There’s a time for planning, and a time to riff. Planning helps you construct something specific, when details of your product are known. Creativity is often focused in the early phases of creation and limited once plans are set.
Riffing (or improvising) has boundaries and constraints, but the final product isn’t known until the end. Creativity lives throughout the process, but scope and attributes are sometimes limited by the lack of systematic planning. This method is often scarier, which is why planning is so popular.
Before the most recent Ignite Phoenix, I ran around with a Flip camera and asked people to “show me what love looks like”. Valentine’s Day loomed, and I thought it would stir some interesting reactions. It certainly did.
I ended up with about 15 minutes of clips and bits of people swooning, smooching, hearting, and being silly. These were people improvising to an improvised idea, and it showed. Brilliantly.
Unfortunately, I still had no plan what to do with all this great footage. Thankfully local Phoenix band, Super Stereo, provided a piece of the puzzle when they generously donated one of their tracks to the Phoenix music compilation CD. I got their permission to use a track and started seeing how things lined up with the footage.
It was pure, silly, fun creation. I had no vision for how this would turn out, and was along for the ride as things fell together. What I ended up with was a light little music video that showcased a lot of Ignite fans and friends having fun. A visual love letter.
It’s entirely not what I had in mind when I started, and it’s not going to win any awards, but I think it’s great. Could I have scripted it out all in advance, asked people to do specific things, and paced it better? Sure, but I wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun.
Creativity is as much about the process as the final product. Let go of your planning sometimes, explore, and see where it leads you. You may love it.