What is Creativity?
Do you ever think that being creative is an ability you either have or you don’t? Think again. There is no such thing as “becoming or being more creative”, you are already a creative being. Our brains are naturally wired for creativity, to explore and question the world around us. However, just like any muscle in our body, it needs exercise to maintain its strength.
The word “creativity” often evokes visions of the ingenious inventor, the savvy entrepreneur, the innovative scientist, the imaginative writer, or an artist – splashing paint all over a canvas. These images do represent a certain kind of creativity, but anyone can cultivate creativity.
By working your creative brain muscles, you can actually cultivate creativity by making a conscious effort to make the mental space that supports it. It’s also important to create physical space for it. Just like grass, creativity needs space to be planted, where it can be routinely watered, and then the greener it gets. This physical space can help you mentally feel more “in the zone” or present when you decide to sit down and embrace your creative thoughts.
Tips for your Physical Space:
Simplify your space. Simplicity and creativity go hand in hand. But it can take some time and energy. There will be lots of sorting and deciding and donating and throwing away. Making space—physical space—can make a huge difference. Decluttering your space can bring new energy to your environment. Start by removing everything from your workspace. Clean out the dust bunnies and start fresh. Add back the necessities – items that you need and are useful. Toss or donate items that you are certain about, and for those that might be inspirational or you aren’t certain about, dedicate one corner, on shelf, one corkboard, or any ONE space to keep a couple around and box the others up for now. Changing up your scenery can do wonders.
Tips for your Mental Space:
Relax. Relax in whatever way is best for you. Engage in that activity that brings you joy; that makes you happy; that soothes you; or that centers you.
Work with your brain, not against it. Think about what works for your brain. Maybe you are most creative when you engage in conversation with another person or a group. Seek out these connections and foster them. Maybe you are most creative when you think out loud. Try recording yourself and use it for reference later on.
Start with the outcome. Visualize, put it on paper, engage in conversation, or whatever works for you to consider the outcome you’re hoping for. Try asking yourself, “What kind of message do I want to be received from this project?” or “What kind of feedback am I hoping for?” Sometimes, starting with the end in mind helps us to naturally get into our creative flow.
Tune into your inner child. Some of you may be wondering how you are a creative being. Imagine the ingenuity and perceptibility of children. Children are a never-ending source of creativity and imagination. This is largely due to the fact that as children, we begin to explore and understand the world around us, through constant questioning of our surroundings. As we get older, our life experiences begin to shape the way we think about the world – we start to put barriers up in our mind around what we think is possible. While it can be easier said than done to tap back into our childlike creativity, it shows that we begin our lives with the power to use our imagination to our creative benefit – we just lose this skill over time. Try to tap into those memories some childhood memories.
Look for inspiration. Look for things that move you emotionally. Pull out an old photo album, people watch at a park, read something inspirational, or listen to music. Whatever you choose to do, try to go in with an open mind. Whatever ideas come up, try not to judge them or ignore them. Sit with them for a moment and encourage yourself to let the creative ideas continue to surface from your being. You never know where some inspiration may come.
Tickle your imagination. Try letting your imagination run its course. Tap into the natural imaginativeness, after all we are all creative beings. You can tune into your imagination by giving yourself permission and time to let your mind wander, to explore, to daydream, and then use the ideas that surface as part of your brainstorming.
Brainstorm on Paper. As you brainstorm, write everything down that comes to mind: random words, phrases, ideas, thoughts… sometimes you might want to circle things and draw lines to connect ideas. When an inspiration hits, follow it. This can allow for you to see an image differently, or allow for you to gain perspective about an event or experience. Try using a blank piece of paper, with no lines. Often times, lined paper can be restricting and leaving you feeling like you have to keep the page straight and organized.
Have a Thirst for Knowledge. A lifelong thirst for knowledge can fuel your creativity. By continually learning and growing, you feed your mind with ideas and expand your thinking. Work to develop both vertical knowledge, which is a deep dive into a particular topic, and horizontal knowledge, which means having a solid amount of understanding in a wide variety of fields. Having a broad range of knowledge in different areas will give you the background to pull new ideas from. But being deeply familiar with one area will give you the insight necessary to innovate within that field.
Reflect. It’s great to immerse yourself in your creativity, especially when your flowing and “in the zone” but it’s also important for them to step back to reflect on what’s happening. If you can reflect and explain something back to yourself, you can also expand on it, reshape it in your own unique vision or integrate your own ideas. Try asking yourself questions like, “How did you come up with the idea for this project?”. This question prompts you to reflect on what was motivating and inspiring.
Take Break to Refresh your Mind. Our natural inclination is to keep working even when we aren’t making headway. We often reach a dead end without even realizing it. Research shows that 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, do something else for a while, and return later on.
Make it a Routine. This might sound contradictory to creativity—it’s all about inspiration right?—but intentionally making time and space for creativity is actually the key. The grass doesn’t get green from the occasional heavy watering. It gets green from regular tending. Creativity is the same: it needs intentional, routine watering.
Fostering a physical and mental space helps your creativity start to flourish and you’ll begin cultivating your creativity in a way that works for you before you know it.
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