How to learn to be creative

I used to struggle with creativity. I mean, really struggle with it. Which was devastating. It was a genuine blow to my self-image. Like a lot of you, I dream big. I’ve always wanted to achieve wild success, for the products of my mind to transform lives. But it was always a dream, a fantasy, as I had no real way of making that happen.

The truth was, I had plenty of ideas. Ideas come to me. I could stay busy for decades on the ideas I already have, let alone the new ones that fly into my mind. The part I struggled with was getting the ideas out there. I’d be so full of energy and enthusiasm while thinking of the idea. When it came to developing it, even writing down vague notes, that energy bled away. Getting the idea out of my head was a struggle.

Your struggle might be different from mine. Some people are more industrious… but can’t develop ideas to be industrious about. I know how it feels. I know the pain of unrequited creativity all too well.

I’ve come a long way since then. Maintaining a project, any project, would have been a tall order. Yet here I am, developing content at a rate I never dreamed of. Ideas flow from my mind to the screen unhindered. I’m scratching the creative itch like never in my life. I’m crackling with energy. I need to be to put in the hours every day after work. Never have I felt to satisfied.

How did I do it? It helps that, over the years, I’ve developed an obsession with creativity. I study it, research it and experiment with it. I tweak, test and poke it. I read about neuroscience, psychology, successful people, mindsets and philosophy. Over the years, I’ve developed a large body of knowledge on the subject.

Should you do the same? Absolutely. But supposing for a second that you are busy or have different interests, I can share with you the tips and tricks I’ve picked up.

Nurture

If you want to live a creative life, you have to nurture creativity. This is about open your mind up to creative experience and letting the thoughts flow. Creative thinking can’t be willed or forced any more than your height or eye colour. Realising that you have to work with your mind opens up entire mental realms.

  • Fill your workspace with inspiration. Hang beautiful pictures on the walls or tape motivational quotes to your computer. (Why do you think my Twitter account has so many quotes about learning?)
  • Learn how your creativity flows. If you get fired up by conflict, court it – but be smart about it. If not, avoid it during your creating time.
  • Take a moment to appreciate something beautiful each day. Be grateful for what you have. Remember that the world is abundant, teeming with opportunities made especially for you. It will put you in the right frame of mind for creating masterpieces.

Practice

Like all things, creativity is a skill. If you take the time to develop it, you’ll notice the change.

  • Carry a notebook and pen everywhere you go. Phones aren’t fast enough for scribbling random thoughts. Keep paper and pens at key locations – your bedside table, your workspace, your desk at work. If you get an idea, write it down then move on. Revisit your notes when you are free from distractions.
  • I can recommend Choose Yourself by James Altucher for so many reasons. One is his strategy of writing ten ideas a day. Treat your brain like a muscle by stretching beyond its comfort zone. Because, like a muscle, it will grow.
  • Speaking of book recommendations, read Your Creative Brain by Dr Shelley Carson. Practice the exercises for brainsets you are weak in. Practice switching between brainsets. Practice everything.

Energy

The biggest boost to my energy triggered my biggest increase in creativity. Suddenly I was able to work for hours, not minutes. I was producing quality material, not garbage. I was thinking all the time, not feeling frazzled. All because I had the energy to sit there and work, work, work.

  • Fuel well. Your diet determines most of your energy. If you often experience food comas or sugar crashes, you are crippling your creativity. Unique insights are one of the highest quality processes your body can do. It needs fuel it can burn cleanly to reach these peaks.
  • Exercise a little each day. It doesn’t need to be much to give amazing results. Light cardio and weights for half an hour can prime your brain to function superbly. You probably won’t start craving exercise every day until you stop doing it.
  • Look after your mind. Your brain desires rest, sleep, stimulation and a sense of purpose. Among other things. If these fall out of balance, you can endure for a while. If the balance persists, it can send your brainpower crashing.
  • Develop a mantra. Make it action-based and aspirational. Figure out what you want to do, what your ultimate success looks like, and write “I will achieve ”. Hang it in your workspace. Keep it in your wallet. Think of it often. It will give you a sense of purpose and that will drive you. Good TV and a case of the blahs are no match for a sense of purpose.

Focus

Energy without focus is hyperactivity. Focus without energy is passivity. Together, you stride powerfully towards your objectives. Nothing can distract you. Nothing can stop you.

  • Buy decent headphones and listen to binaural beats. Binaural beats send different frequencies to each ear. They throw around claims about elevating your consciousness and giving you incredible focus. Unlike most such claims, these are true. YouTube has many great channels – one I like is Audio Entrainment HQ.
  • If you are struggling, use the Pomodoro technique. Set a timer for, say, 20 minutes. Promise to focus on your task until the timer goes off. No matter how flat you feel, you have 20 minutes of effort in you. When the timer goes off, reward yourself.
  • Make your workspace as distraction-free as possible. Binaural beats help by drowning out sound. You’ll want to be disciplined with your phone, social media and chores that can wait.

Creativity is a skill and a state of mind. You can’t achieve it by forcing it, but you can reach it by following your brain’s rules. You are in control, which gives you the power to cultivate creative thinking.

These techniques work brilliantly, no matter who you are. But have you ever been motivated to innovate, gotten to work and been sucked in by the soul-crushing culture? Most organisations say they like creativity while actively suppressing it. How do you express creativity in a team that kills it?

It takes more than learning creativity. You must also teach it. How to do that is the topic of the next blog post.

This post is part of Creativity Month over at Mindwalker Training.

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