Have you ever asked yourself if you're a naturally creative person? Or have you ever wondered how some people make their creative talents successfully work for them? Me too! The study of creativity has been an endlessly fascinating subject for me. It's complicated and hazy as to what it is and how some people seem to "have it" and others "don't," but I don't buy that
Personally, I believe that we all have a well of boundless creative output, though the difference between the "creative" and the "non-creative" is the ability to tap into this well of creative thought. The key is creative confidence.
For some reasons, most people have had their creative spirit squashed, and they have come to the belief that they don't have what it takes. ‘The Creativity Myth' is to blame. The myth came from the belief that creativity is an intrinsic trait like the natural colour of your hair. The myth is believed by many and commonly takes hold at some point in the school system. One day you start hearing that your ideas just aren't good enough, and inevitably you start to believe it. (Recommended reading; ‘Creative Confidence').
Well…I'm here to tell you those people were wrong and there is good news! You do have what it takes to be a creative thinking person. Keep reading if you would like to know more about the working habits of highly creative people. You might be making some of these habits already! I recommend practicing bringing in the new habits you aren't doing. Let's challenge the way we think and let's view the world through a different lens.
What is creativity?
To talk about creativity, we should start with a definition. My natural instinct is to give you different creative peoples opinion and views on creativity, though; it's such a subjective and opinion that it may do more confusing than clarifying. I believe this is a job for science! And many Neuro-Scientists have done studies on creativity, and what it does/is to the human brain. I came across this quote on creativity in my research for this article, and I like its simplicity. The quote is by Michael Grybko, neuroscience research scientist and engineer from the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington:
"In science, we define ‘creativity' as an idea that is novel, good, and useful. It's a little broader than the Oxford Dictionary's definition, where it's just the ability to create because that doesn't say much. You can create something, and it's not very useful, or it just won't work well."
"Pooling from this wealth of knowledge we store in our brains and making connections between different ideas, we have to solve a new problem, or create, write a new novel — that's what science looks at when we study ‘creativity.' Just to drive home the point, this is very much a function of the brain. There's no need to invoke all that folklore into this. It's our brains doing what they do." (source; Copy blogger)
To me, the essence here is connections. We draw from our vast pool of knowledge and experience. We've have been acquiring this pool of over our entire lives. When we've learned to access this pool we can connect these ideas together to create something that didn't exist before. As mentioned before, what is it that keeps us from accessing our pool of thought? What squashes this creative confidence? Fear. It's the fear of failure, criticism, of looking stupid.
"Seeing something that doesn't exist and then making it so." – Hugh Howey
20 Daily Practices That Inspire Creative Thought
1. Don't Fear "Failure."
Number one on the list because it's the number one reason why creativity is snuffed out. More often than not we fail before we even begin. It's a self-defeating mindset that shuts us down. A question like; "It's not going to be what I had hoped, so what's the point?" Or a thought like; "I'm not good enough to do something like that." is what keeps us from our real potential.
So, cut it out. Stop with the excuses and just go for it. We need failure. Failure is how we develop as humans. Every time you fail you learn a new and treasured piece of knowledge. Failure breeds creativity. (Source; Filmmakers Process)
2. Take Regular Breaks From Work.
Recent studies have shown that you can improve creativity and workflow by taking micro-breaks every hour. We're able to do our best work with regular breaks vs. working for a few hours with no break. It's human nature to lose focus when concentrating on one task for too long. The brain needs a small amount of stimulation (distraction) to get creative thought flowing.
3. Go For Walks.
Walking is excellent stimulation for the mind because we thrive on new surroundings and faces. Walking also helps the mind to unhinge from a particular thought pattern and settle into a relaxed state. Researchers at Stanford University put this to the test and had several students complete creativity tests sitting at a desk. The students then did the same test while walking at a comfortable pace on a treadmill. "Novel and appropriate" creative ideas increased by as much as 60%! (Source; NY Times)
Getting good nights sleep is important for many reasons. Without it, our brains have difficulty solving problems, and we experience a mental block. Sleep is when your subconscious processes all the information you received during the day. Dreaming is when you make connections to things you didn't even know were there. If you think about it, dreaming is the essence of creative work itself. It's like preparation for creation. Try to get 8 hours of sleep a night.
5. Practice Mindfulness: Meditate.
Stress is an enemy to creativity. It shuts it down. A clear, focused and effortless mind is the way to go. Meditation will also reduce anxiety/stress, improve memory and emotional well-being. Observe tension and let it go. Don't forget to breathe deeply.
Anyone can do it at any time. Sit quietly for 10-20 min and focus on breathing. Observe thoughts as they enter your mind. Acknowledge them and then let them pass. Don't be alarmed by the thoughts you have. Breath, observe and let go. Your mind will clear, breathing will slow and weight will be lifted off your shoulders.
Possibilities are endless and everywhere. Being acutely aware of your surroundings has positive effects on creativity, mental health, and productivity. How does one go about learning the powers of observation? Start by paying attention to details. Observe your actions and be mindful of what you're doing any why. Notice the colours and shapes of the things surrounding you. Attention to small details is an excellent way to begin training your mind to see things differently.
Another easy exercise is taking a different route to work or school. Soak in the new surroundings and keep a notebook to jot down these new findings. You'll be able to call upon this information in interesting ways in the future. Particularly useful for writers and lyricists!
7. Keep a Journal.
As previously mentioned, it's an excellent idea to keep a journal and pen on you for whenever inspiration strikes. Nothing is more frustrating than letting a good idea escape you. Maintaining a journal will also give you perspective on how your mind works.
Despite what you hear in school or from parents daydreaming is not a waste of time! Letting your mind wander can be beneficial for self-awareness, reflection on experiences, future planning, self-development, and of course incubation of creative ideas. A five min daydreaming break every hour is healthy. Do a small mindless task (doodle, walk, clean) for five min and just let your mind wander.
9. Spend Time By Yourself.
Find comfort in being alone. Time spent in reflective solitude activates a network of the brain that is responsible for imagination. When in the outside world we suppress our imaginations and enter a sort of executive mode. We need space to reflect and find the meaning of our experiences. Don't view time alone as being anti-social. It's good practice for an active inner creative voice.
Remaining playful throughout your life is one of the treasures life has to offer. Children are excellent at this because they don't know any better! Creativity hasn't been eradicated from their lives yet. They experiment and try new and strange ideas with no fear of judgment. Finding childlike play in your work and home life is a game changer. With play in our lives, we can have experiences of pure joy, learning, and inspiration without the fear of judgment and failure.
11. Work Flexible Hours.
Not everyone has his or her best ideas from 9 am – 5 pm. Some work best in the early morning and others best in the middle of the night when most of us are asleep. Experiment by working at different times to find how you work best. Listen to your internal clock.
12. Take Risks.
Risk taking is a pillar of creativity. It's crucial. Always challenging yourself to new and uncertain situations will force you to exercise creative thought on how to solve complex problems and your abilities to learn quickly will be strengthened.
Not all risk is made equal. There are different types of risk (artistic, professional, financial, etc.) and they come in various sizes. I recommend taking risks that are stable, responsible and minimized. Keep a steady source of income coming in when trying out a new endeavour whether it be artistic or business. Once you're up and rolling get some feedback from the outside world. Get a sense of how people are reacting to it before quitting your day job and going full time. Start small and build it from that, who knows what could become of it. (source, Big Think)
13. Keep An Open Mind.
Question your observations before judging and have an open mind to new experiences and people. Research has backed up that the eagerness to learn has a huge impact on creative work. Try broadening your horizons with as many different expressive mediums as possible. Or it can even be as simple as changing up your routine by taking a different route home from work. An open mind gives you endless possible connections to make and patterns to recognize.
Knowledge is power. Gathering information for creativity is like collecting food for survival. Continuously indulge your curiosity by asking questions, getting hands-on experience, and reading books on the things that you find interesting.
15. Follow Passions.
Passions are what move us the most in life and following them throughout our lives gives us great fulfillment and joy. We often hear the vague phrase "Follow your passion" overused regarding the general guidance people give on how to live your life, but we must air with caution when heeding this advice. It's not wise to pursue all of your passions blindly. Do what makes sense and what truly resonates within you.
16. Turn Negatives Into Positives.
We can't deny that this world is full of negativity. Seemingly, everywhere we turn there are negative people and situations. Fortunately, out of pain and adversity come great strides in creative growth. Suffering and tragedy can break down beliefs and our perceived chosen life path, only to build itself back up with re-structured beliefs and clarity for our lives. We can realign ourselves with what is truly meaningful. Helping us to grow as human beings and realize our true potential.
17. Stay Positive
Staying positive ties into our last practice. Positivity can be very challenging in the world we live in, but there are lots of ways to accomplish this. Have an attitude of gratitude. Think of the things you're thankful for. Personally, I like thinking about the opportunity we have to pursue creative endeavors. Simply, living in a country where we are free to express ourselves any way we choose is a pretty awesome thing!
Take the time out of every day to do a positive thing for you. Go to the gym, eat healthy food or most importantly, surround yourself with other happy and positive people.
18. Have a "Yes" Mentality.
Consider saying yes to everything (within reason). Say, "yes" even when you don't know the outcome. Opportunities come from the "yes" mentality. Give yourself the strength to say yes and allow yourself to be surprised. You may like what you find!
19. Lose Track Of Time.
You've probably heard it referred to as the "flow" or "zone". When fully immersed in a creative activity you enjoy time stops and before you know it hours have passed. Being in a flow state is good for you because it means you're in on an effortless plane of concentration and calmness. Accessing the flow state on demand can be done with practice. Put in the practice every day with the creative activity of your choice; Music, painting, dance, etc. Accessing the "flow state."
20. Have Confidence.
As I explained in the intro to this post, I believe that everyone can be creative, but not everyone follows through with his or her creative side. Why? I believe it's a lack of confidence. The confidence they once possessed as a child has been slowly crushed over the years. You have to believe in your ideas and follow through with them. To be cliché for a moment, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take". You can't have the confidence to succeed without having the capacity to fail. I recommend being open to "negative" feedback and criticism. Allow it to make you better, but don't let it deter you. Use your creative confidence to remain on the track that YOU believe in.
"Giving the world something it didn't know it was missing." – Daniel Pink
I hope this post has helped to inspire your daily life with the creative confidence you've always desired. As always, please let me know your thoughts in the comment section. If you liked what you read please like and share!