Are you making creative mistakes?

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about the topic of creative mistakes….

I was fascinated to learn that German scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894) once made a speech in which he shared how he achieved his insights — by avoiding creative mistakes. Here is what he said:

Often … [ideas] arrived suddenly, without any effort on my part, like an inspiration.… They never came to a fatigued brain and never at the writing desk. It was always necessary, first of all, that I should have turned my problem over on all sides to such an extent that I had all its angles and complexities “in my head.” … Then … there must come an hour of complete physical freshness and quiet well-being, before the good ideas arrived. Often they were there in the morning when I first awoke.… But they liked especially to make their appearance while I was taking an easy walk over wooded hills in sunny weather.

Helmholtz articulated — more than 125 years ago — some of the basic principles that I also try to impart to the writers I work with:

  • don’t let yourself become overly tired
  • do your thinking and planning away from your desk
  • go for a walk to give your creativity a boost

In a blog post headlined, “To be a creativity machine, arrange your time and tasks according to these seven categories,” Quartz Media quoted the Helmholtz speech. And, more importantly, the site also identified a seven-step process you can use to boost your own creativity. Here’s what they put on that list:

  1. Prioritizing
  2. Generating
  3. Exploring
  4. Researching 
  5. Recharging 
  6. Polishing 
  7. Administering

Read the entire blog post if you wish to learn more, but even if you don’t, remember that creativity doesn’t come from determination or brute force. It comes from being relaxed, and open and ready….

Thanks to my friend Peter Wilson for forwarding this blog post to me.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Oct. 9/17.

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