“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.” — Mary Lou Cook
If you are like me, you may have wondered how to be more creative in the past.
Sometimes we fall into a non-creative and routine-based rut that we would love to get out of.
You do not have to work in the art department to want to be more creative. Creative ideas and solutions that truly provide value are in demand in most fields.
What are some of the ways that you can be more creative in your life and at your work?
“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ” ― Pablo Picasso
1. Set a Realistic Creative Project Deadline
“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.”― Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity
Research shows increased creativity is achieved by having some creative tension and deadlines.
Creative focus and action become more enhanced with deadlines and tension but only to a point.
After that, stress and time pressure have a negative effect on your creative focus.
Without a deadline, we have too much of time freedom and few constraints and we all know how that goes.
2. Take a Short Break From Creative Work
“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” – Edward de Bono
Research shows that attention decreases after 40 minutes of intense brain activity. Now you are entering the realm of diminishing creative returns.
To boost your creativity, take a short break where you can stretch or visit the coffee machine. Perhaps you can chat with someone for a minute and get a game changing idea.
3. Spruce up Your Creative Environment
“For innovation to flourish, organizations must create an environment that fosters creativity; bringing together multi-talented groups of people who work in close collaboration together — exchanging knowledge, ideas and shaping the direction of the future.” —Linda Naiman
Seeing the same stuff at work and at home makes you habituated to your environment.
Spice up your creativity by adding a new item like a painting or something on your desk. Make sure that it stimulates your creative thinking.
If you have any doubts about the environment being important for creativity, ask the creative folks at PIXAR or Google.
4. Take a Short Walk In Nature
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”― Friedrich Nietzsche
Sitting at the desk and staring at your screen not doing anything for you? Take a short walk in nature!
There is nothing that gets the creative juices flowing than getting back to basics and merging with nature.
5. Have a Brainstorming Jam Session With Other Creatives
“The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.”― Robert Henri
Stuck in a creative rut and do not know how to get out? Have a no-criticism brainstorming session with other like minded creatives.
I know that some research shows that brainstorming is not very effective. I beg to differ. I believe that brainstorming works well under certain conditions.
You need to feel like your ideas are valued and there is no one judging and crushing your ideas down. This means that everyone gets to throw their ideas on the wall and see what sticks.
No judgment and no people in management telling everyone what to do. Make it truly about creativity and not about how important people are and hierarchy.
6. Go To The Local Coffee Shop
“But the other thing that makes the coffeehouse important is the architecture of the space. It was a space where people would get together from different backgrounds, different fields of expertise, and share. It was a space, as Matt Ridley talked about, where ideas could have sex. This was their conjugal bed, in a sense — ideas would get together there. And an astonishing number of innovations from this period have a coffeehouse somewhere in their story. – Steven Johnson, TED talk, Where do Good Ideas Come from?
Ideas come and collide with one another and can generate new ideas. In his TED talk, Steven Johnson describes that coffee shops were great idea generation machines. They lead to the period known popularly as The Enlightenment.
According to Johnson, in coffee houses, people got together from different backgrounds. There was the mix-up and sharing of various ideas.
Ideas do not exist in a vacuum. They need to come together in different forms and ways. Instead of having a singular eureka moment, great ideas are more like a network or a mesh. Imagine this mesh coming together and increasing creativity.
The area around Stanford University is a hotbed of innovation and ideas.
This is because of the proximity of people who know and believe that they are innovators. Ideas are coming together, combining and colliding to produce something novel.
Go to the coffee shop for the following reasons:
- To Collide ideas.
- Watch people sip delicious coffee and interact.
- Contemplate the meaning of life over a chai latte.
- Check out the message boards while getting your coffee.
7. Take Up a New Hobby
“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”― Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
Engage and immerse yourself in a new hobby. Get the creative juices flowing by doing activities that you do not normally do.
If you are a kinesthetic person, take up visual stuff like drawing.
If you are a visual person, take up dancing and movement like Tai Chi.
8. Listen To Inspiring Music
“Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”― Kahlil Gibran
I do not know about you but I know that music enhances my creativity. Of course, there may be some music that dampens the creative spirit.
I tend to go towards inspiring instrumental stuff when I want creative inspiration.
Whatever your favorite genre, your mission is to find out if there is music that enhances your creativity. Then listen to more of it.
“Music can change the world because it can change people.”― Bono
9. Take The Bus For a Creative Boost
“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.” — Edward de Bono
When we are driving, our attention is on driving and on the street ahead.
But there is something carefree about a bus ride where you can watch the outside.
Your attention is diffuse and your mind is incubating and wandering.
It is because of its creativity enhancing properties that riding a bus is one of the three B’s of creativity.
Ask any creative person.
10. Give Up And Sleep On It
“I was doing a campaign once for a manufacturer, and I couldn’t think of any ideas, and I was kind of desperate about it. The night before I had to show something to my client I had a dream, an interesting dream. I woke up and for once in my life I wrote it down and went back to sleep Next morning I went to the office and had that dream out into a TV commercial which is still running thirty years after and which has made that particular product the leader in its field.” – David Ogilvy
The second B of the BBB of creativity is your own and comfortable Bed. But make sure that you have notepad and pen handy on the bedside table.
Should you wake up in the middle of the night with a million-dollar idea, you do not want to miss it.
Surrender your creative problem to the power of sleep and the bed. You may wake up refreshed with a new creative solution.
The scientist Kekule saw dancing snakes in his slumber that arranged themselves into a pattern. And thus, the ring structure of benzene was discovered.
11. Make a Mind Map
“Mind Maps are the Meta-language of the human race” -Tony Buzan,
Drawing out a radiating mind map allows associations between unrelated elements.
A mind map is a pictorial or graphics-rich representation of your creative process in action.
The interaction of ideas, problems and branches on the mind map is a creative delight.
12. Take a Relaxing Bath or a Shower
“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.” — Nolan Bushnell
The third B of BBB is taking a bath or a great shower. There is something about the relaxing nature of a bath or a shower that gets the creativity all fired up.
Then take action on the creative idea that you received.
13. Set Up a Prototyping Cart
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” John Cage
This tip is from the innovation company IDEO that I mentioned before. IDEO is a big believer in having a prototyping cart with different materials and odds and ends.
The cart allows eager creatives to put their ideas into motion by creating a rapid prototype.
There is nothing like a quick prototype pieced together by common materials to fire up creativity.
Common materials include empty paper rolls, tape, construction paper, and other stuff .
When you see your creativity in 3D and in action, you get a jolt of creative energy.
14. Use The Power Of Personas
“The real act of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.” – Marcel Proust
If you are an engineer, try becoming an artist in your thought process.
If you are a scientist, try the connector of people persona.
Personas are social masks that you can wear and allow you to see from a completely different perspective.
This gives your creativity a breath of fresh air.
There is nothing like getting some exercise to get your energy flowing and your creative juices moving right along.
Exercise has a host of benefits including releasing feel-good molecules like endorphins.
When you have elevated energy levels and sharp focus, you are allowing your creativity to flourish. Quite simply put, you have the energy to be creative.
16. Read a New Book
“Read deeply. Stay open. Continue to wonder.” ― Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist
If you like reading fiction, try a non-fiction book.
If you like business books, try reading about psychology.
If you like short stories, try reading a long autobiography.
The idea here is to get yourself out a creative rut and to do the opposite of what you have been doing so far.
“Bill Gates (and his successor at Microsoft, Ray Ozzie) are famous for taking annual reading vacations. During the year they deliberately cultivate a stack of reading material—much of it unrelated to their day-to-day focus at Microsoft—and then they take off for a week or two and do a deep dive into the words they’ve stockpiled. By compressing their intake into a matter of days, they give new ideas additional opportunities to network among themselves, for the simple reason that it’s easier to remember something that you read yesterday than it is to remember something you read six months ago.”― Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Natural History of Innovation
17. Set up a Creative Idea Collection or Database: A Box For Each Project
“Creativity is not just for artists. It’s for businesspeople looking for a new way to close a sale; it’s for engineers trying to solve a problem; it’s for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way.”- Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
Darwin had his notebooks.
Twyla Tharp has her boxes for different projects.
Beethoven had his notebooks for the different stages of an idea.
Do you have a system to collect, catalog and retrieve your creative ideas?
Do you retrieve snippets of information that can enhance your creativity?
18 Doodle Away
“We are visual creatures. When you doodle an image that captures the essence of an idea, you not only remember it, but you also help other people understand and act on it – which is generally the point of meetings in the first place.” – Tom Wujec
Research suggests that sketching, and doodling is beneficial for your creativity.
Some people think of doodling as “non-intellectual and pointless.” But the reality is that doodling can provide with new directions in the creative ideation process.
Not to mention that doodling can also provide associations, clearer restructuring and better access to previous ideas.
So, doodle away.
Some work places and schools are not very tolerant of doodling. So exercise some caution and good judgment about the location where you pick to unleash that doodle.
19. Watch a TED talk
“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” — Albert Einstein
TED talks are a huge source of inspiration and diverse ideas and creative treasure that you can access with the click of a button on your computer.
My suggestion would be to watch a diverse array of talks to get ideas and stimulate creativity in different fields.
20. Scrapbooking and Journaling
“Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.”- Natalie Goldberg
The first step in being more creative is understanding how your own unique creative process works.
Like the box of ideas or notebooks, scrapbooks and journals can provide a deeper insight into your own creative process.
When you understand the why, how, what, when of your creative process, you supercharge your creativity.
What better way to do this than journaling and scrapbooking.
21. Go On an Information Fast and An Electronics Fast
“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.” – Danny Kane
Turn off computer screens.
Put the phones on silent or on vibrate.
Turn off the cable TV.
Put the tablet away in your bag.
Give the creative thought process time to bloom by having some screen and electronics free time.
22. Observe and Make a Bug List
“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
What bugs you? What annoys you? What drives you crazy that you would like to improve?
The key to making a bug list is to become observant and then come up with what and why something bugs you.
When you become observant of the world around you, new ideas and processes begin emerging.
“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.”-Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
23. Work on One Thing And Reduce Overwhelm
“Too many choices can overwhelm us and cause us to not choose at all. For businesses, this means that if they offer us too many choices, we may not buy anything.”-Sheena Iyengar, Psychologist and Economist
One quick way to supercharge your creativity is to work on one creative project and give it all you have for a certain period of time.
When I see that nothing is moving forward with my projects, I know that I am working on too much and getting overwhelmed.
I stop, take a deep breath and begin focused work on one project.
24. Allow Yourself To Fail Forward
“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.” – Neil Gaiman
You can be a lot more creative if you allow yourself to fail and move forward by learning and implementing.
The permission to fail is a bitter pill to swallow.
But if you fail fast, frequent, learn and implement, you become an unstoppable creative force.
Allow yourself to be all right with creative discomfort and chaos.
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
25. Set Up Creative Cues or Triggers
“The only journey is the one within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Do you have a ritual that transitions into your creative process.
Have you set up cues or triggers that promote and not diminish your creativity?
For me, grinding coffee and making a fresh cup is one of the main ways that my creative day begins. I have just given permission to myself to jump into writing and creating.
Other cues include having all the creative tools visible and easy to access to begin the creative process.
26. Set Up a Creative Space, a Creative Refuge
“Great art picks up where nature ends.” – Marc Chagall
This goes closely with the triggers and cues that we discussed in the previous idea.
When you set up your creative space, your own creative refuge, you are beckoning the creative powers to grace your life.
Some of you may be mobile and work off your computer in a coffee store.
But whatever your thing is, set up your creative space to enhance creativity.
Make it your own and make it count.
27. Set Up Limitations and Constraints
“Art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.” ― Flannery O’Connor
Contrary to popular belief, limitations enhance the creative process by giving a foothold or a grip.
When you have an overly general and broad idea of what you want to be creative about, it is difficult to be creative.
Creating art in any medium and any topic is too broad to approach meaningfully.
Constraining yourself on paper with watercolors and still fruit life can make you more creative by allowing you to move forward.
28. Allow Flow To Happen
“An artist paints, dances, draws, writes, designs, or acts at the expanding edge of consciousness. We press into the unknown rather than the known. This makes life lovely and lively.” — Julia Cameron
Is the creative process is not challenging enough? Are you not practicing at the edge of your skills or abilities?
If you are not, you will seldom experience what research calls “flow.”
When you stay engaged in the creative process and have a challenging problem to tackle, you may experience intrinsic creative motivation and flow.
29. Play and Nonsense
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” ― Dr. Seuss
Creativity is enhanced by allowing and engaging in a sense of play. Many creative people become very serious and stop enjoying the process.
Remember why you enjoy the creative process and engage in play to be more creative.
“When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do, our work takes on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity.” – Linda Naiman
30. Creative Confidence: Believe In Your Creativity
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
This is a no-brainer. But you would be surprised how many people do not allow themselves to be creative because they are not “the creative type.”
Believe in your creativity.
“The inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.” ― Edith Södergran
31. Produce More Creative Content
“There is a vitality, a life force an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”― Martha Graham
The most highly creative people know a secret. The secret is taking refuge in numbers. They are highly aware that not all the work that they produce is going to become a masterpiece or go viral.
Picasso made upward of 22,000 pieces of art including paintings, ceramics, prints and sculptures in his lifetime. Not all of them are famous.
32. Daydream in Your Rocking Chair
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”― Albert Einstein
Take a break and allow yourself to daydream. Daydreaming in your favorite rocking chair is a wonderful way to allow your creativity to do its thing.
It engages your imagination and takes you into the incubative stage of creativity. This incubative stage is where the magic happens.
33. Sharpen The Creative Saw: Creativity Habits and Skills
“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club” – Jack London
“Sharpen the saw” was one of the 7 habits of the book by Stephen Covey.
The idea for creativity is that you can keep improving your skills to become more creative.
Set up habits that support your creativity and not take away from it.
34. Wabi Sabi and Perfectionism
“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it” – Salvador Dali
A quick way to be more creative is to stop being so perfectionistic. Remember the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi or the highlighting of imperfection and transience.
An example is a vase with a painted crack gets highlighted.
Remember that creativity is messy and you are allowed to be imperfect.
And it all begins with allowing the self to be creatively vulnerable.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”― Brené Brown
35. Connect Things
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” ― Maya Angelou
A quick way to be more creative is to connect and combine things that you would not normally connect.
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” —Steve Jobs
36. Sign up for a New Class Not In Your Field
“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”― Erich Fromm
Sign up for a class that you would not normally sign up for to learn something new.
Try something new and exciting.
See how other points of view work and operate.
Meet interesting people who want to learn.
Cross-pollinate stuff from the new class into your own field.
37. Look at the Small Details and the Big Picture
“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.” ― Joseph Chilton Pearce
You can get a creative boost by looking at the details of a project and then looking at the big picture. When you get fixated on one or the other, you are unable to get new perspectives in the mix.
Zoom in and zoom out.
Look at the forest and the trees.
38. Become Curious Like a Child
“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
When we were children, we were endlessly curious and enthusiastic about creative projects.
We thought we were great creators until someone told us that we were not good enough. Today, take a chance on your creativity and reunite with your creative self.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Be curious.
- Be creative like a child. Access the inner creative child.
“We are all born artists. … Almost everything kids do is art.” — Young-ha Kim
39. Sit In Silence
“Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”- Nikola Tesla
Silence is a great breeding ground for new associations to incubate and come forth. This is valuable to our creative process.
Meditate and sit quietly.
Sit in silence.
Breathe deeply and become mindful of your breath.
Become all right with being alone with your creativity.
40. Break some Rules
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”― Pablo Picasso
Creativity involves trying something new and different. But before you can color outside the lines, you need to color between them.
We need to understand the rules of the genre so well that we can make new associations and break them.
Ask yourself if you have spent enough time and effort learning the tricks of the trade.
If you try to be creative without mastering the rules, you may receive little or nothing to go on with.
41. Find Something that You are Passionate and Enthusiastic About
“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” ― Steve Jobs
More curiosity + More passion +Unbridled interest = More Creativity
Enthusiasm and passion are the undoubted secret sauces of creativity.
If you are not really interested in a project or field, find something new to be creative in but do not deceive yourself.
“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” – Osho
42. Be Prepared to Scratch for Creative Ideas
“Everything is raw material. Everything is relevant. Everything is usable. Everything feeds into my creativity. But without proper preparation, I cannot see it, retain it, and use it.” ― Twyla Tharp
Scratching involves the process of getting inspired for creativity by getting exposed to a lot of inspiring and thought provoking creative materials.
People who are hesitant to get inspired by the work of others find it difficult to get inspired at all.
So go scratching for new ideas. It is a fascinating journey into discovery, creativity and the inspired world of unbridled imagination.
“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”― Jim Jarmusch
Now over to you my dear readers. Did this post inspire you to explore your creativity?