I believe everyone is creative. Some think creativity only applies to art, music, and writing. I think creativity is a part of every task or endeavor in life. As human beings, we are inherently creative. We literally must ‘create’ for our species to survive. These tips can apply to many creative tasks but I will focus on art and writing. Specifically, creating written and visual content for web sites and blogs.
I sometimes have trouble coming up with ideas for new content. The internet, social media, blogs etc. change fast and put a lot of stress on a person's creativity. I get frustrated when my ideas seem stale. I feel like I’m just reusing ideas, and this makes me feel like I’m in a rut. So, how do I get out of this rut and freshen things up? I have four specific techniques that I use to help reinvigorate my creative muscles and recapture that exciting feeling when something special is created.
But first, I want to talk about the brain. The brain is an amazing machine! It loves efficiency. It loves routine. It loves repetitive tasks that it can narrow down into the smallest amount of steps to get the job done. It takes a lot of stress off of the brain when it can rely on previously built efficiencies. Breaking out of those routines and efficiencies requires more work, more brain power, more fuel, and more time. This can take away from other jobs the brain is busy doing like regulating our bodies. Our creation ‘routines’ are no different. The brain loves to put our creativity in well known and well worn pathways. These tips are all about thinking ‘outside the box’ or outside our own well worn pathways. By forcing our brain or mind out of the routine we open ourselves up to new pathways and new ideas.
1. Location location location
Put yourself in a different environment. Literally. If you do most of your thinking at a desk behind a screen like I do, this tip is for you! It’s all about changing things up. Get out from behind your screen and move somewhere else. Go for a walk, get your body moving and some blood flowing. Put yourself in a place where you don’t normally think or ponder. Being in a different place can force your brain out of it’s routine and open up new pathways for thinking.
This can be done whether you work at home or in an office building. If you work at home, go for a walk in a park that you have never been to before. Go to a Starbucks you don’t usually frequent. Get the idea? If you’re in an office building you could go and sit in the lobby. Or, even the lobby in the building next door. It may seem a little odd but it would be ‘different’ and that is what we are going for here. If you’re at home you can even sit in a different spot in your family room than you usually do. A change in perspective even in the same room can force your brain into using different pathways for thinking.
2. Write down your thoughts and let them stew
Brainstorming is a great way to come up with ideas. The twist is to write down all of your thoughts and put them away. Like a good stew, time in the pot can add rich flavor that wasn’t there initially. Come back to those notes in at least 2 days and if you can, wait even longer. Your brain will have moved on to work on other tasks. Those notes will gradually be moved from your short term memory into a more long term type of memory. The action of coming back to your thoughts after a period of time can loosen up some of those pathways in your brain that might be in a rut. This also helps to clarify your thoughts. Ideas that may have held some promise during a brainstorming session may not seem so brilliant after a few days. Those ideas that still resonate are worth continuing with.
3. Let your dreams guide you
I’m sure you have heard about this idea before. Keep a dream journal. The twist here is that you aren’t necessarily trying to understand what your dreams mean. You are looking for new ideas that weren’t available to your conscious mind. If you are a sound sleeper and don’t wake up during the night this probably isn’t for you. However, a lot of people will wake occasionally and have their dreams fresh in their mind for just a few short minutes. Keep a notepad by your bed, sit up and jot down a few quick notes. The next morning you may not have any idea what those notes mean, but you may find some new ideas among the nonsense.
4. The pen is mightier than the keyboard?
In our age of touchscreens and keyboards we have literally lost touch with writing things out by hand. Taking notes with a keyboard and inputting our thoughts directly into a note taking app or word processor is surely more efficient than writing things out longhand. However, many studies have shown that the action of writing with pen and paper helps your brain synthesize the data and remember it better. The touch and feel of writing can create pathways in our brains in a way typing on a keyboard does not. So, in the spirit of ‘changing things up,’ put the keyboard down grab a notepad and start writing. You may have to take a little time later to transpose your thoughts for digital storage but the benefit to your creativity may be worth it.
These are just four ways to revitalize your thought process. There are many, many more. Also, spending a few minutes researching what works for other people may spark an interest in trying more ways to improve your creativity. Now, go create something!
February 10, 2015
While certainly it comes down to personal choice, there are just too many links between motor function and brain stimulation/optimization to ignore the possible link between creativity and writing by hand. Plus I would imagine that for some, the permanence of writing something down by hand, thus losing the ability to easily delete a thought, may be beneficial to the creative process.
February 10, 2015
Thanks David. Great comment!
February 11, 2015
You made some fine points, but I would have liked that you had elaborated more. It may be difficult for young people to understand about the value of writing with pen and paper (nothing to do with nostalgia) since they perhaps have never used it, which is unfortunate. I agree with you on keeping a journal; and I suggest writing for ten minutes each morning, just after waking up and before getting into your usual routines. If necessary set your alarm for ten minutes earlier so you can be sure to do it.