Why so much Advice on Creativity seem to Contradict Each Other

Or Innovation or Productivity for that matter

I found myself at a place where I’m driven by an urge to make something but not having allowed myself to for so long, had no idea how to get started. Like trying to move a cart stuck firmly in the mud. So much more effort than with a cart already in motion on the road. Desperate for some help I read up on all the books and articles on creativity and productivity that I could get my hands on. Maybe you are at this place too and that is what lead you to read this article.

The bad news is a lot of the advice and help out there start contradicting each other confusing you further. The good news is there is an answer. It’s just not the same for everyone.

Creative process or innovation in any field requires contradicting elements. You need to have expertise but also retain the ability to see things with fresh eyes. You need to be able to perform and communicate with others but also work long hours alone. Research tells us the most effective persons are complex multiplicities, for example both masculine and feminine. Not androgynous, rather they harbor both extremes at once.

Our brains have different modes of operation. And depending on what it does naturally, the advice most helpful to you will differ. Someone who automatically absorbs information around them, to the extent of having trouble filtering out unwanted stimuli, they need help with removing distractions and focusing. It would be the opposite for someone who is naturally driven towards a single track and has trouble noticing tangential details. They need the advice to wander.

It is not trying to always develop the weaker, less natural side over your dominant mode. Rather setting aside a portion of your time to give your weaker side a conscious boost so that you will have within you both extremes.

And it will take some time. As Aristotle said, you need to go on a journey of getting to know yourself first. Perhaps this will never end, and maybe that is a good thing.

References:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention)

Shelley Carson (Your Creative Brain)

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