Time and again, I’ve heard friends, family, and colleagues say, “I never thought of it that way,” “I’m not the artistic type,” or the dreaded “I’m just not a creative person.”
Now, if you will please excuse me while I go screaming into the void.
Sorry about that. It’s just that whenever I hear someone say such disheartening things, a small yet important piece of my soul shrivels up and dies. Hyperbolic? Maybe, but we’re talking about creativity and I’m allowed to do that.
3 Ways to Keep Yourself Creative
Why do people think they aren’t creative? Did someone tell them so? Were they discouraged as a child? All of these claims come from a very basic misunderstanding about what creativity is.
1. Think of Creativity as a Muscle
Like most things in life, creativity is not something most people inherently possess. Getting creative takes exercise and discipline similar to the way you would get in better physical shape. There are actually exercises you can use that will build that “creativity muscle,” or the Neural Network of our brain.
Thought exercises are a great way to stimulate your creative thinking. Prompts help to open a door into imaginative thinking by creating an open-ended scenario for which your brain must find an ending or solution.
Examples might include an open-ended sentence like: “I never saw it coming, but before I knew it…” or an image like a photograph of a nautilus shell’s multi-chambered spiral that might spur the imagination to fill in context. Regardless of the medium or application, whether it be in creative writing, visual art, performance, or even problem solving at the office – giving yourself a daily prompt will enhance your brain’s capability to think creatively, reinforce neural highways, and give your “creativity muscle” a good work out.
2. Always Learn
Learning how to be creative is not something you can read about, its something that you have to go out and experience. This could include reading a novel, visiting a museum, or watching a ballet. Often times, in order to learn what we like aesthetically, we have to go forth and observe the aesthetic others have created. This is important when thinking about how to be creative because the ultimate goal of creativity is to create something.
You wouldn’t attempt to bake a cake before ever tasting that flavor to see if you liked it, would you? Well, if you’re like me and you love all cakes, maybe you would. But the point still stands—learning by observing the work of others will offer an invaluable cache of information about what you like and what you want to create, as well as what other’s like. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet was based on the Norse legend of Ur Hamlet, while Michael Creighton’s Jurassic Park was based off of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It should come as no surprise that all creative work is ultimately built upon something else.
Inspiration, the thing to which most people ascribe imagination and creativity, has long been thought of as a divine entity. The Greeks had the Muses and later Christians had the Holy Spirit. To be inspired into action, creation, and speech is indeed a wondrous event. Keep your mind open to inspiration because you never know when that wisp of a thought might lead to your greatest breakthrough.
3. Incorporate Creativity into Your Routine
None of these steps can function as a one-and-done fix to a creative dry spell. Like training for a marathon, flexing your “creative muscle” will require a daily routine. As seen in the recommendations above, a routine that promotes creative thought includes daily thought exercises and seeking out creative experiences to learn from.
There is a misconception that creative people are spontaneous and don't adhere to a routine, but this is simply untrue. Some of history’s most creative people such as Thomas Jefferson, Pablo Picasso, and Maya Angelou had stringent routines that they practiced everyday.
So you want to get creative, huh? Well, the best way to get creative is to live creatively.
Read The Land of Imagination: Part II here.
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