How to Embrace Creative Chaos

Earlier this week I had a conversation with my executive coach. I had asked her to help me get unstuck on a project. She graciously reminded me to follow my own advice and embrace creative chaos.

flickr photo courtesy ikkoskinen

We both had a good laugh. Of course she had to help me see my own blind spots – it’s not something I can do on my own, no one can.

Years ago I recognized my process of going from blank page to finished product included a phase of uncomfortable chaos. It happens after the initial excitement and euphoria of having the brilliant idea but before everything starts to take shape.

I equate the feeling of creative chaos to that of being on the open ocean without a master wayfinder.

Overwhelmed by the vastness of the ocean (your thoughts, ideas, and the possibilities of the project) yet still excited by the journey.

Being pulled by both fear of the unknown and the excitement of the original idea, the chaos of creating can be paralyzing.

How to Embrace Creative Chaos

Creativity demands respect. It can’t be forced, but you can make the journey easier. Try these approaches to find your way:

  1. Recognizing that chaos is part of the process. I don’t know many people that can go from bright idea to finished product without some form of churn, and chaos is where churn happens. It’s that phase of the project where you research, discover, and discard elements. Denying it’s existence will not keep you out of chaos.
  2. Acknowledge that you have moved through this phase successfully in the past. It’s important to remember you have gone this way before and will again.
  3. Learn to recognize your unique chaos. No one masters chaos, you learn to flow with it. Understanding how you personally experience and work through it is an important aspect of embracing creative chaos. Take a step back while you are in the middle of chaos to observe how it manifests itself in your feelings, thoughts, and behavior.
  4. Discover your creative chaos wayfinding strategies. As the master wayfinder learns to navigate the ocean, you must learn your unique strategies to navigate your creative chaos. Usually these strategies include the first 3 recommendations above and a lot of trial and error.

We Need Creative Chaos

Creative chaos is where the magic happens as we look to solve problems, innovate, and grow as professionals and has humans. Our ability to get used to being uncomfortable and not trying to force a resolution is, in my view, a strength.

Creativity is one of the essential skills for the future of work and one we all need to grow. Understanding that it includes chaos is just one of the challenges. I know you can embrace the chaos. Your ideas are important.