then, only will your normal life starts again.

A specific moment when your space starts and a specific moment when you space stop where you can seal yourself off from closed mode we most habitually operates.

Play is distinct from “ordinary” life both as to locality and duration. – Johan Huizinga


Say create your oasis for about an hour and a half. So, once you get into the open mode, after the half an hour of distraction, you have about an hour for something to happen if you are lucky. But, don’t put your whole morning aside. John Cleese recommended that to do an hour half now, another an hour half after a couple of days, and another an hour half next week after that than fixing a full 4 and a half session now.

It is always easier to choose to do – Trivial things that are urgent than doing important things that are important like thinking. And, it is also easier to do little things that we know we can do than to start on big thing that we are not so sure of. So, what’s your choice?

3. Time “Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate that slight discomfort, anxiety and uncertainty of pondering time and indecision.

Be prepared to stick with your problem for much longer before you try to resolve it.

Put more time in pondering.

“Giving your mind the time as long as possible to come up with something original”.

4. Confidence “Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”

True play is experiment. The openness to anything that may happen. Free to play.

“You can’t be ‘spontaneous within reason’.” Alan Watts

While you are being creative, nothing is wrong. No such thing as a mistake.

5. Humor “The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”

Laughter make us relax. Humor is essential to spontaneity.

Last but not least, he ended with his recipe for creativity:

This is the extraordinary thing about creativity: If you just keep your mind resting against the subject in a friendly but persistent way, sooner or later you will get a reward from your unconscious.

So, what say you? Let’s get Creative!


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