How Creativity Can Stop Contagion

How Creativity Can Stop Contagion

Create March 12, 2020 / By Kathryn P. Haydon
How Creativity Can Stop Contagion

How do you weather the storm of uncertainty with the right amount of caution and without the paralysis that can result from not knowing?

When it seems like the world has gone crazy, your events are being cancelled right and left, and your kids–whose school has moved to online–are banging at your bedroom door as you try to work from home, it’s natural to freak out a little. 

But how do you weather the storm of uncertainty with the right amount of caution and without the paralysis that can result from not knowing? 

How can you keep moving forward in a fear-infected world? 

Believe it or not, creativity is made for times like these! Creativity is our secret weapon to thrive in the face of change and it can inoculate us against the contagion of fear. 

As I wrote in The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, “Fear is the stubborn core of the inertia of no that blocks creative thinking.” The inertia of no, powered by fear, is the set of beliefs and assumptions that pull us toward the status quo and away from thinking differently. 

“The inertia of no turns CREATIVE into REACTIVE” by misplacing the letter C. So how can we use our creativity to keep the C where it belongs and rise above fear? Here are four ways to strengthen your creative thinking to help you stay above the fray and keep moving forward even amidst extreme uncertainty. 

  1. Turn problems into possibilities

This week, I was to speak at the large and high-profile SXSW conference. SXSW was cancelled. This was supposed to be an important marketing opportunity for The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative, for Sparkitivity’s corporate trainings, and for my keynote speaking. But I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t take my own advice and use the creative process to tackle this challenge!

Speaking with the founder of a New York hospitality company this week, I stole a line from someone in my writers’ group and voiced this trying-to-be-humorous possibility question: “How might I create a run on The Non-Obvious Guide to Being More Creative like there’s a run on toilet paper, to help people survive during this crisis?”

My question sparked an idea from the CEO. She had just been voicing a challenge about finding appropriate content for her newsletter and she now asked me, “Would you like to write an article about how to use creativity to help in a time of crisis–for our company newsletter with 30,000 readers?” Yes! She was delighted. It was a win-win.

You can turn your problems into possibilities, too. Write your problem. Use the phrase “How might . . .” or “What might be all the ways . . .” to transform it into a question that invites new thinking. 

A big marketing opportunity was just cancelled. => What might be all the new, unexpected opportunities to share my work and be of service to others? 

Then, of course, take time to come up with as many possibilities—even crazy ones—as you can. 

2. Count your blessings

The power of gratitude to quell fear cannot be understated. I wrote in Being More Creative, “Gratitude, like curiosity, opens the door to possibility.” Recall that fear leads to paralysis whereas gratitude leads to possibility. Fear is passive whereas gratitude is active thinking. Fear keeps us stuck, selfish, and reactive, whereas gratitude makes us progress, helpful, and creative. Read this article for a process that will help you deepen your practice of gratitude.

3. Minimize the media

September 13, 2001 was about the last time I watched the TV news. Like everyone else, we had the news on 24-7, desperate for information, for answers to what was happening to our country. But I began to notice a pattern. The TV news sensationally declared scary and unsettling “facts,” only to be corrected by more-researched news articles in the morning paper. And that was 2001. Now we have social media and endless inputs that can constantly hijack our minds with fear. To maintain your ability to think creatively during a crisis, be diligent about choosing the news sources that calmly deliver the facts you need.

4. Open the door to humor

In Being More Creative, I wrote about how the men’s clothing company Bonobos hires comedians as customer service reps. Using humor is a creative strength that helps us break through the inertia of no and think differently. During a very serious time, it’s easy to forget to look for those little smiles in life. But humor can help carry us through. If you are a leader, parent, or teacher, it’s especially important to be open to humor. Children can be its most innocent and hilarious source. There’s a difference between minimizing a challenging situation and allowing for light moments. Not inclined toward humor? Instead, focus on the little ways that you can spark a little joy for those around you. 

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