Two Loops of Creativity™
I’ve been thinking a lot about my consumption lately. Social media, video, audio, reading etc. I almost made a goal of reading less books this year because when I read, I often feel like I have accomplished something creative. Now don’t get me wrong, I love reading. I think reading might be the single most impactful discipline in my life thus far, but I want to create. I want to write, I want to paint, I want to speak, I want to build.
In many ways, reading is still just a consumer sport. You need to do it, but if it isn’t complimented with action, it’s just an accumulation of knowledge.
Anyone else ever feel like they need Marie Kondo for their brain? Get rid of what isn’t bringing you joy, organize the rest and get to the business of creating the future.
So I have had these words rattling around in my head for a while and for some reason they all start with a “C.”
Consume — Copy — Critique — Curate — Create — Collaborate — Cultivate
I was at first thinking of them along a spectrum with consumer of creativity at the bottom and cultivator of creativity at the top. It was kind of a progression, you should try to move up the scale from consumer → copier → critic → curator → creator → collaborator → cultivator.
As I kept thinking about it though, I felt like every single one of these words is part of the creative process. Some are more generative than others, but each of them can actually contribute to your growth as a creative person. As you grow in creativity, you may not hang out at “Consume” and “Copy” as much, but if you are learning a new discipline, it may be a necessary step in the process.
Instead of a spectrum, or a process, I began to think of the words in two loops. The Finite Loop and The Infinite Loop.
Both The Finite Loop and The Infinite Loop are valuable to creativity, one is just more generative than the other.
In the Finite Loop, you are dealing with what IS or WAS. Consuming something that HAS been created. Copying something or someone that is ALREADY in existence. Critique is also valuable, but it typically deals with KNOWN ideas, or creations. This loop is primarily focused on the creativity of the PAST and has a limited set.
The Infinite Loop is what creates the future and has unlimited possibilities. This loop is a generative loop, bringing new creativity, new value to the creator and the world.
I think this loop starts with curation. Every great artist has influences. As you begin to pull in multiple influences through curation and remix them, you start to form your own creative perspective. I think curation it is one of the most underrated skills in creativity. Steve Jobs said that, “Creativity is just connecting things” and curation is where that happens.
Once you hone in your curation skills, I think naturally it pushes you to create. You no longer just want to appreciate what others have done, but you want to make your own personal mark. In Ecclesiastes, the writer says that there is “nothing new under the sun.” I agree, you might be creating something that has been done in a similar way in the past, but this time YOU are doing it. And since you are doing it, with your unique creative fingerprint, new beauty can be brought into our world.
I didn’t have collaborate initially, but it came to me as I was building the graphic for the infinite loop. I added it after “create” because I have found that it is very hard to truly collaborate if you have not shown the world what you are capable of. Good vibes, similar mindsets, etc are not enough. You have to show others what you are capable of creating before they know how to collaborate with you. Once you have shown your work, collaboration possibilities are virtually endless. These collaborations can be very powerful. Collaboration is not an additive activity but a multiplicative. We call it the Power of X. (More on this later)
Lastly, creative people want to cultivate more creative people. If you are on the Infinite Loop, you will find yourself wanting to give back, to develop others and to create spaces where others can join you on the Infinite Loop. This is what makes the infinite loop so generative, it begins to replicate itself in others, compounding the potential for creativity in the future.
We live in a time when the Finite Loop is so easy to be on. I challenge you today to make it your goal to cross over to the Infinite Loop. It will take time and intention, but it is possible.
See you there!
So where do you typically find yourself? Do you typically operate in the Finite Loop of Creativity or the Infinite? What stage of the loop are you in? What actions do you need to take to move to a more creative and generative life?