In a blog that is ostensibly about how to be productive and efficient, you’d think there’d be no point to discussing creativity. When you’re constantly left-braining and finding the better, faster, and lazier way to do things, you’ll eventually hit a point where you are profoundly dissatisfied.

Again and again, you tell yourself, “Your time is a precious commodity; don’t you dare think of wasting it. You had better be doing your laundry, and while something is in the wash, you’d better be looking for recipes and meal planning for the upcoming week.”

And when you finally allow yourself to believe that you’ve done ENOUGH for the day, and you have your own permission to relax, you’d better make sure to relax optimally and do yoga for the most effective relaxation, or consult your Google Keep list of TV shows to watch, and remember that you prioritized catching up on Game of Thrones, but really you just want to veg out to Jane the Virgin.

Time is precious! Don’t you dare waste it! You can’t get it back!

You can stop and smell the roses, but make sure you make up for that lost time later.

We regard productivity as a quantity of work, completed in a certain amount of time. And we regard increases in productivity by either decreasing the time or energy it takes to complete it, or increasing the quality of the work. But the forgotten aspect of productivity that lives outside of the equation, is satisfaction. Is what you’re doing satisfying? Does it have meaning? Does it bring pleasure?

Which brings me to creativity. You cannot live solely in the left-brain and be satisfied. If you did, no endeavor would ever get off the ground. You would look at your cost-benefit analysis and determine anything creative is a waste of time.

But that is the inherent nature of creativity; it IS wasteful. I have 10 blog posts that I’ve half-written then discarded. Creating things requires “waste”.

hand-lettering creativity takes practice
I briefly played with hand-lettering and started a Tumblr about how being creative takes practice and enormous amount of ERASING and doing it again.  Look how much waste there is!  How many design concepts I experimented with!  What a waste of time! Right?

I have this very nice notebook at work. It costs about $15. When I write in it, I use every single corner of the page. My coworker Jason (a designer) has the same notebook; I’ve seen him blithely sketch a webpage concept on half the page, scribble it out and then flip to a new page. That used to freak me out. People who are constantly creating do not concern themselves with waste.

So how do you start creating when you’ve never done it?

When every fiber of your being has beaten into assessing cost-benefit?

a) Get inspired.  Duh.  You probably already know how to do this.

b) Look at other people’s crappy work.  (This is controversial.)  Honestly, there’s nothing more liberating than to read a terrible piece of fanfiction.  Or looking at my awful hand-lettering.  Or read poorly-written blog posts.  You can reflect on all of these and realize that YES, YOU CAN DO BETTER.


And then you start.