Small Challenges Are Good For Creativity

Black and White Chair
Photo by Renè Müller on Unsplash

I fell in love with country music as a kid. I can’t say for sure where the love originated. My parents didn’t really listen to country music. Maybe it was the 45-minute school bus ride I took both to and from school each day for many years. The driver usually had country music on the radio. There were no phones back then. The Gameboy was a luxury item. And reading in a vehicle gave me motion sickness. I certainly had conversations with other kids, but mostly I looked out the window and listened to the music on the radio.

Anyway, I later became curious about the songwriters behind some of those great country songs. And as I dove more into that world I learned that creativity was often a struggle for even the best songwriters. And one theme that popped up on occasion was setting little challenges to spark inspiration.

One of my favorite stories is about the song, The Chair. It was released in 1985 by George Strait and became a number one hit. One of the stories I’ve heard and read about was that the two songwriters, Hank Cochran and Dean Dillion were busy writing songs for an entire day. They thought they were running out of ideas.

Then one came up with a line about a chair. They looked at each other and smiled. How could they possibly make a song about a chair interesting enough to possibly become a hit song…

Well they dove into that challenge even though they had been working all day writing songs. The little challenge was just what they needed and they wrote a song that is still a classic today.

There are similar stories throughout the creative world. I remember watching Elton John I think on Inside The Actors Studio and he took a book from one of the audience members, paged through and would pick out a phrase and turn it into a little song. Right there on the spot. He seemed to thrive on that challenge.

This doesn’t have to apply to the creative world alone. If you find that you’re struggling in your job, look for a little challenge that can spur you through the day or the week. Think about something that maybe even seems a little foolish or absurd and set out on making it happen.

Maybe you’re in sales and you have a few calls upcoming this week. See if you can make a sale without mentioning your product by name. See if you can make a sale without mentioning the prospect’s name. Or your name.

Just little harmless things.

These kinds of little challenges seem to make us focus more. And there are plenty of examples of it working in all types of fields.

What’s the worst that could happen…

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