Work with opposites (creativity exercise)

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Many of us get trapped in ordinary, routine thinking which makes it hard to get into a mood of generating fresh and innovative ideas. We routinely get up every morning, brush our teeth, drink coffee, go to work – mostly every day at a same time, using the same route…And to tell you the truth, it can be a creativity killer. What we need is to mix up things a little bit, challenge our habits, language and way of thinking.

We are also aware that we do live in the world comprised of opposites. In Chinese philosophy and especially in Taoism, Universe is seen through the lens of yin and yang energy, male and female, strong and weak, dark and bright, cold and warm. Perceiving reality from the opposite side can give us clue in which direction we need to move forward in order to sort things out.

So for this exercise, as a warm up I propose you pick some ordinary words, something you frequently use in your language and list the opposite meaning of that word; first that comes to your mind.

For example: sky – bottom, ground

                          water – dry, yellow, sand

                           coffee – tea, sweet, cold

                           work – vacation, free time, relaxation

Do this for a limited time, maybe five to ten minutes. The idea of this warming exercises is to somehow ‘flush out’ that ordinary thinking, and give room for more ideas to come and encourage creative problem solving.

As a next step you can pick your real problem/project you are working on and apply similar technique. If you repeatedly struggle with something, “turn over” your thinking: instead of trying to develop your best solution, think of the worst thing could happen. How can your project fail? What is the worst scenario? Write every detail of that, using some key words related to your project and answering questions when, how, who, why, how much ext. To make it more fun, write a poem about it.

From that vantage point it might be more clearer what you could do in order for your project to succeed. By being able to imagine what we would like to avoid, it may opens a clear path in our mind of right things we need to do: who to contact, when to do something, how to prioritize our time.

Knowing what you don’t want to, is a first step to achieving what you do want.

I am not ambitious at all:
I am not a poet, I know
(Though I do love to see a mere scrawl
To order and symmetry grow).
My muse is uncertain and slow,
I am not expert with my tools,
I lack the poetic argot:
But I hope I have kept to the rules.
When your brain is undoubtedly small,
‘Tis hard, sir, to write in a row,
Some five or six rhymes to Nepaul,
And more than a dozen to Joe:
The metre is easier though,
Three rhymes are sufficient for ‘ghouls,’
My lines are deficient in go,
But I hope I have kept to the rules.Dear Sir, though my language is low,
Let me dip in Pierian pools:
My verses are only so so,
But I hope I have kept to the rules.

J. K. Stephen


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