What To Be More Creative? Try Structure!

Creatives move the world.  Think about it.  Without creatives we wouldn’t have:

  • paintings
  • architecture
  • music
  • stories
  • calligraphy
  • sculpture
  • furniture
  • tapestries
  • and the list goes on.

I have a confession to make. I’m a creative. I play in the band, sing, write songs and I’m a photographer. I understand the mind and the heart of a creative, because I am one.

But I’m also someone who finds comfort in structure and order. I want to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. I like plans. I like structure. Why? Because of the creativity it affords me.

For 20 years now I’ve been married to a beautiful women who sees both creativity and order in me.  She reminds me that I’m a “different kind of animal” – and after 20 years, she should know.

All my life, I’ve been a bridge between the creatives and the structured.  I’ve spent most of my professional life sitting in corporate board rooms being the translator between the client and the creatives.  Why?  Because I speak both languages.

As a rule, I find that most creatives HATE the appearance of structure.  They can react much like holy water on a vampire, a lot of fangs and hissing.  In their defense, there’s been this idea floating around that you either have to be creative or structured.  As such, many creatives think that structure exists to rob them of their creativity.  Well I’m here to challenge that assumption.

You can’t be creative without being structured.  You don’t have to be either/or.  You are both/and.  How can I say that?  Because of these 3 structures that afford every creative more freedom of expression.

The Structure of the Canvas

Creativity never exists in a vacuum. There is always a canvas, a place the creativity is expressed. For painters that may be a literal canvas. For photographers it’s found through the viewfinder of a camera. For graffiti artists it may be a brick wall. For a weaver creativity is realized on a loom. For a composer creativity begins its expression as a notation on a stave. Each of these are expressed within the confines of a canvas or medium. Yet those mediums don’t hinder the creativity, they provide a structure for their expression.

The Structure of the Tools

After a canvas has been chosen a creative needs tools as a means of expression on that canvas. Whether charcoals, paints, pastels, keyboards, chisels, spray paints or ink, a creative uses tools to express their creativity on the canvas. Creatives have always adapted their tools as a better means of expression. If the nib of the quill didn’t lay down the right thickness of line, they adapted it and reshaped it until it served their creative needs.

The Structure of the Habits

Habits are those things creatives do over and over again. Habits are the best ways they have determined “to do” the process. Whether it’s a particular way paints are mixed, how and where a video file is saved so the editor can find it later, the keyboard shortcuts of a graphic artists or the way tools are sharpened. The more the artist “does” these habits, the more refined they become and the more time they save the artist, which in turns gives the creative more time to be creative.

Don’t fight it. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Structure is NOT the dark side. There are always canvas’, tools and habits that feed creativity. Those are the mediums of expression. So if you want to be MORE creative, try structure.

QUESTION: What Helps You Be Creative?

Comprehensive Media, Inc
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About Joel Smith

Joel is a husband, father and President of Comprehensive Media, a Brentwood-based company which helps businesses connect and engage with their audiences through video.
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