The Unexpected Secret to Maintaining Creative Energy

iknowthatvoiceWe’ve all experienced it. A group is effectively collaborating, tossing ideas back and forth like ping-pong balls when a self-appointed devil’s advocate throws a “bad idea” bomb. Right then, all the energy leaves the room. People put their walls back up and the sharing stops. As a former grenade launcher, I’ve been an eyewitness to many of these levity letdowns but it wasn’t until I became a facilitator that I realized what was actually happening.

In the documentary, I Know That Voice!, legendary voice actors talk about their craft, their creative process and their community. The film, available now on Netflix, includes scenes of voice directors talking about how they get great work out of these great talents. At one point, voice director Charlie Adler gives his perspective on doing line readings for his actors.

“Part of what makes the work so thrilling is not squashing the energy in the room, keeping the actors engaged, excited and spontaneous while balancing what needs to happen in the room…without anyone feeling dishonored.”

Charlie Adler
Voice Actor and Director

And right there, out of the mouth of the Hamburgler,  is the secret to maintaining creative energy. Honor. You don’t have to think the idea is a keeper to honor the intention or to honor the person offering the idea. Ideas are gifts. Offering an idea is a moment of vulnerability and risk. We should receive them with gratitude, creating a safe space for them, even if, upon later evaluation, we might choose to, um, regift them.

Recently, I started to include a blank sheet of paper in my Brainshower workshop folders. At the beginning of the session I have everyone wad up the paper into a ball. They are then instructed that whenever someone dishonors them in the session, they are allowed to lob the paper ball in that direction. It’s a not-so-subtle message to the naysayers in the room to pour some of that cold water in their bucket into their half-empty glasses instead.