Cultivating creativity is something every creative should know! Whether you’re a writer, inventor, designer, musician or artist, you’ll know how marvellous it is to effortlessly create. Amazing as that can feel, it’s a terrible feeling when you attempt to draw inspiration from your creative well and come up dry. But of course, we’re not at the mercy of our own creativity! No, we must exercise, train and focus on cultivating creativity in our own minds. Knowing when to care, cull or challenge it.
1. Cautious of Consumption
We are truly living in the golden age of content. Each day there are over 300 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube every minute. Last year Netflix announced that they were set to release 700 original TV shows and 80 original films! But as creatives, we have to be cautious about how much intellectual property we allow into our brain. Maintaining a healthy blank space for generating our own ideas is essential. A personal goal of mine at the end of 2017 was to create more content than I was consuming. Even though I didn’t meet that goal by the beginning of 2018, it’s an ethos I’ve carried with me into 2019.
In short, have you ever tried cooking a meal on a full stomach? It’s hard to get excited about your dish.
2. Best of both Hemispheres
We’ve all heard the theory that right-brained people are more creative while left-brained people are more analytical. True creativity actually comes from using both sides of your brain together.
Cultivating creativity requires a whole-brained approach because it needs lateral thinking, in other words thinking about things in new ways. When we “think outside the box,” we devise fresh approaches to solving problems and meeting challenges.
Build up your creative brain power by using both hemispheres. Practising tasks that require imagination and information. Completing daily activities like writing your name or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand. Leonardo da Vinci was said to practice drawing with both hands, and famously wrote notes in mirror script.
3. Take breaks to “switch on” your creative side.
Have you ever been hard at work at a task that required problem-solving, feeling like you’re on a roll, only to realize later your ideas were mostly redundant and uninspired?
If you’re having trouble, try approaching a problem from a different perspective. It may help to work backwards, starting with the solution, or to turn a problem on its head and conceptualize it from a different angle. I find our natural inclination is to keep working on a problem even when we aren’t making headway. When working on an idea that requires creativity, we often reach a dead end without realizing it. It’s crucial to take breaks at regular intervals to give your mind a chance to refresh.
Set a timer, and when it goes off, switch tasks. Do something else for a while, and then return to your original task. Doing this will help you switch on your creativity and keep your problem-solving fresh, productive and innovative.
4. Let your imagination run wild.
One of the best methods to cultivate creativity is tapping into your natural childhood imaginativeness and ingenuity. We loved to play and pretend as kids. We learned how to create whimsical worlds where anything was possible. We challenged ourselves daily with games of skill.
Give yourself time to let your mind wander, to explore and daydream. Use the ideas that surface as part of your brainstorming. Challenge yourself with creative exercises, such as doodling in a sketchbook or writing flash fiction.
Keep a journal of your ideas, however fantastical or impractical they might be. Giving your mind time to dream and problem-solve is a great way to build your creative muscle.
If you cultivate a mind that is imaginative, open to all possibilities, balanced, full of knowledge and refreshed frequently, your genius and creativity will start to flourish.
5. Challenge conventional brainstorming.
Mind maps, word association, think tank tasks, they’re all common techniques we’re familiar with when it comes to creative channelling. But just as your ideas evolve so too must your strategies for being more creative. Surprisingly after decades of research, groups are inferior to individuals when it comes to creativity. While this may be true, it doesn’t mean we should abandon team idea generation. On the contrary, we just have to work in such a way that its effective for us. What works for one may not work for another.
6. Less isn’t more. MORE is more!
Less isn’t more. MORE is more!
There’s evidence that if you’re asked to come up with a few great ideas, you might self-censor, fearing that your offerings aren’t good enough to be that ‘one magical one idea to rule them all.’ Instead, let yourself conjure up as many creative thoughts as possible before you consider the strongest among them.
7. Make it fun, but don’t force it.
A Positive mood increases creative performance as well as the efficiency of which we work seems like a no brainer. But we can’t be our most creative selves all day every day, and that’s okay. It is far more valuable to use that time on menial tasks or chores than trying to force the creativity out of yourself.
Similarly, people who have been offered more positive (as opposed to negative) feedback are more likely to give helpful hints to others.