I want to write you a letter on how you can unlock your inner-genius.
1. We are all born with an inner-genius
First of all, in the Greek/Roman times— a ‘genius’ was seen as this inner-spirit you (already) had in your heart. Your job as an artist or a poet was to awaken your inner-genius.
Nowadays, we make the mistake of calling people geniuses. But the problem with that is this: we assume some people are geniuses, and others aren’t.
But in truth; we all have an inner-genius. We are all born with a ‘genius’ within our spirits as children. But the problem is that as we get older, society beats the genius out of us.
2. How to re-awaken the inner-genius
To re-awaken the inner-genius is to re-awaken your inner-child.
When is the last time you did something for the sake of it? When is the last time you played? When is the last time you did something, without worrying about how others saw you? When is the last time you did something — not caring about money, or social media likes?
3. How to find your inner-child
Write down 3 things you loved doing as a child. For me:
I loved to draw as a kid. I wasn’t very good; but I would draw for hours on end, not feeling hungry. I was in the zone. Supreme focus. No distractions.
I loved reading as a kid. I remember when I was poor, first moved to New York City (Queens), with no money. My family (me, my mom, my sister) literally slept with a mattress on the floor. We had no furniture. We had no stuff.
I went to the library; and would consume 400-page Star Wars books for breakfast. I remember telling my friends in elementary school (age 11) that I didn’t have a TV. But when we finally did get a TV and video games, I didn’t pick up another book for nearly a decade. Note to self: video games and TV are the worst deterrents to creativity.
I remember when I was 12 and got my first computer: a Intel Pentium I Processor ACER. I took it apart, and put it back together (with a few extra screws). I loved to break things apart, tinker with them, and figure out to put them back together.
I learned how to build computers, and sold some for a profit— earned around $1,000 and bought my first car (1991 Sentra).
I tinkered with my car. I learned how to upgrade the intake, header, and exhaust. I stripped the interior. I spray-painted the brown interior black. I re-painted my bumpers. It was my ultimate tinker-toy.
4. How I play around now
Now, I am trying to re-spark my inner-child.
Using Photoshop, to make fun illustrations, for the fun and hell of it.
To re-invigorate my love of reading. Reading anything that interests me, for fun. That includes Stoic Philosophy, Parables of Jesus, Zen/Taoist philosophy, History (Edward Gibbon’s “The fall of the Roman Empire).
To not read anything I don’t want to read. To read for my own pleasure. Not to read to become more “learned” or more “smart.”
When I get bored with a book, to close it immediately, and move on.
Learning how to tinker— making music, simple loops in Garage band, how to sample music. To tinker with the CSS/theme for my WordPress blog. To assume that I can do anything. To become a new modern ‘Renaissance person’ like Leonardo da Vinci.
5. Assume you can do anything
When you’re a kid; you assume you can do anything. Then your teachers tell you what to do and what not to do.
Assume like you’re a kid, and your life is your own Montessori school (self-directed school).
You make the rules. You decide how to play, and what to create.
Never say I cannot do x,y,z because (I’m too poor, too old, too busy).
Assume you can do anything.
Learn how to do anything with YouTube tutorials. Google “How to Do [x]”. Share what you learn via your blog (Medium.com, wordpress.com, wordpress.org). Because when you share what you learn, you learn twice.
6. Share what you learn
When I’m reading something I’m interested in, I write down notes.
Nowadays, I do all my reading on my laptop. I will go to archive.org and search for old texts for books I’m interested in. Then I import the text into Evernote, into Notes, into IA Writer, or Ulysses. I then read all the text as a big text file.
Then while I’m reading the text (on my laptop), I will bold parts I find interesting. I will add new paragraph breaks. I will write my own notes.
When I’m done writing, I try to extract my personal lessons into simple bullet-points. I then make a draft for a blog post, and upload it to Medium.com, or just post it directly to my blog.
By writing what I learn, I better internalize what I’ve learned. And the next step: to put what I learn into action.
7. Imperfect is perfect
The biggest fear we have as adult creators is to become paralyzed with perfection.
Be a kid. Don’t color within the lines. Paint the sky purple. Don’t let nobody how to create your art.
Publish imperfect things. Publish things in-progress. Even the rapper Eminem often puts out his rap lyrics in just one take (his first take). He revels in imperfection. And he is one of the most celebrated rappers of all time.
For me, I try to make things ’80% good enough’ and hit publish.
8. Cross-pollinate your ideas
Imagine yourself as a bee. You hop from one flower to another; and you collect pollen as you go. You mix your pollen from different flowers. Then you make your own honey; and it is unique.
Learn from any art field. Learn from sculpture, painting, surrealism, hip hop music, dance, theater, haiku poetry, or short stories. Learn from autobiographies, from conversations you over-hear on the streets, and from your mom.
Some of my current inspirations:
- Hip hop music (Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Big Sean)
- Fitness (deadlifting, bodyweight exercises)
- Ancient literature (Aesop fables)
- Renaissance (Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael)
- Haiku Poetry (thank you to Lynn Reeeves // Basho)
- Japanese Animation (‘Paprika’ movie, any film by Miyazaki)
- Diet (intermittent fasting)
- Avant Garde film (Jodorowsky’s Dune)
- Fashion (Alexander Wang)
- History (Edward Gibbons Fall of Roman Empire)
- Christianity (Jefferson Bible, Apology from Justin the Martyr)
- Cindy (her personal essays)
- Coffee (drinking a lot of it)
So study anything and everything you’re interested in. And just figure out a way to combine it all together.
Don’t aim for consistency. Just have fun. Throw all the paints together, and make your own unique color.
9. Three assignments to unlock your inner-genius
Here are three assignments for you to re-spark some of your child-like artistry, and to unlock your inner-genius:
- Draw something: Sketch, draw, or paint something on a piece of paper, in a notebook, or on the computer, or on your smartphone. Use Photoshop, the free ‘Paper’ app on iPhone, or use any free Android app to draw with your smartphone.
- Listen to music while creating: Listen to music you enjoy, and write, draw, sketch, dance, whatever.
- Publish everyday for a week: For a week, publish one (unique) piece of your artwork to social media, your blog, whatever, everyday.
10. Drink more coffee
I’m sorry; but the last tip is to drink more coffee. It can be any caffeinated beverage— tea, matcha, whatever.
Of course; you don’t need to ingest caffeine to be creative and productive. But it certainly helps.
I recommend drinking single espressos throughout the day (no sugar, no milk). Single espressos have a lot less caffeine than a large Starbucks black drip coffee.
Also, do creative work in coffee shops, or cafe’s. I find the ambient noise of cafes and coffee shops to be conducive to my creative mind. If you dont have the ability to work in coffee shops, I recommend using the free Coffitivity app/website— which simulates ambient noise and chatter. Which is good for creativity (Nassim Taleb calls it ‘Stochastic Resonance’ — randomly distributed noise, which helps us sharpen our focus, as we work against the resistance of noise.
Also, watch kids, see how they create, and just imitate them. They don’t care what others think of them — they just have fun.
Discover your inner-child:
- Success is Your Only Option
- How to Make Your Photos More Artistic
- Creative Lessons Rick Rubin Can Teach You About Photography
- Why I Love Shooting With an LCD Screen
- How to Shoot Abstract Photography
- How to Be More Spontaneous in Your Photography and Life
- How to Re-Invent Yourself in Photography
- How to Photograph Like a Child
- How to Be a More Imaginative Photographer
- Never Rust
- Limit Your Palette
- Follow Your Intuition
- Have Creative Confidence in Yourself
- How To Find Your Unique Voice in Photography
- Beginner’s Mind
- There is No Wrong Way to Shoot Street Photography
- You Can’t Control the Results, Only Effort
- On Capturing Beauty in the Mundane
- On Searching For the Maximum
- The Beauty of “Creative Constraints”
- How to Stay Curious
- Enjoy the Process
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