Don't do you, boo.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about brainstorming and creativity in general. Probably because it’s January, it still gets dark too damn early, and it’s been cold and grey -- all elements that make one hit a creative plateau. Or at least make me hit one.

I’m feeling the need to reboot on many levels, and really want to come at creativity a little differently in this still new year.

It’s well documented that getting out of your comfort zone is a sure way to get you thinking differently. And while I consider myself “a creative” and a welcomer of change, I still have my comfort zones and I feel as though I've gotten, well, too comfortable in them.

One of those cozy spots for me is minimalism. I love minimalist graphic design. I love sparse writing. Even my personality is minimalist — I’m quiet and reflective, and say only what’s needed, nothing more. Look in my closet, and everything is black. And while you will have to pry my black skinny jeans from my cold dead hands, it dawned on me that I should explore the world of maximalism a little more.

No, I won't be swapping my pile of plain black T-shirts for billowy multi-coloured blouses. What are you? A psychopath? What I do want to do is explore the type of writers, painters, and filmmakers I'm not normally drawn to. On top of that, I want to dig deeper and find who's not being included in those canons.

I'm a firm believer in exploring outside of one's lived experience. For the past year or so, I've been reading books only by people of colour. In a similar vein, throughout 2013, Anil Dash consciously spent the entire year RTing only women on Twitter.

While Dash's experiment harks to my previous post re. listening to the marginalized, engaging in this sort of behaviour not only opens your mind to different perspectives, but also breeds creative thinking. Haven't you heard that habit and convention kill creativity?

It's hard to get out of that box sometimes.

It's hard to get out of that box sometimes.

If you consider yourself a creative, why are you doing the same thing every day? What books and magazines are you most often buying? Switch them up. What movies and TV shows are you most often watching? Bet they centre white male Western/North American ideals. Get out of that box already! If you're a guy, why not read only women for a year, or watch films directed by women? I'm considering pushing my authors-of-colour-only policy to one which includes only women of colour.

Yes, I'm a woman, so how does only reading women push my creative boundaries? Because men are the dominant culture, and when it comes to anything dominated by women, white women come out on top. Hence, I want to explore the experiences of women of colour -- a world I don't know well, even though I have diverse friends, because it's not the world I immediately live in.

If you're a writer, draw. If you're a painter, sculpt. Techie? Spend an afternoon gadget-free. Monolingual? Learn some basics in a new language. Scratch that travel itch, even if your wallet won't allow it -- check out that neighbourhood on the opposite end of town. Get creative with getting creative; that's part of the fun.

As Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire say in Wired to Create, "Creativity benefits from an outsiders' mind-set."

Get comfortable with uncomfortable.

Disclaimer: Every instance of "we" means "white people"

White people, we need to stop acting like being called racist is the most offensive thing anyone could do to us. We've all experienced the reaction to it. The sting. The heat in the face. The knot twist in the stomach. The immediate and incredulous, "No, I'm not!"

But this is faux outrage, my peeps. We've been socialized, especially those of us who consider ourselves liberal and progressive (pssst, we're often the worst), to take great offense to this.

Socialization is a hell of a drug, though. It makes us centre whiteness. We centre our hurt feelings from being called racist over the feelings of those who are victimized by racism. But guess whose feelings are legitimately more hurt? Oh, and by the way, there's no such thing as reverse racism. I used to believe in it, but we made that up to protect whiteness, too.

We think because we don't run the streets screaming the n-word we're not racist. We are.

We think we don't see colour. We do.

Claiming to not see colour is a form of erasure. 

Claiming to not see colour is a form of erasure. 

We don't do people of colour any favours by skipping around saying, "La, la, la, I don't see colour." I don't know when this trend started -- I used to do it myself -- but it's a form of liberal bulldozing. At some point we decided it proved our inclusive non-racism, but we don't get to decide what makes a marginalized person feel included; they decide. I know. It's uncomfortable to let go of those reins. We've been socialized to have a tight grip on them.

We know what colour shirt we put on today. We know when we're speaking to a black person or an Asian person. Pretending we don't is another act in a long list of dismissive behaviour.

We're maybe just starting to get comfortable with acknowledging our white privilege, but we're not yet comfortable acknowledging our complicity in it. It's time to suck it up.

Defensiveness is a habit. Notice when you're feeling the walls of defense come up. It's a choice to raise the fortress up or to wheel those walls back down. Acknowledge the discomfort and sit in it for a bit. Analyze it. Without reacting, listen to really uncomfortable things people of colour have to say about white people. You'll see the myriad ways we oppress, even when our intentions are good (see above re. "I don't see colour"). You'll see everything with a different lens, a better, clearer lens, and you'll consciously work to not be oppressive.

We'll always have blind spots. Release the tendency to take it personally when we get called out on them. Instead, get uncomfortable. 

So something I'm uncomfortable with right now is pointing out what people of colour have been pointing out for centuries. They're exhausted by constantly bringing attention to their oppression, only to be ignored, and then to see a white person lauded for speaking out. 

For some reason, though, white people listen more to white people. Just like men listen more to men who speak out about sexism. As a woman, I appreciate men who call out other men on their sh*t, but I also feel a lot of frustration for being ignored when I call it out.

We listen more to oppressors than we do the oppressed. We need to unlearn this. There are so many journalists, activists, academics, writers, and laypeople of colour beating loudly on this drum on social media, much more eloquently than I can. It's important to hear their experience in their own words over mine. I urge you to find them, sit and listen to them, learn from them, boost them, and financially support them. They're the ones who started this conversation.

Most importantly, get comfortable with doing the uncomfortable internal work we all need to do.