By Brenda Riojas, I Start Wondering Columnist
Some consider my penchant for eating dessert first to be a bad habit; some see it as a novelty. For me, it makes perfect sense. Why leave the best for last? As a bonus, the practice gives me a new creative perspective and helps me break from routine – flipping the menu course around and starting from the end.
At the beginning of a New Year, eating dessert first does not sound like a common resolution. I offer it as a prescription for fostering our creative spirits, as a way of changing our routines and, thus, our creative perspective. Perspective is one of the 5 Ps in my creativity equation B(P5) = Aha! Changing our creative perspective not only helps us look with different eyes, it rouses us from our sleep walking.
Taking Off the Blinders
We have blinders, says Alexandra Horowitz in her book, On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes. “Part of what restricts us seeing things,” she writes, “is that we have an expectation about what we will see, and we are actually perceptually restricted by that expectation.” Roger Von Oech, author of A Whack on the Side of the Head, also notes, “The more you do something in the same way, the more difficult it is to do it any other way.”
As creative spirits, we have to continually challenge ourselves to remain alert. Tom Peters, who has been labeled “the Red Bull of management thinkers,” talks about breaking out of the mold of an 8 ½” x 11” world. We can start breaking some molds of our own and start programming changes into our daily routines by taking an alternate route to work, listening to a radio station not already on our playlist, trying a new recipe, or changing hats.
Putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes also can offer a change in creative perspective. A few years ago I wrote an entire collection of persona poems in the voice of other women, such as Coco Chanel, Gypsy Rose, a midwife and a child in Afghanistan. The use of this poetic device gave me a new way of looking at the world.
Organizing Your Ideas Differently
Our creative quotient encompasses how we look at life. How willing are we to venture off our path? As we do, watch for unexpected surprises. If you run into a problem, you can turn mistakes into opportunities.
Other times you might mix and match diverse ideas. “In order to get original ideas, you need to be able to look at the same information everyone else does and organize it into a new and different pattern,” says Michael Michalko, author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking.
When I write poetry, I enjoy experimenting by juxtaposing random fragments or thoughts together; this process is similar when I work on a mixed media project. I am often surprised by how the words come together or how a finished shrine looks.
Finding ways to alter our perspective has multiple benefits. Remember that “routines can be brain-deadening,” according to Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D. and Manning Rubin, the authors of Keep Your Brain Alive. “Because routine behaviors are almost subconscious, they are carried out using a minimum of brain energy – and provide little exercise…. Our brains hunger for novelty.”
Beginning today and into the weeks and months ahead, I propose we take a cue from Wallace Steven’s poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird” or Horowitz’s example of taking walks with different experts. Let’s embark on our own journey. Pick an area of your life and reorder the steps or try a different lens to change your creative perspective.
To help you see things differently, Brenda has created an exercise on creative perspective, called 12 ways of looking at.. Click on the link and download the document to start your exploration!
You can connect with Brenda on Twitter at @brendariojas