Permission to Enter the Magic Layer

At a certain point in any kind of work, creativity is necessary. Even in the stoogiest of corporate stooge jobs, at some point, you have to make something appear out of nothing. Whether it’s writing a report, preparing a presentation or planning strategy, at some point we all tap into our creative selves.

At first, staring at a blank page and a blinking cursor and having to just start is terrifying. Usually, this is when procrastination kicks in as we try our best to avoid facing this creative chasm.

Shelley Brown, founder of content strategy firm Pybop coined the term “the magic layer” in reference to the work that goes into creating client deliverables. Although Shelley’s post is specifically about content strategy and bespoke client work, the idea of a “magic layer” applies to all knowledge work. It’s about taking existing information and data and ending up with something that didn’t exist before that’s valuable.

The definition of knowledge work is hazy but creativity and self-direction is always central. At some point, knowledge workers create value where none existed before. This value comes from synthesizing prior experience, education and research and combining it with the specific job at hand. Doing this requires creativity, no different than “pure” creative pursuits like painting, drawing, music or dance.

It’s the perceived difference between types or modes of creativity that creates the barrier to productivity. Being creative in a business or work setting is no different than being artistically creative. Argue with me if you want, but it’s really the same. I’m sure there is a neurological difference (break out the fMRI machine), but I believe that in practice there is no difference. Accepting this idea and applying it your work is liberating. You have permission to be creative.

The next time that you’re procrastinating, remember that you’re probably getting close to the magic layer. Don’t be afraid, dive right in.