How Not To Kill Your Own Creativity

Yesterday, I ran into this news about Darien Library. They were doing a campaign about “Donate Blood and Your Library Fines Waived.”  Immediately I thought ‘What a wonderful idea!’ Library fines can be a hassle. Lots of times people accumulate library fines by missing the due dates without intending and then get a headache later on. Library fines are not in any way a positive part of library experience even if they are the result of a user’s own fault.

I was most impressed by the fresh perspective on the whole library fine matter. The campaign by Darien Library was actually addressing this negative issue and changing it to something positive and even exciting. Getting library fines waived is like getting a free cookie. We are drawn to freebies. The condition for the freebie is a great cause – donating blood. This little one-day event page even lists “Facts about blood donation from the Red Cross.”

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.
  • Roughly 1 pint of blood is given during a donation.

It is a great marketing event that brings in many library patrons’ goodwill with an educational element thrown in. But after I tweeted about this campaign, immediately a few librarians commented about those who are not eligible to donate blood for health or other reasons. And for a moment there, I wondered, ‘Wow that’s right… I didn’t think about that. Is this whole idea discriminatory?’

Homer & Splash from Flickr

Then I had a light-bulb moment. No it is not a discriminatory idea. And this is exactly how we kill our own creativity before even it grows out of a seed!

The concern about those who are ineligible to donate blood is legitimate. ‘But’ it disregards a very important fact that what Darien Library is doing is an one-time event (or so I assume). It is a not a standing policy; blood is not an all-the-time accepted means to pay out your library fines (as far as I surmise). Just one day one time, the library is creating an event based upon a cool and interesting idea, that is: ‘Let’s invite those who are willing to donate blood gather at the library location – the bonus is if they have library fines, those fines will be waived!’  Getting library fines waived is just a hook, an excuse for bringing people in and having a good day that is dedicated to a good cause. It’s more like an icing on a cupcake.  Yes, it could be that there are some people who would donate blood only truly one hundred percent because they want their library fines waived. But this kind of case is probably rare.

But what happened to me for a moment was interesting. When I saw those concerns about those ineligible for blood donation, my mind immediately flipped from the creativity mode to something completely opposite. I started scrutinizing a cool one-time event idea as something like a standing policy. I started to forget what the original idea was about (bringing people together under the good cause of blood donation) and began to worry about all sorts of consequences and distant considerations. This is dangerous. But the transition in my mind was so smooth that I didn’t even notice what was happening. Sometimes, you have to consciously fight with yourself to preserve your own creative ideas.

We all have a pattern in the way we think and it is hard to escape from that pattern. Many patterns are common. We tend to exaggerate the negative and overlook the positive. We do not appreciate normalcy until we get into a crisis. We tend to act instead of observe and listen first because acting is often easier than observing and listening. Most of all, we tend to kill our own creativity often as soon as it springs up and start asking questions that are not really relevant. Thinking about long-term consequences and policy implications for an one-time event for example is such a case. We get mired in so many possible concerns and considerations that we get too paralyzed to even act. There are cases in which consequences must be thought out seriously. But even in cases that are not so, we tend to think in the same way.

Breaking this habit is difficult. For example, we tend to think that we can just do things if we really put our mind to it. As this very Aristotelian blog post points out, “Just do it” often doesn’t cut it because our action is the result of our habit as much as our motivation or idea in our mind. So we need to train our mind not to kill our own creativity. We need to practice nurturing our own creativity. We need to say to ourselves and our ideas first “Why Not” instead of “Why.”



About Bohyun (Library Hat)

Bohyun Kim is the Associate University Librarian for Library Information Technology at the University of Michigan Library. Formerly, she was the Chief Technology Officer and Professor at the University of Rhode Island Libraries.
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2 Responses to How Not To Kill Your Own Creativity

  1. Bohyun,

    I agree that, “Sometimes, you have to consciously fight with yourself to preserve your own creative ideas.” It takes that conscious effort.

    Thank you for including a link to my blog post “When ‘Just Do It’ Doesn’t Work.”

    Here’s to nurturing creativity!

    All the best,

  2. Hi Angela, thx for the comment and a great post! I enjoyed reading it.

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