Creativity: Building Something New Again


I’m drafting this on the way back from a week at a company conference. My one year anniversary with the company is coming up and am getting ever more solid with the job, what we do, and who I work with. Over the previous years I’d started blogging and drawing for personal reasons and brought the approaches I taught myself to work. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done and I built a reputation for telling stories and learning about clients visually in sales situations over the course of time. I also put up a black whiteboard behind my home office desk to doodle on. At my job interview, I used my sketches to talk about how I do my job and it worked out well (obviously, right?). Then I found out that we do calls with webcams on and those doodles showed up behind me. I used my drawing toolset to do my work. Fast-forward to this week and I got a lot of questions about what I use and how I learned. Here’s the gist of my advice:

First: You’re Ready
If you’re to the point of asking someone how to do “what they do”, then you’ve thought about it for a while. I’d been thinking about blogging then sat in on a Seth Godin presentation where he said “Start a blog” – so I did. I was ready, but it took a kick in the ass which I was thankful for. That was a gateway for me to start dabbling in sketching because I wanted to draw something unique in my blog rather than using stock photos. You’ve been thinking about it but there’s something holding you back. But you’re ready.

Second: It’s Not That Hard
Here are a couple earlier exercises I did while building a “visual vocabulary”. For the most part, these are combinations of basic shapes. Circles, squares, triangles, and lines. When you break an object down like that, it’s much easier. You’ll also note that none of this is “art” and you can identify even the lamest of them, such as the book. Mostly because it’s easy to write “BOOK” by the book. You can start with basic household objects, grab a pencil, and try it out. Here’s a link to Google search for similar drawings. Have a look at images and grab a pencil – and maybe a glass of something – and doodle away.

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Third: There’s Zero Barrier to Entry
Here’s a link to some tips and sources of information. You don’t actually have to buy and read a book or buy an iPad, though. All it takes is a pen or pencil and piece of paper. That’s it. Well, and a few minutes you’d otherwise spend reading something that’ll annoy you. As a bonus, set up a daily reminder to practice. You’re going to waste 10-15 minutes every day, right? Another great thing I’ve done are daily doodles or drawing a chart about something that happened. Steal that idea and do something insightful, funny, and positive. Don’t use it to bitch or take out frustration. Enjoy yourself and tie your doodles to that feeling – you’ll find yourself doing it more.

Fourth; You Won’t Look Stupid
This is the biggest barrier. The fear you’ll look stupid. I’ve got two points here. The first is that everybody is like you. Seriously, everybody. They’ve got their own barriers and they’re no more skilled than you are. You can practice on your own if you’d like, but being thoughtful and fun really takes any threat of judgement away. Here’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened by drawing something. On the way back from a meeting once, I drew something to represent silos in a company. I sent it to the team I’m on and they told me it looked like a bunch of penises. That stuck in my head and I swore I’d redo it to look better. The reply to the new one: 🍆. So I put some farm animals, bales of hay, and even a cow jumping over the moon. The reply: 🍆🍆🍆.  That’s it, that’s the worst. And we laughed like crazy at it.

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Every other time I’ve done it, sketching clearly conveyed ideas and drove things forward. You can sketch to build ideas, convey them, and talk about them. It’s great way to serve as a conversation point. Just the other day, I was talking through something at work with a good friend. He pointed out that if what we were doing was on a polished PowerPoint slide then it would look like it was “blessed”. In a meeting, it would either look right or be criticized with nothing in between. As a drawing, it had to be debated. And when you debate something then it takes on joint ownership and sticks in the other person’s mind. Be open and a little daring then build on your work. You’ll be surprised at what you can do and what it can do for you.

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