10 Ways to Jump-Start Creativity
There are times I feel duller than a doorknob and can’t think of anything to write (and so I procrastinate and write posts about creativity 😉 ). Creating is not just required for artists and writers though. Creativity is about generating something new – something that wasn’t previously in existence. Creativity is an innate human desire to be original and to make new connections. You may have to call on creativity to figure out how to solve problems (for work, relationships, life, or a pet project) or to acquire new insights. Sometimes when I’m looking for inspiration or hoping to have ideas flow, I try doing any one or a combination of the following things listed below. Most of them are rather counter-intuitive because they aren’t productive, per se, but they can get your mind spinning and your creative webs extruding.
- Take a walk. Not on the treadmill. Outside. It really doesn’t matter where you are. You could be strolling through a national park, a downtown, or a neighborhood green space. Every single time I do this, my head clears and I start drawing new connections and imagining all sorts of back stories as to how things became the way they are.
- Clean your house/office. The reason I say to do this is two-fold. The first is that once your space is cleared and things are tended to, it allows space for new things in your head. The other reason is that things as simple as pushing a broom or scrubbing the bathtub or any physical task that doesn’t really require any mental capacity suddenly lets your mind go wandering freely. That’s why so many people have their best ideas while taking a shower as they are on autopilot.
- Google something random and allow yourself 5-10 minutes to go on a hunt with no particular outcome. Any time you think to yourself, “I wonder…?” Google it and see what random associations you can come up with.
- Use aromatherapy. I love to use a mixture of 5 drops clove, 3 drops bergamot and 2 drops nutmeg that I put in a diffuser. I love this one I got from Amazon.
- Read. I like to read a mixture of non-fiction and fiction. I like the way they stimulate both my left and right side brain and make me start blending the two together. Nearly all creative pursuits are conceived of in the right brain and executed by the left brain. I probably have more time to read than others since I’m a night owl and have a long commute I ride on (and no kids!) but even five minutes can work. Challenge yourself to read authors that engage your brain if you’re seeking creativity. Poetry also works really well and can be taken in in bite-sized pieces. E.E. Cummings Selected Poems is one of my favorites.
- Listen to podcasts. I am absolutely in love with podcasts! I listen to them while I walk or when my eyes are too tired to read. Some of my favorites ones to get me thinking are NPR’s Fresh Air, Stuff You Should Know, and Authors on Tour Live. Occasionally you end up hearing about things you didn’t think you really cared about but all the sudden these questions bubble up and associations are made. For example, I hardly have a musical bone in my body but I love listening to the interviews of musicians on Fresh Air and relate some of their processes to how I approach writing.
- Prepare a meal. There is artistry in food preparation. Not only because of the simple act of chopping, etc. as in #2 but because of the presentation. Even if it’s something as simple as slicing a tomato and adding some salt, hard boiling an egg and cutting it open to reveal the colors and symmetry and slicing an avocado and seeing how the yellow, white, green and red work together to create a palette.
- Meditate. Don’t let meditation scare you. Do it as described in this post. When I’m looking for creativity, I’ll often times do a guided meditation by Meditation Oasis called “Enhance Your Creativity.” Another one I like is “Moodstreams Guided Mediation.” These meditations engage all the senses and when you are finished, your mind is vitalized.
- Journal. I discovered journaling when I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The journaling has a similar two-fold way of spurring creativity as described in #2. It allows you to dump all the random thoughts swimming in your brain on to your page so you are clear to think of something besides the usual thoughts that are bothering you. It’s a place to voice your doubts and fears and make sense of your world. It’s also a place to come up with new ideas and associations and see things in a different way. You can use journaling prompts if that helps. I kind of like this one or this one by Jennifer Laurent.
- Do something new. Sometimes when we do the same things over and over, our neurons get used to taking the super highway and forget to discover new routes. This is not just a metaphorical analogy. I actually take new routes sometimes when I am looking for inspiration. Instead of doing the same loop over and over when you run, try a random new route. Or take the back streets instead of the highway when you drive. Or bike instead of drive. Other new things you can do are signing up for a class, even if it’s an online-type course or tackling a random home fix-it project, even if you don’t think you can solve it.