By Jennifer Shenouda
You might recognize him as the soulful front man of the Montreal-based alternative-rock band Moist, but David Usher is also a master of reinvention. In his 20 + years in the public eye he’s been somewhat of a shape-shifter, a vocalist, songwriter, activist, author, entrepreneur and most recently keynote speaker on the subject of creativity.
In his new book, Let The Elephants Run: Unlock Your Creativity and Change Everything (House of Anansi Press, 2015) Usher outlines the various ways in which we can all foster creativity in our everyday lives, whether we are working as investment bankers or installation artists. Usher urges his readers to see creativity through a broad lens, not just an isolated process but instead as embedded in our everyday actions and interactions.
Half how-to read, half interactive notebook for readers to scribble in, here are some of Usher’s insights on creativity gathered from his book:
1. “Creativity isn’t elitist.” Usher argues that creativity is not just a quality that you are either born with or not, but rather a skill that can be learned by everyone and nurtured with the proper amount of time and determination. Usher does not view creativity as reserved just for certain people in certain lines of work, “When you start to see creative thinking as independent of genre or discipline, suddenly you can work on almost anything.”
2. “It is crucial to discover the time of day and the circumstances when you feel the most connected to your creative self, and then to consistently carve out that time for creative thinking.” Although many of us would like to believe that all creative sparks happen spontaneously, Usher reminds us that having a ritual for your creative thinking and work are equally important. He has dedicated at least a half-hour each day (in the early morning) for his creative thinking over the past twenty years.
3. “Creativity does not respect one’s desire for perfect conditions.” Usher points out that the dream of the artist creating in total seclusion is just that, a dream. He aptly uses the example of the modern day writer who must be their own champion, publicist and sometimes even publisher, forced to break down barriers and work with what they have.
4. “…smart creatives use failure as a learning experience.” Usher cautions that not all creative ideas will be award-winning ones, but that smart creatives will view their misfires as important tools that have the potential to inform their future creative choices. He urges readers to “think of creativity as a long game. In the long game there are always incredible highs and devastating lows. That is the nature of creativity over the long term“.
5. “…creativity also needs an end point, a finish line with tangible consequences waiting there.” Whether it’s your first creative project or your 100th, Usher knows that creativity, left to its own devices without any kind of structure or deadline, might get lost in its beginning phases. He points out that there needs to be some sort of real stakes at hand for your project or else, “Without consequences, creativity can meander forever.”