Embracing Creative ADD and Thinking Inside the Circle

photo by mark sebastian

[Note: Creativity is something very personal to me. Without creativity, there is nothing but a vacuum. The adventure of creating something new, the anticipation of discovering what lies around the next corner is something I live for.]


There is a lot of advice out there on how to be more creative and remove the blocks that might hinder your creativity. I think, however, that the greatest way to be more creative is often overlooked; thinking inside the circle and embracing Creative ADD (want to ride bikes?).

It’s a common misconception that being creative means being more focused. That somehow if you were able to just hone in on your task with laser sharp focus, you would find the creative insight you were desperately searching for. While focus is important, trying to force a creative act stifles creativity. Because the whole point of being creative is to have fun, right? If you feel as though must create, you may as well burn Creativity at the stake.

There is a different approach available to cure this potential mishap, that I feel is unfortunately neglected. Adopting this innovative process has had an extraordinary impact on all of my ideas.

A lot of people talk about “thinking outside the box” when it comes to creative genius. I hear things like this all the time: “Oh he really thinks outside the box,” “She is so far outside the box, the box doesn’t even exist!” All of these nonsensical references to thinking inside and outside and on top of boxes hasn’t really helped me much. The more I tried to think outside the box, the bigger the box seemed to get. I was so obsessed with thinking outside the box, it began to follow me around.

What did help me was “thinking inside the circle” and planting the creative seed. While I was shamelessly bashing on keeping super-focused, I must admit it does have one powerful benefit: identifying the core. If you can’t identify the core of the problem you’re trying to fix, no amount of creative sidestepping is going to save you. Form without function is nothing. So all that focusing does one valuable thing; it helps you plant the creative seed. Identify your core issue, as close to the center of the circle as possible, and plant your seed there.

Every time I plant a creative seed, one of two things happens:
  • It starts to take root and grow in my subconscious. Gradually, new associations and connections are formed, and some very interesting things start to happen. This is a sign that the idea is worth pursuing.
  • If the idea is worthless, however, it will hold on for dear life and then, eventually, it will whither and die. This is not a bad thing.
Thinking inside the circle does a few things:
  • By getting to the core of your problem, you gain clarity toward possible solutions.
  • You’re able to evaluate whether or not the idea is worth pursuing.
  • Planting the creative seed gives your subconscious a solid anchor.
  • The more conscious focus you place on your seed, the more it will take root in your subconscious.
  • By planting inside the circle, your subconscious mind will gradually flourish into a creative tree, fully equipped with roots, branches, leaves & even a tire swing if all goes well.

Sometimes our greatest ideas lie on the fringes of our creativity. They are much like an exceptionally colored leaf on the edge of the tallest branch; one that could have been easily missed if we weren’t paying close attention.

When engaging in idea generation, embracing creative ADD is the best tool you can use to spawn creative connections. The whole point is to let go of judgment and to simply accept whatever comes to be. If you’re not coming up with any interesting ideas, you’re either trying to hard or it needs more time to develop. Or you might need to heighten your ADD level.

By embracing Creative ADD we do a few things:

  • We remove the daunting pressure of the need to create. Creativity can regain its rightful joy.
  • When there’s no pressure to create, we’re simply bouncing from one idea to another.
  • By embracing Creative ADD, we can think inside the circle (and break the idea that creativity is either inside or out of a box).
  • We can come up with interesting connections to ideas that seemed to have no connection before. If we were trying to force the natural impulse of creativity, more than likely these connections would have gone unnoticed.

So first, think inside the circle. Try to get as close as possible to the core of the problem you’re trying to solve. Once you’ve done that, plant the seed in your subconscious with as much conscious energy as you can muster. Your subconscious mind will start working on all the creative associations connected to the core idea. Now is the time to embrace Creative ADD. Let go of all judgment and simply experiment. Get as far out as possible. Test the limits of your creativity and see how far the spiral takes you.

Here’s an overview:

  1. What is the core issue? Get as close to the center of the circle as possible.
  2. Plant the creative seed firmly (but gently) into your subconscious.
  3. If you’re not getting feedback from your subconscious, the idea is probably not worth pursuing. Either wait it out, or simply drop it and move on.
  4. Embrace Creative ADD. Suspend judgment and free-associate. Test the limits and see how far the spiral takes you.
  5. Look for the ideas on the fringes of your mind; ponder unexpected angles. These are the ideas that will bring freshness to all of the work that you do.

Creativity is like uncovering a gigantic fossil buried beneath the earth’s soil. Most people want to uncover the entire ancient artifact in one sitting. Our society of instant gratification hasn’t helped this very much.

The majority of great ideas aren’t uncovered all at once, though. They are uncovered with great care over time. Setting up the intention to uncover the fossil is the first step, but allowing time to properly dig it up is essential. You don’t want a disintegrated, barely recognizable artifact when you’re done. Taking your time ensures that you will reveal something more beautiful than you could have ever possibly conceived. I’d rather have one amazing idea than 200 muddled & broken ones.

I hope you get something out of this article. I’ve tried to display as much creativity as possible when writing this (after all, this is an article on creativity). What do you to get the creative juices flowing?

This is part 1 of a series I’ll be doing on creativity. Later this week I’ll be writing about my step by step creative process. Stay tuned (want to ride bikes?).

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