Creatively Speaking

Ideas to Ignite Your Creative Fires (June 2021)

Dear Friends:

Welcome back! I was thrilled with the response to the May edition of “Creatively Speaking.” Significant numbers of readers clicked through to read the entire issue - an indication that a responsive chord was struck with both content and delivery. Thank you so much! One reader asked if she could share this newsletter with all her remote colleagues. “Absolutely,” was my reply. And, so can you!

Since that newsletter, two new changes have occurred regarding my forthcoming book - From Fizzle to Sizzle: The Hidden Forces Crushing Your Creativity and How You Can Overcome Them. The release date has been pushed back one more month to November 1, 2021 and the book is now officially listed on ( The cover, however, is still in development; but should be ready in the very near future.

Last month, the focus was on creativity concerns and solutions in the business world. This month, I feature a significant issue in our personal lives as well as some tools we can all use to enhance our “creativity quotient.” Enjoy!

Creative Thinking

Here are three puzzles designed to stretch your creative muscles. The answers are at the end of the newsletter.

1. A man who lives in a 50-story building decides to jump out his window. He has no parachute, yet he survives his fall with no injuries. How did he do this?

2. There are six eggs in the basket. Six people each take one of the eggs. How can it be that one egg is left in the basket?

3. Two women are playing chess. They play five games. Each woman wins three games. How is this possible?

Playing by the Rules

Playing by the rules is instilled in us at a very early age. We are told that we “can’t color outside the lines” or “can’t make faces at our little sister.” When we attend school, we are subjected to another set of rules. These may include, “The teacher is always right,” or “Your desks must always be in straight rows.” When we choose a lifelong occupation, we are faced with a new coterie of rules including, “Devote full effort to job responsibilities during work hours” or “Meet or exceed established job performance expectations.”

Rod Judkins, author of The Art of Creative Thinking, points out the significant differences between life in an art college (which he attended) and life in the outside world. “In the art world students experiment or just do things because they made no sense. The world outside that college was filled with people doing reasonable things or doing things because that’s the way everyone else did those things, too. It was a conflict between the logic and sensibility of everyday life and the creative expressions of students freed of that logic and practicality.”

We are a society of rules and I’m certainly not challenging the need for rules. Without them, there would be no order. People could arbitrarily choose which side of the road they want to drive on or they could punch their server in the nose when he brings you your prime rib well done, instead of medium rare.

However, the plethora of rules we are subjected to over the span of our lives also affects our creative impulses. That is to say, we become comfortable with our adherence to rules and, as a result, less apt to challenge them. The more rules we have in our lives, the more ordered our thinking becomes. The more ordered our thinking, the less inclined we are to alter the status quo. In turn, we are prone to be mentally compliant. And that’s a problem when we have a challenge or conundrum to solve.

To use a hackneyed analogy, all the rules in our lives put us in a mental “box.” It’s difficult for us to break out of that box, because its very “dimensions” confine our creative impulses. According to at least one researcher, an excess of rules places an overwhelming lock on our thinking. Ultimately, we are inclined to think about things as they currently are, rather than things as they could be.

A Touch of Humor

This month: three creative thoughts to bring a smile (perhaps a groan) to your face.

Q: Why is the shovel regarded as one of the most creative inventions of all time?

A: Because it was ground-breaking.

Q: How do mathematicians scold their children?

A: “If I’ve told you n times, I’ve told you n+1 times!”

The bartender says, “We don’t serve time travelers in here.”

A time traveler walks into a bar.

Three Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Personal Creativity

· Break Your Habits. We often get into routines or habitual ways of doing things. We eat the same cereal for breakfast every morning. We drive the same route to work every day. We go to the same resort every summer. We socialize with the same people. We buy the same brand of running shoes every year. We read books by the same author over and over. The more routines we have in our lives, the more difficult it is to think about doing things any other way. Break some of those routines, change some of those habits, and you’ll start generating new ideas simply because you are looking at the world in new ways. Take a new route to work. Stroll through a park on the other side of town. Go camping instead of staying at a chain hotel on your next vacation. Join a book discussion group. Try a new brand of jeans. Go out to dinner at a Nepalese, Peruvian, or Ethiopian restaurant. Do something new/different each day and you will be conditioning your mind to generate new/different ideas.

· Laugh It Up. The book Creativity and Humor confirms what we all know intuitively; that is, humor stimulates our creativity. What the authors discovered, among other things, was that watching humorous videos (for example) increased the “cognitive flexibility” of participants in the study. In short, humor (or laughing specifically) not only puts us in a positive mood, but it also increases our optimism about future events or possibilities. It frees up our thinking and causes us to look at the world around with a new set of eyes…with a new perspective. Find your own comedian, wit, or humorist; listen or read every now and again; and you’ll open up untapped regions of your brain, see the world a little differently, and begin creating a plethora of new ideas.

· Read Around. In his book The Creative Curve, author Allen Gannett discusses the “20 percent principle” – a recommendation that professionals spend 20 percent of their waking hours consuming reading material in their chosen field. While I have no problem with the need to read on a regular basis, it has been my experience that that reading should be done in fields away from, or different from, one’s chosen profession. In doing so, you get to see something from a different point of view while offering your brain new and varied perspectives from uncommon angles and atypical insights. 20 percent is an ideal; but, what is even more critical is that you expose your mind to varied ways of thinking: looking at the world through – not rose-colored glasses – but amaranth-colored glasses, gingerline-colored glasses, cerulean blue-colored glasses, or lusty gallant-colored glasses. In short, broad reading outside your comfort zone often leads to new ways of (re)conceptualizing familiar problems.

  • If you’re a businessperson, read a book about teaching. You may alter your staff development program.
  • If you’re a carpenter, read a book about industrial archeology. You may discover a new (or ancient) way of constructing furniture.
  • If you’re an artist, read some books about environmental issues. You may generate paintings with a more naturalistic view of the world.
  • If you’re a professional hair stylist, read some books about the ocean. You may find a new hair style embedded in the motions of waves or the interaction of rivers flowing into the sea.
  • If you’re a tree farmer, read some books about medieval gardening. You may see some illustrations of landscapes that will help you solve a conundrum with a current project.
  • If you're a ____________, read some books about ____________.

To Think About:

“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”

- Pablo Picasso

Lots more ideas and perspectives coming in the next issue (July).


Anthony D. Fredericks (Tony)

Puzzle Answers:

1. The man jumped out of his 1st floor window, which was only a few feet from the ground.

2. The last person took the basket with the last egg still inside.

3. The two women were not playing each other. They each played chess with other people.


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