Want to be Creative? Make Some Room.

My friends and I went out to dinner recently at a fun restaurant in Providence, RI. It was one of those places that offers a “chef’s choice prix fixe”—usually that day’s find at the farmer’s market combined with the chef’s inspiration. When a talented chef at a top restaurant can apply her creativity to work outside of the constraints of the menu, the results can be amazing. The only caveat in this case was that our entire party had to order the prix fixe. One look at my companions’ faces and I knew, they weren’t ready to leave their meals to chance. 

From the cushy comfort zone, our minds often convince us that the safe way—the certain result—is preferable to taking chances. That’s why many of us crave control over the details of our lives, right down to the appetizer.

Imagine instead that my dinner companions opted for the unknown. I bet we would have experienced an amazing meal, one that opened our eyes to new and interesting flavors. Maybe we would have started thinking about where the recipe came from…and if we’d like to visit that place…or write about it. Maybe one of us would have even been inspired to approach a problem we’ve been facing in a new or different way. And if the meal wasn’t amazing, what would the risk have been? After all, it was just one of 860,000 meals eaten in a lifetime.

We’ve set up our lives to be so full that there simply isn’t room for creativity. Take me, for instance. I’ve always wanted to write a novel. In fact, I have several files entitled Chapter One saved on my computer. To my friends, I lament, “With work and school, I don’t have time for creativity.” My schedule is full, without question, but I’ve also fallen into the same trap as many people have: Every moment is planned.

Not long ago, I signed up for a travel writer’s workshop in Segovia, Spain where I experienced a creative breakthrough. I had no control over the schedule—just this big block of time when all I could do was write. And you know what? The ideas never stopped.

Dictionary.com tells us that creativity is, “The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, and interpretations.” If we’re so weighted down by heavy schedules, fixed routines, and the need to control every detail, how can we transcend anything?

I’d like to propose a change. Let’s leave some things to chance—whether it’s time on our calendars or the next dinner out. Having space opens a window for creative opportunities to ease in. Or in the case of the prix fixe, lets us experience someone else’s creativity as a way to inspire our own.

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