Inventive Ways to Be Original

By Edo Steinberg

Jim Krause has many strategies to maintain his creativity. “My wife and I come up with prompts,” he says. “For instance, one of the things we do is tell each other about the strangest thing that happened to us that day. Sometimes your ‘strange radar’ isn’t on, but the moment you start looking for interesting things, you’ll start discovering them. It can be an interaction with another person or learning or seeing something new, something visually odd. ‘Oh, there’s a rooster, and it’s in downtown Bloomington.’ You don’t usually see roosters in downtown Bloomington.”

People lose their sense of wonder as they grow older. “For babies and children, everything is brand new,” Jim says. “Thinking of myself, my eyes were open with amazement at anything new. We were captivated by the smallest things, like rings hanging over our crib. As children, we go off to grade school and we’re encouraged to be creative. We finger paint and try to play instruments, dance, write a poem.”

This continues in high school and college, where people tend to peak creatively. “In college, you’re exposed to even more people and ideas. You hear opinions you may not agree with. All this new stimulation is fuel for your ideas.”

“Then, you get a job,” Jim says. “You find a partner, and maybe get a dog or a cat. Then a year goes by, two years go by, 10 years go by. If you’re lucky, you still have a partner, a good house, a good job, and a pet, and what happens is that all those new experiences become a routine. For instance, you must think about the easiest way to get from where you live to IU, and you know of a good way to approach your academic work. We all think of the best ways to impress our boss, the best ways to impress our partner, because we’re trying to find the best practices – what’s the easiest way for me to succeed in my life.”

Jim tries to push back against routine. “I always try to do something different. It could be small things: if you brush your teeth with one hand, try it with the other; if you shave with one hand, try it with the other.”

Another strategy Jim and his wife have is to tell each other something new they learned today. “It can be something small. For instance, I talked to three homeless people on Kirkwood. One of them was named Tim. I applauded the fact that they had this really cute dog to help them get money, partially for dog food. They said, ‘yeah, it really works to meet the girls.’ It was a fun conversation with three homeless people, really the high point of my week.”

Some other things Jim does: go to work a new way, eat in a new place, talk to a stranger, and always schedule “me time”, no matter how busy you are. Try to do something new during your “me time”. Jim likes to play music during this time. “Music can be a rut too. It’s important to practice on a regular basis, but you should also play different kinds of music or a different instrument.”  For instance, Jim, a guitar player, is nowadays playing bass just to do something new.

As a creative person who likes to go out of his comfort zone, Jim thinks that projects that other people pitch him are more interesting for him to work on than projects he comes up with on his own. “They’re usually something I would never have thought of.”

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