Creativity is a valuable tool, and even those who aren’t in traditionally creative fields need it. Creativity is just the ability to create something new, be it a story, painting, song, tool, app, or solution to some problem. So how can you be more creative? Here’s seven methods I use to get loads of ideas and find solutions.
Or as I like to call it brain vomit. Julia Cameron writes about morning pages in The Artist’s Way and there are many creatives and professionals who swear by them. Writing morning pages has changed my writing, the way I write, and how I think about writing. I call it brain vomit because you just write whatever; it is a way to clear your head, sort of like blowing your nose in the morning. Don’t expect the writing to be any good – that’s not the point of the exercise. My morning pages are often filled with complaints or I just write about my day. Sometimes I write “in the moment,” that is describe physical sensations and the surrounding environment using the senses. I find that a good way to fully experience even the most banal things like sitting, writing, drinking coffee. I’ve been doing morning pages for over a year now and it has led to some revelations, realizations and aha moments. You don’t need to be a writer for morning pages to benefit you.
Rules and limits
This may seem counterintuitive and I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d tell me I’m wrong. Just hear me out though. Creating something is so filled with possibility, which can overwhelm and scare us straight into inaction. Overwhelm and fear are big creativity killers. So what do I mean by rules and limits? Set up some boundaries for your work or project, such as a time limit or deadline, technical limitations (such as using only a pen and paper, the color blue, etc.), thematic limitations, word count limits. The point of this is to focus. When I set up rules and limits for myself I usually find the words flowing and I have lots of ideas. I’ve found limitations to be really liberating in cooking. My son’s allergies limited us until we started exploring new ways of making things. I even like to give myself challenges when I’m cooking, for example make a cake out of beans. That’s how I came up with the most delicious flourless vegan black bean brownies made of only six ingredients: black beans, plums, cacao or carob, coconut oil, flax seeds, and agave.
I love lists and when I don’t know what to write about or where to go with a project I create idea lists. I let myself go out there and even write things that seem improbable or impossible. Don’t judge, just write out as many ideas as you can think of. In the end you’ll have at least one, if not several, good idea or solution. Lists are simple but also stimulating. Don’t believe me? Try making a list of uses for a fork. Go crazy. Nothing’s impossible.
Put yourself in unfamiliar situations often.
Make the wrong turn on your way home or better yet take a route you’ve never taken. Get lost ON PURPOSE. Do something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. Go to the coffee shop and just sit there alone and drink coffee. Go to a concert or movie you wouldn’t typically consider seeing. Listen to classical music. Read a book you’d never be caught dead reading. Do something you’re afraid of doing. By doing things that are new, uncomfortable, unfamiliar, you’re making new neural connections in the brain. You’re also making the impossible possible and that can be very freeing. Risks – and going outside your comfort zone is taking a risk – can change our perception of ourselves, our world, and reality. I like to take this one step further and reflect, usually in writing, on how challenging myself felt. I usually discover something about myself, and taking particularly big risks reminds me of what I am capable of. The truth is we are infinite beings with infinite potential and possibilities; the only thing limiting us is our ego, mind, and preconceived notions of ourselves.
Some of you are probably doing a double take right now and some of you are nodding knowingly. If you already use Pinterest to get inspired, you can skip this and move on to number 6. If you think Pinterest is just a giant time suck this is for you. Of course, Pinterest can be a total waste of time. You go on to find that one recipe, two hours later you find yourself pinning pictures of your perfect future home. Just as with anything, with Pinterest you need focus and a goal. I use it to pin writing prompts and images that get me writing.
This may not be for everyone, but you won’t know until you try. Collaboration can take on many forms and can depend on your project: you can co-create something with someone else, get feedback on something you created, discuss ideas, get someone else to edit what you wrote. This method is particularly helpful when you feel stuck or want to get a fresh perspective. Others will always bring something new and often unexpected to your project. A bonus: Collaboration has led to some really great friendships for me.
I find walks really relaxing. For some reason walking gets me thinking and I get lots of ideas. So how are mindfulness walks different? Being mindful is just being completely present in the moment, so mindfulness walks are about fully experiencing the walk, being aware of your body and the senses while simultaneously being aware of your surroundings. Mindfulness walks are particularly pleasant in natural environments such as parks and woods. I observe the birds, trees and nature while being completely aware of myself and my emotions. I try to do this with a lightness in my heart and without judgment. You may be asking yourself what’s the point of such an exercise. Well, there are actually two (or possibly many): 1. to quiet the chatter in your head and 2. to sharpen your senses. Mindfulness walks have helped me focus, discover beauty, get better at description, and most importantly have helped me get closer to my inner higher self and my truth.
So what are some ways you stay creative? I’d love to hear your ideas. Share in the comments below.
Disclaimer: There are lots of ways to boost creativity. I am sharing what has worked for me. Some methods work for some and not for others. Unfortunately, there is no magic creativity pill.
Tip: If you find yourself being particularly resistant (or doubtful) of any one of these, that’s the one I’d start with. Resistance is a signal that’s an area you have some work to do. So if you’re reading this list and you’re thinking there’s no way this will work for me, just try it. Try it several times and several ways.