What is the first thing you think of when someone asks if you are creative? Many of you probably think, “Me? I’m not creative!” How old were you when you first began to feel that way? Did someone tell you that you were not creative or did society’s love of coloring inside the lines just wear you down?
It turns out that creativity isn’t something you just are or are not born with! You can choose to lead a creative life and here are three things you can do to boost your creativity.
- Spend time doing creative endeavors even though it feels hard. Building your creative muscles is unbelievably similar to working out. You know how the first part of your workout is the hardest? It’s the same with being creative. When I swim, the first 30 minutes is always hard. Some days are tougher than others, but invariably I will just start to feel good, like, “I can do this!” and “Hey, this is kind of fun, I feel strong!”and I look at the clock and realize I’ve been at it for almost exactly 30 minutes! I feel the exact same way when I sit down and start trying to create something. Besides feeling difficult, it often feels downright unpleasant. So, just start doing something, even if you are cutting images out of a magazine and collaging them when you really sat down to paint. Write some Haikus, draw lines with a paint brush or arrange some flowers. You can’t use creativity up. The more you engage in creative activities, the stronger your creative muscles will get, but you have to get past that first 30 minutes!
- Go outside your comfort zone. Do you always drive places using the same route? Meet new people. Expose yourself to new ideas. Part your hair on the other side. Do you get the idea? Doing things a little differently can give you more of a creative boost than you may think. In a Psychology Today article, author Jean Kim, MD says “Travel disrupts your routine and introduces novelty to your brain, which improves cognition and helps reactivate reward circuits. You have to think about how to get through new neighborhoods, new transportation patterns, new customs and rules. Initially, such changes can be stressful and frustrating, as anyone who has dealt with minor annoyances like different toilets or trouble getting change back for large bills knows. But ultimately, your brain can benefit from being put on its toes; according to Brent Crane’s article in The Atlantic, the cognitive flexibility helps stimulate neuroplasticity. This, in turn, can help generate creativity that persists even when travelers return home and helps with innovative idea generation at their jobs.” Although she is talking about talking about travel, the exact same logic applies to all of the examples above.
- Notice things and connect the dots. Steve Jobs said “Creativity is the ability to dream, wonder, and connect disparate ideas.” Creative thinkers don’t usually conjure creative ideas out of thin air. They expose themselves to all sorts of thoughts and ideas and then see connections between things that most people don’t see. Most people don’t see the connections because they don’t expose themselves to enough new and varied experiences or don’t take the time to truly notice things. So either they aren’t exposed to many dots or they don’t take the time to really look at them. What he meant by connecting the dots was seeing connections between seemingly unrelated things, like Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper technology, said he was inspired by getting hit in the eye with a champagne cork and that he modeled his invention after the human eye which blinks intermittently rather than continuously. You can purposely strive to collect dots and stow them away in the back of your mind to connect when the opportunity arises. You know, think outside the box (pun intended.)
As Macklemore says in his song, Ten Thousand Hours, The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint. The greats were great because they’d paint a lot.”