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Excerpted from The Creative Spirit by Daniel Goleman, Paul Kaufman, and Michael Ray. Copyright © 1992 by Daniel Goleman. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"When the darkness is seen as a necessary prelude to the creative light, one is less likely to ascribe frustration to personal inadequacy or label it 'bad.'"

  Daniel Goleman, The Creative Spirit, Part 2

The first stage is preparation, when you immerse yourself in the problem, searching out any information that might be relevant. Itís when you let your imagination roam free, open yourself to anything that is even vaguely relevant to the problem. The idea is to gather a broad range of data so that unusual and unlikely elements can begin to juxtapose themselves. Being receptive, being able to listen openly and well, is a crucial skill here.

Thatís easier said than done. We are used to our mundane way of thinking about solutions. Psychologists call the trap of the routine "functional fixedness": we se only the obvious way of looking at a problem Ė the same comfortable way we always think about it. The result is sometimes jokingly called "psychosclerosis" Ė hardening of the attitudes.

Another barrier to taking in fresh information is self-censorship, that inner voice of judgment that confines our creative spirit within the boundaries of what we deem acceptable. Itís the voice of judgment that whispers to you, "Theyíll think Iím foolish," "That will never work," or "Thatís too obvious."

We can learn to recognize this voice of judgment, and have the courage to discount its destructive advice. Remind yourself of what Mark Twain once said: "The man wiht a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds."

To the stage of preparation we can add another, which, because itís very uncomfortable, is often overlooked: frustration. Frustration arises at the point when the rational, analytic mind, searching laboriously for a solution, reaches the limit of its abilities. Says Stanfordís Jim Collins, who teaches creativity to some of the worldís best your businessnesspeople, "If you talk to people who have done really creative things, theyíll tell you about the long hours, the anguish, the frustration, all the preparation before something clicks and bam! You move forward with a great leap. But they canít make a great leap without working their brains out."

Although no one enjoys frustration and despair, people who sustain their creativity over the course of a lifetime do come to accept periods of anguish as necessary parts of the whole creative process. Accepting that there is an inevitable "darkness before the dawn" helps in several ways. When the darkness is seen as a necessary prelude to the creative light, one is less likely to ascribe frustration to personal inadequacy or label it "bad." This more positive view of anxiety can foster a greater willingness to persist in trying to solve a problem, in spite of the frustration. Since evidence suggests that people often fail to solve problems not because the problems are insoluble but because they give up prematurely, persistence can be seen as one of our greatest allies. However, there often comes a point when the wisest course of action is to cease all effort. At this moment, the rational mind "surrenders" to the problem.

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