Yesterday, the Kiwanis Club of Columbus was kind enough to have me as their lunchtime speaker. The topic: three ideas for making 2011 the most creative year possible. Here's what I said.

Before reading on, you may help yourself to a two-page worksheet I've just developed to help you approach new creative challenges. I keep this worksheet for your free use at

Now, the first idea for making 2011 the most creative year possible…

1. Define a creative goal for the year.
To do this, you might consider what would you do if you had no fear.

Living with fear — or at least some fear — is healthy, because it helps us avoid getting hit by a car when we cross the street. But many of our fears are simply residue from the instructions our loving parents gave us when they feared that our childlike carelessness would prove fatal.

Now we're grown-ups. We can tolerate thoughtful risk.

So, what would you do if you had no fear?
Would you paint a painting? Would you write a poem? Would you fall deeply into the study of some beautifully extravagant topic? Like growing orchids or memorizing a beautiful poem by Robert Browning?

Another way to find a creative goal for 2011 is to daydream about your final, mortal moments. As you envision your deathbed, look back on what I hope was your long life. What — at that final reckoning — might you then wish you had not left undone? What might then cause you to pause and wonder, “Why didn't I do that? What stopped me? What did I fear? And why did I let that fear stop me?”

Some popular creativity-crushing fears:

  • "Oh, I fear what others might think of my initial lack of competence."
  • "Oh, I fear that I will appear to be hypocritical or silly."

Are these fears worth stopping you? Do you really care that much about what others think of you? (This just in: others don't think that much about you. If they have anything going, they're busy thinking about themselves.)

Assessing Fears
Still, once you have a creative goal in mind, give further thought to the relevant fears. Are those fears still true and valid? Or can you now ignore them?

Most of our fears helped ensure that we would become responsible citizens, but now we are responsible citizens — and we will still be responsible citizens even if we start ignoring old fears.

Seriously, take a look in the mirror. Most people I know (including you) could decide to bust loose and really be crazy — and would still be model citizens. Perhaps even more so.

What old fears are holding you back? Can they be ignored? And would ignoring these old fears make you even more functional, leading to a more creative new year?

Next, the second step: making time.

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