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Say 'No' in Order to Be More Creative

Yasha Wallin

Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi once wrote to famous creators asking them to be interviewed for a book he was writing. One of the most interesting things about his project was how many people said “no.” In order to be creative, many explained, it was vital they said no to any request that would take away from their time spent creating. “One of the secrets of productivity...is to have a VERY BIG waste paper basket to take care of ALL invitations such as yours — productivity in my experience consists of NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people..." To be creative, you must wholly dedicate yourself to that endeavor. So if you're pursuing art or otherwise, become comfortable saying 'no,' do it liberally, and then take note of your creative output when you allow yourself space to thrive. Report back in the comments below.

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  • Zachary Slobig

    "NOT doing anything that helps the work of other people" seems a grim way to look at defining productivity and creativity. Creativity need not be completely selfish after all, right?

    • Yasha Wallin

      Well, I guess it's all a matter of how you work. Charles Dickens wrote "the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it," and I tend to agree with that - if I know I have to be somewhere and only have a couple of hours to be creative, chances are I won't be. That said, it's all about finding the right balance.