The Pink Hair Myth, that's what my friend Penny calls it. It's the common but erroneous thinking that to be creative one must be blatantly artistic looking. Of course it's more than pink hair, it can be a lifestyle, you know, wild hair, crazy clothes, clove cigarettes, etc. The trappings change over the years, but it's about looking like a creative person.
Myth buster - Creativity is not about looking artistic. Yes, artists are creative, but everybody is creative! Artists are just directing their creativity towards art, whereas an accountant can direct her creativity towards accounting. Creativity can be directed towards any challenge in life, and so, we could all use a bit more creativity couldn't we? Every job and every life needs creativity!
I've got nothing against Pink Hair, in fact, sometimes seeing a very self-expressed person can be fun, even inspiring. But looking like an artist, or being flamboyantly self-expressed with clothes, doesn't necessarily mean you're any more creative than the next person. Many Pink Hair's are trying to be creative by conforming to the stereotype of a creative person. Some Pink Hair people are thinking that if they look the part, the rest will follow. Not necessarily! The thing is, Pink Hair doesn't have you thinking more creatively, which is where creativity really starts. Where creativity ends, the point of it, is thinking that gets you ideas. Ideas that lead to solutions for your challenges - your life, relationships, or career. Creativity is after all novelty that is useful - not just novelty.
I fell prey to the Pink Hair myth in my brief, traumatic, and very peak and valley television career. In 1980 I managed to land a classic “creative" job in TV production after years of knocking on the door. I immediately stopped wearing standard business clothes and went to jeans and a beat up corduroy jacket. Black was cool, so black t shirts filled my closets. This became my uniform, which didn't vary much at all - and how creative is that? How did I do as a creative person? Well, sometimes I was able to come up with great creative ideas, and it put me on an emotional high. Other times I simply couldn't and I had no thinking tools or techniques to get me out of my creative blocks, and it put me into the pits of depression. At the time I thought the blocks were because I wasn't committed enough to the creative lifestyle, so, I bent over backwards to look and act more creative - I stopped shaving, drank more, and in general lived the rock and roll lifestyle. I did enjoy the music! I often woke up hung-over and still creatively blocked!
What I wish I knew then is that creativity is about how you think, not what you wear, or how you look. Creativity can be taught, it can be nourished, encouraged, and enhanced, and the way you do it is by changing how you think.
For example, if I had known that self-critique was by far the largest inhibitor of my creativity I might have let the ideas flow while brainstorming alone. Instead of being in constant critique and analyze mode, I'd simply get them listed. Editing “as you go" is guaranteed to stop you dead - and make you cry in frustration. Having Pink Hair only meant for me that I had higher expectations of myself, so I was even more severe with my self-editing than I would have been otherwise! To those who seek to be more creative, simply Defer Judgment, and get into a flow of listing ideas!
If I had known how important it is to simply write ideas down, I would have invested in a $1.49 notebook and done so. Writing ideas down alone can make a huge difference - by simply harvesting the ideas you are having all the time. Most of us assume we will remember everything we think about. How can we when we have 65,000 thoughts a day? That's the average. Hidden among those 65,000 thoughts are ideas, or at least seeds of ideas that could be very useful to us. Start writing them down, reviewing them, and developing them, and you'll beat the pants off that pink haired creative biting her nails across the aisle.
If I had known that booze and other so-called mind altering drugs simply slow down your thinking instead of opening it up, I would have cut way down on that craziness. Instead, I might have taken more walks, done deep breathing, ate healthier food, and gotten enough rest - those things would have helped me think more creatively. If you want to stimulate your mind - and that's a good idea - listen to some instrumental classical music, or yes, jazz.
If I had known that my creative thinking would have been more productive if I had found ways to surprise myself, I would have sought more new experiences. Experiences where you learn something is the stimulus the mind needs to help it make more new connections and feed you with good ideas.
So, if you really have to wear Pink Hair, well more power to you. But while at the salon getting it dyed, make the choice to think more creatively as well - be open, write your ideas down, and seek new experiences. Then you'll not only look more creative, you'll be more creative.
Gregg Fraley is a recognized expert on creativity and innovation. He speaks internationally and consults with many Fortune 500 companies on new product development. Co-host of the Innovise Guys, a leading podcast on innovation and improvisation, he is also the author of Jack's Notebook . To find out more about Gregg's consulting or speaking services, visit http://www.greggfraley.com