Everybody wants to be more creative.
Creativity is that moment when your ideas come together in just the right way, you may see something that no one else did. Creativity is problem solving, but it’s also strategy, connections and applications of concepts. When we’re on fire creatively, sometimes we don’t know where the original spark came from but we know we like the innovative blaze it ignited.
The problem with creativity is that it’s the hard work of the mind and sometimes the ideas just aren’t there.
We know what makes our bodies tired, but often the mind gets tired in entirely different ways. If we are writing for a living, or hinging our professional success on creativity, then we can’t afford to waste too much time not innovating and creating.
These alone won’t make you creative, but they will bring your mind to the optimum situation where creativity could occur.
Other ideas to set yourself up to be creative.
1. Get your mind off your task. I am a mother of five, so I know all about distractions. It turns out that having my kids come into my office every thirty seconds to show me something insignificant and dull is good for my brain. Distractions can make me more creative. They certainly make me annoyed.
2. Do something logical. Now according to this researcher, the jury is still out on how exactly one brain activity helps the other, but doing logic puzzles, Sudoku or crosswords certainly can’t hurt your creativity. I’d like to think of these logic breaks as cross-training for your mind. If you focus only on inventive thinking, your brain could be need for a rest.
3. Put yourself in a low stakes creative setting. Don’t know what to write next in your novel? Go get your pencils and adult coloring book and veg out. When you are coloring, you are making creative choices, but because they are rather insignificant ones, your brain can take a breather. Maybe after a couple of pages, you can face your writing again.
4. Exercise. This article a University of Georgia study showed how exercise increases memory and analytical thinking. here’s even this series on Youtube called Yoga for creativity
5. Get out of your own head. According to this article from PsychCentral, your overthinking about your task could be the very thing that paralyzes your creativity. It certainly can paralyze the rest of your life. Consider putting projects aside and deliberately putting your mind on something new. This may be all it takes to get fresh perspective.
6. Change the scenery. This thorough article gives lots of examples of how to create novel experiences during your week so that your creativity is encouraged. Even things as simple as altering your commute or rearranging your office can stimulate your brain and make your ideas flow.
7. Go through your old notes. According to this article, “innovation can only ever rearrange what already exists.” I would agree. As storytellers, we’re always remixing old ideas — old character tropes, old plotlines, familiar settings — to make something fresh and hopefully innovating. Your old ideas may not be brilliant on their own, but if they are coupled with your current experience and insight, you may find great inspiration.
8. Try a new juxtaposition. Analogies can be a great way to stimulate creativity. When I was in college, I was introduced to the idea of the synectics model, which is a way of comparing unlike objects or creating fresh analogies to stimulate creativity. This video explains it too. Occasionally I use this (with my original notes from the ’90s) to understand my themes or characters better.
9. Discuss your idea with other creatives or peers. We all know that having someone to trust to bounce ideas off of is helpful. Don’t know any writers? It just so happens that I lead the liveliest writers group on Facebook. You should join us.
10. Make lists. I love, love, love everything that Brain Pickings has to say, but then they did an article on how Ray Bradbury would make lists to stimulate his thinking. Oh! This is perfect! Do what Bradbury does and you could write the next Fahrenheit 451!
11. Meditate. I was totally sold on this idea when I read this: “We can stop wringing our hands and waiting for the muses to fill our minds with novel and useful ideas. The science suggests that we can take an active role in inspiration and that this exercise can help!” I would believe that anytime you pursue mindfulness, you’re going to come out ahead. Not to mention that your stress level decreases, your blood pressure lowers and you feel physically energized.
12. Get organized. You’ve probably read the phrase, “A tidy desk is a sign of a sick mind,” or something along those lines. Maybe you’ve used your disorder as an excuse to be creative. But the good folks at The New York Times have done a little science and they think you should tidy it up if you want to be creative. Now set your timer and get to it. You’ll probably like the way it looks when you’re done.
13. Listen to music. According to this Psychology Today article: “Music not only affects your creative musings but also your energy levels.” But you probably already knew that. You already knew that some music makes you get up and dance. Some puts you in the mood to write. Sometimes music takes you on a memory trip. Music is powerful, so plug in those earbuds. You’ll be inspired in no time.
14. Take a nap. Of all the thing on this list to bolster creativity, THIS IS MY FAVORITE! Our little brain cells need a rest! I’ve always suspected as much, but it’s nice to know that science backs me up when I close the blinds and tell the kids not to bother me for 45 minutes or so.
15. Move forward on the worst idea. So in the 30 seconds I was using to Google all of these suggestions, I couldn’t come up with the documentation to support that moving on the worst idea was a good creative strategy. I still stand by it and this is why: assuming the stakes or low (and really, drafting a novel in this saturated market rarely creates high stakes for anyone) try the worst idea on your list of potential ideas. Move forward. Take a step. See what happens. Either you’ll discover that it’s not such a bad idea after all, or you’ll adjust it and modify it so much, you’ll create more and more ideas and you’ll be recharged by your discovery. It’s a win-win.
16. Read. Of all the things on this list, reading is one that you should be doing anyway. You probably don’t need a reminder that reading feeds your subconscious, increases your vocabulary and knowledge, opens your mind to new ideas and helps you think critically, but I’m going to paste a link in here anyway to make it official.
You can’t specifically turn your creativity on and off like a tap, but you can set your mind up strategically so that it has the better chance of being creative.
Got any more ideas? Send me a comment! I’d love to hear how you’ve become more creative.
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Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward and the author of Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelists on Facebook, an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.