5

Last weekend, I finished the first large painting I’ve done in more than a decade. This was prompted by the prospect of losing a cool Howard Finster print that’s been in my office for years at work. I learned of the possibility on a Friday and by Saturday night, I’d purchased a canvas, new paints and brushes, and was gridding out a Peanuts cartoon to do a painting in Tom Everhart’s style.

While painting, I thought about the very productive bursts of artistic creativity followed by long droughts that have marked my life. I’ve always attributed the periods to major life changes (going to grad school, getting married, buying a house), but it doesn’t explain other creative periods, i.e. a tremendous output early in high school and doing a lot of cartooning the past few years – much of it on paper table cloths in Italian restaurants!

It struck me finally that the creative bursts were explained by bare walls – what triggered the output was the need to fill empty space. In each case, I’d moved into a new space with walls needing to be decorated. Some walls have been physical; others have been non-traditional – refrigerators, presentations, blogs. In each case, once the “walls” have been filled, my artistic spark has vanished.

Interestingly, the spark doesn’t come back when a previously bare wall becomes empty again. There’s a big bare area over our mantel where one of my paintings used to hang, yet there’s no inspiration to fill this empty space yet again.

My lesson from all this is that there are different types of creativity patterns. I appear to be a “utilitarian creative.” I don’t ooze artistic creativity all the time as many do. Instead, my creative juices get going only when there’s a clear need and application for the output. So in the future, when I hit a creative block, I’ll just have to find new bare walls to fill.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestGoogle Plus

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Thanks for the Memories Jimmie Johnson | Brainzooming - February 11, 2010

    […] 2010 team meeting, Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus called the team’s attention to the bare walls in the meeting room. He highlighted the absence of all the awards and pictures celebrating the […]

  2. Get a Different Innovation Tool | Brainzooming - May 15, 2010

    […] and behold, the bare wall theory held up. On the way, I sketched out seventeen potential posts for another blog I’m doing. Once in Vegas, […]

  3. 26 Ways - How to Be Creative When You Have a Creative Block | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - June 21, 2011

    […] to a Bare Wall – Completely change the “canvas” on which you’re trying to express your […]

  4. How to Be Creative When You Have a Creative Block - 26 Ideas | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - June 21, 2011

    […] to a Bare Wall – Completely change the “canvas” on which you’re trying to express your […]

  5. Our Daily Blog Strategy - 5 Reasons The Brainzooming Blog Won't Ditch It | The Brainzooming Group | Strategy Consulting and Strategic Planning - February 13, 2012

    […] apart from the blog. Since the Brainzooming blog started, I’ve hardly ever picked up the guitar, painted a picture, or even drawn much. Four years concentrating on one creative outlet is a long time for me to stick […]