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Creatively Entrepreneurial

Keeping a Creative Journal and the 30 Day “CAP”

I taught over 2,000 students at Duke and year after year they identified these two creative practices (The 30 Day Creative Action Program and keeping a Creative Journal) as having the greatest impact on their creatively entrepreneurial growth and consistently acknowledged doing them together was key to getting the most growth out of their investment of time.

And they were celebrated for their fun.


The 30 Day Creative Action Program

The 30 Day Creative Action Program, or 30 Day CAP, is built on research into Divergent

Thinking and Convergent Thinking—the language I use is Divergent Discovery and Convergent Creation, more complete pictures of what sort of thinking is taking place.

And it’s simple.

For 30 consecutive days you either:

A. Do something you’ve never done before, or
B. Do something you do frequently but now do it in an opposite or contrary fashion.

An example of A: I have never brushed my teeth while showering so today I will.

An example of B: I brush my teeth right-handed. Today I will brush them left-handed. With a bit of thought, as these examples show, accomplishing a 30 Day CAP can be integrated into your daily routine so it doesn’t take extra time.

Research indicates that completing a 30 Day CAP can improve your Divergent Discovery capacity—the ability to identify lots of categories of solutions for a problem, many different types of options for an opportunity—improves by nearly 80% and your Convergent Creation cognition—taking the best pieces from your ideas and shaping them into something new—improves by 20%.

Why this huge result?

We know the status quo is the greatest impediment to successful new creatively entrepreneurial performances and so a 30 Day CAP calls provides a framework for kicking the status quo in the butt, just a little bit, but every day.

The effect of being deflected from our status quo behaviors regularly accumulates and it becomes easier to challenge our status quo view of the world, allowing for fresh perspectiveS leading to new new ideas.

More examples: I have never stood in line at a coffee shop and turned and introduced myself to the person behind me. That’s column A.

Tonight I will sleep with my head at the foot of the bed. That’s column B.

A tip: Planning the first three or four days of activities seems to serve many. Then being more spontaneous as the 30 Day CAP continues is fun for most. I love the word ‘whimsy’ and here’s a great place to apply it…be whimsical as you consider your days’ activities.

More examples: I’ve had folks I am working with declare a digital sabbath, column A.

Some folks eat supper for breakfast and breakfast for supper for a day, column B. Column A, the last 50 yards of my walk I walk backwards—checking for obstacles of course.

Column B, well, what comes to mind for you?

To be clear: The new behavior of the day is for that day only and need not be repeated as part of the 30 Day CAP; each day is a new activity.

Keeping a Creative Journal

Keeping a journal is a simple discipline to commit to regular use.

Because your natural creatively entrepreneurial qualities are ready to be rekindled, you get great results quickly when you record and develop your creatively entrepreneurial ideas and questions in a
journal.

Try seeing your journal as an opportunity to have fun, to wonder, to ‘let your freak flag fly’ and really let loose with creative riffs and entrepreneurial rambles.

It is important to learn to stop editing yourself up front. Try on a ‘first thought best thought’ approach.

Just one way your journal entries payoff: It takes a certain understanding of a creative idea or entrepreneurial thought to hold it in your head, to think about it while showering or driving to the store.

It takes a different sort of understanding of that idea to write it down.

And it takes another type of understanding of that idea to visually represent it. This is a very important lesson, to surround an idea, and to get used to it, to explore its patterns.

Please note: research finds that when you give yourself permission to create a large visual, an image the fills the page, more of your creative brain is engaged.

So instead of just thinking your creative thoughts and wondering about your entrepreneurial ideas in your head, write them down.

Then work on visual representations of them. Graphs, doodles, maps, drawings, they are all helpful when considering your ideas.

Think about it. Write about it. Visualize it. Each step reveals something new.

If you hesitate at being visual in your journal because the story you tell yourself about not being creative has a chapter titled “I can’t draw”, Bill Fick, a part-time Duke prof and full- time graphic artist and cartoonist says “Trust the intelligence in your hand. Bring the pencil to the paper and set aside your judgment and just see what happens.”

Make that a colored pencil and see how that influences your expressions.

As you play with your ideas from all their angles soon you are doing it naturally, as part of your intentionally creative mindset. Especially if you are having fun trying.

Do you want a journal that’s compact and easy to carry, that’s always with you? Do you want a large format journal so you can mark boldly at your desk at the end of the day?

There are a bunch of research findings about how important it is to be holding something in your hand to fully engage your creative capacity.

We understand that just as a pen point or pencil lead makes an imprint on the page when you make a mark, writing down your thoughts or ideas makes an imprint on your brain.

Plus research shows that holding something in your hand awakens more of your creative brain.

Here’s the categories for entries that helped accelerate the creative and entrepreneurial development of my students:

  • As you go through your day watch for examples of creative and entrepreneurial behaviors that generate, that add, that invite, that provide, that are in any way generative. What happens when folks are, for instance, generous to each other in their response to a situation? When you see it, think about it, then write a quick riff about it.
  • Be mindful of good and bad design. When a product feels just right, or clunky wrong, think about why that is, then write it down, or visually represent your experience with it. And services are designed too, so when a store is not handling customers well, think about the improvement that could be made and make it an entry in your journal.
  • When you learn of a great business strategy or story line or productive or generative idea, don’t just admire it, learn from it. Write down or map why it’s a great idea.
  • When you come across a quote that really speaks to your creative life or entrepreneurial experiences, write it down in your journal.
  • And listen for interesting language, and wonder what it was that caught your attention when it does. Similes and metaphors are fun to listen for— they help us understand A by declaring its relationship to B, a useful creatively entrepreneurial talent.
  • And as you work and play your way through your 30 Day CAP, write about your experiences, and how this is impacting you.

We recommend you shoot for at least two or three journal entries a week.

And this is worth reinforcing: we strongly recommend you do not keep your journal digitally. Hold a pen or pencil and mark boldly on a page and your creative mind is awakened.

If you are determined to not just grow your creatively entrepreneurial qualities but reclaim you creative genius, start journaling as you begin a 30 Day CAP.

They will reinforce each other, accelerating and strengthening your growth.

Resources for creativity skills

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