Creativity is problem solving with style. Though not a swearing man, I’m always sorely tempted when I hear others say “I’m not creative” as though that self-diagnosis were an unwitting excuse to live short of one’s potential. One of the primary differences between humans and other animals is our ability to solve problems, to think and act creatively. Whether we realize it or not, our minds are instinctively wired to engineer creative solutions.
Whether you’re a writer, photographer, blogger, designer, programmer, parent, business owner, sales rep, etc., you perform acts of creativity every day — whether you realize it or not. Once you realize how often you solve problems and use creative means to accomplish that task, you’ll see that you’re every bit as creative as a classical artist, graphic designer, etc.
When we hire new employees we’re quick to tell them that they’re a problem solver first, and a graphic designer second, for example. Technical skills are great, but knowing how to use them to solve problems and generate creative solutions is greater.
Here are a few tips on developing your own creativity. They’re in no particular order and if practiced, can make a tremendous difference in fostering creativity.
* Be constantly observant of creative works. Look for it everywhere: on billboards, magazine ads, video games, commercials, movies, landscaping, interior design, furniture, wallpaper, music . . . everything!
* Be a student of EVERYTHING around you.
* Don’t consume and create at the same time – keep the processes separate.
* Know when to shut out the outside world.
* Start small. Sometimes the small and simple ideas give way to more significant breakthroughs.
* Scribble, sketch . . . throw spaghetti at the wall. Go with where your mind and heart is telling you to go, no matter how crappy things look at first.
* Don’t be afraid to start over. Often.
* Embrace criticism as an opportunity for growth.
* Teach others and you’ll learn.
* Turn your assumptions of how things “should be” upside-down, see things in new ways.
* Apply things in other fields to your field, in ways not done before.
* Explore a genre you’re not excited about. It could be a movie, book, music, art . . . whatever. Identify 10 things that make that piece work – write it down and post it where you’ll see it every day for at least a month.
* Keep a pocket journal with you at all times and write ideas or flashes of insight down immediately.
* Play. Ignore the social conventions that tell you as an adult you should be stiff and uninteresting.
* Play with kids. Don’t just watch them playing, get inside their world. See what they see, believe what they believe – and you’ll be reintroduced to your inner child; a person with no boundaries or conventions.
* Go outside and move! See new things, talk to new people.
* Get adequate sleep. Sleep debt kills creativity.
* Don’t force it. Relax and play, it will start to flow.
* Let your mind wander. Allow distractions, when you’re looking for inspiration.
* Know when and how to stop distractions when you create.
* Create when you’re excited.
* When you’re not, find something else to be excited about.
* Don’t be afraid to be stupid and silly.
* The quality of an idea is better than the size of it. “Big ideas” are deceptive and often illusory. Small, quality ideas are actionable and affect change in incremental ways. You’ll be surprised how one creative idea implemented will beget another creative solution.
* Constantly improve your work.
* When something is killing your creativity, get rid of it. Remember: feed the solution, starve the problem.
* Surround yourself with like-minded visionaries.