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How to be more creative
By Gary Bloomer
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Creativity is a skill you can hone and encourage, even if you think don't have a creative bone in your body.
If you take the time to adjust your thinking and attitudes towards the process, thinking creatively becomes easier.
But first, an embarrassing confession.
I’m often naked when this happens.
What I mean by that is that for me, it often happens in the shower.
For others, it happens while they’re jogging.
Or walking their dog.
Or doing the dishes.
Or gazing into space.
Some call it their muse.
Others refer to it as Lady Luck.
For others it’s just the moment when they have a great idea.
The moment when a stunning realization sweeps across their mind.
Whatever you call it, our creativity is empowering.
Our creativity is part of what makes us human.
Every building, recorded image, tool, machine, and technological advancement, from the tiniest thing to the largest has come about because of human creativity.
The simple truth is that without creativity, humanity as we understand it today probably wouldn't exist.
Creativity has given us engineering, art, the written and printed word, music, storytelling, science, mathematics, dance, and countless other experiences, traits, advancements, and qualities that improve or enhance our lives in countless ways.
So where does creativity come from and why do some of us believe we are inherently uncreative?
You don't have to be proficient as a musician or an artist to be deemed creative.
We're all born with innate creative abilities and traits, it's just that for many of us, we never get the chance to explore them let alone
to realize them.
But that point alone shouldn't prevent us from exploring our creativity, nor should it deny us some kind of creative outlet.
It's not necessary to be a talented musician to make music. It's not necessary to be a great artist or a great writer to make art or to write prose. All that is necessary to be creative is a willingness to express some form of creativity.
Creative ideas can strike at any moment. Often, while we’re doing something else, and frequently, while we’re absorbed in a task that’s removed from any reference to the original problem we’re trying to solve.
Who knows when or how that sudden spark of creative genius will strike? It can happen at any time. It’s that “Aha!” moment!
It’s when creative brilliance whispers in your ear: “You know what’d be great right now … THIS!” And as if from nowhere, you find yourself awash with inspiration.
Sadly, and at times, rather vexingly, creative brilliance often happens at a time and in a place where you’re least equipped to capture it, record it, or take advantage of it. As I've found to my cost, it's not practical to keep a notepad in the shower.
However, with a little planning and preparation, it’s possible to record those moments of sudden, brilliant creativity so that you can take advantage of them.
A certain amount of creative insight comes to you when you least expect it because while you've been ignoring the issue, deep inside the neural pathways of your brain, your super subconscious mind has been hard at work assessing the problem at hand.
The super subconscious?
Yes, it's a thing and no, I'm not making it up.
Our day-to-day ability to observe, reason, problems, and to make choices and decisions is all governed by our conscious mind: the mind we use for awareness.
Beneath our conscious mind there is our subconscious mind,
which records everything we think and feel. We tap into this area
of our brain when we dream and when we imagine.
You may not be able to fully describe your subconscious mind, but you're aware of it, almost like seeing part of someone's face across
a crowded room, or of partially hearing a piece of music that's familiar but the title of which you can't quite put your finger on.
Beneath our subconscious mind is the super subconscious mind, and it's in this area of the brain that deep-seated problem solving takes place, even when you're not fully focusing on the problem at hand.
I'm pretty sure that it's in this part of our brain that creativity is sparked and in which those "Aha!" moments we get happen as a result of all kinds of neural connections and pathways firing and wiring.
I suggest though there at least three other levels of consciousness that interconnect with the three levels outlined above. Those three other levels are self talk, imagination, and intuition.
I know several people who do their best creative thinking while walking. I know of other people who think best while taking a bath.
For others it's vigorous exercise that gets their creative wires crossing.
In terms of tapping into the vein of your creativity, you need to
find what works for you: perhaps it's through reading, or when you're knitting, or doing a crossword puzzle, or while you're lost in prayer or while you're taking a nap.
While these places and spaces may seem obvious and natural, many people disregard them as too simplistic, believing instead that true inspiration needs to come from something deeper.
Perhaps they're right. Who knows?
In terms of a page layout for design or logo work, I find I'm most creative when I'm doodling.
I've usually got at least one piece of paper in my pocket and I seldom go anywhere without something to write with.
For writing, I work best early in the morning or when I have nothing else to distract me.
Whatever that right time and place is for you, identify it and use
it to your advantage. Many people ignore this advice because they believe the creative process needs to be hard work.
Often, I carry a notebook with me and you'll commonly find me sitting in a bookshop, scribbling notes as idea come to me while
I'm glancing through a magazine or people watching.
I've also learned to keep a note pad and a pen next to the bed so that if I get a brilliant idea in the middle of the night (these things frequently wake me from the deepest sleep), I'll have something to record it on.
This back fires from time to time as happened several years ago when a brilliant thought woke me up in the small hours.
I wrote it down, fell asleep again and in the morning, as I recalled this brilliant idea, when I rushed to the scrap of paper I've written my revelation on, all that was written there in a rather scrawled hand in large capital letters was the word "YES"! So, it doesn't always help.
What else can you do to help your creative thinking?
If you're a writer, just write any old stuff: random words, snippets of conversation, nonsense words, new words. The trick here is the break established patterns and to run entrenched bias thinking off the rails.
If you're an artist, doodling and scribbling random things can
get you looking at the world in a different way. I often find myself doodling faces, spirals, flowers, and leaves. I have no idea why, they just seem like pleasing shapes.
While doing a foundation course in art and design when I was 18, the course leader had my fellow students and I sketching, crafting, and adapting cardboard boxes for three months.
While I didn't appreciate the exercise at the time, looking back is gave me a deeper understanding of form and depth that came in handy on numerous occasions when I was designing exhibitions later in my career.
You might want to keep and carry a sketchbook, or, even better, make your own sketch books (it's easier than you think and a lot of fun).
If you're a photographer or filmmaker, get into the habit of taking images and footage on the fly. The best tool you've got for this kind of work is probably your cell phone.
Be open to experimenting with extremes of light and dark, scale, colour, texture, pattern, mass, distance, form, and viewpoints.
If you're a podcaster or broadcaster, put an audio recorder app
on you phone and get into the habit of recording short snippets of audio—thoughts, ideas, sayings, things you've overheard—anything and everything to spark other ideas. Even sounds made by odd or everyday items.
I often find inspiration while flipping through images on Google, and while browsing through books and magazines in my local bookstore.
If you'd rather use the Internet for this kind of mental doodling,
a wonderful website dedicated to the art of the brilliant idea is StumbleUpon.com, which randomly selects webpages based on
a range of search criteria that you control.
Two other sites that offer random pages are Wikipedia and Reddit, which are mines of useful information and a great way to generate new streams of thought-provoking inspiration.
As with all of this investigation, your goal is one of detective work and self discovery rather than simply using the content you find as it is. There's nothing creative about passing other people's images, text, recordings, or music off as your own.
I'm urging you here to seek inspiration and to build something
of your own from the things you find, see, and experience.
But having said that, most ideas are not truly original, they often stem from past creations.
Painters and songwriters often use the structure of their favorite scenes, models, or songs as the base for other pieces of work.
Writers commonly continue the adventures of specific characters over several novels or movies. Examples include Ian Fleming's James Bond and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter.
Although you might find an idea that strikes you as 100% unique, when you peel back the layers of how that idea developed you'll often realize that it's inspired by something else. When this happens, accept it for what it is and move on.
When I'm working on a piece of design work I often find listening to music helps spark my creativity.
But when I'm writing I need total silence. For you it may be the other way around.
I knew a guy at college who could only focus when he had a record playing, the radio on, a cassette playing, and the TV blaring away.
Many people find classical music brings out their creative side.
For others, it's thrash metal. Find whatever works for you.
If it's new you you, try it anyway: something that falls outside
your regular comfort zone might just be the spark you need.
To get a different perspective, search the kinds of websites you wouldn’t typically browse, or try reading magazines you wouldn't typically read, or try listening to radio programs in a language you don't understand.
The idea here is to intentionally use the unfamiliar as a pattern interrupt to help you build new neural pathways.
Doing something new tends to close off certain parts of the brain while opening up other parts: this switching can help generate ideas you might otherwise never have had, which really, is the whole point of creativity.
If my 35+ years experience as a graphic designer have taught
me anything it's that if we're to grow creatively, we need to constantly be looking for the new, the surprising, and the visually fresh and alarming, even if doing so makes us uncomfortable.
By only ever exposing ourselves to the same things and the same experiences in the same places, there won't be much to challenge our thinking, will there. It's for this reason that travel broadens the mind.
But let's not keep the concept of travel chained to mere geography.
Let's travel to new places in our mind, let's expose our senses to something we're not used to.
Your creativity is a muscle that needs exercising. If it's to be kept in peak condition it needs to be aired out and given access to run free in wide open spaces.
Get out there. And get creative.
About Gary Bloomer
Gary Bloomer is originally from the UK. These days he lives just outside Philadelphia. Since 2009, he's answered over 5,000 marketing, branding, and social media strategy questions from small business owners from all over the world on the Know-How Exchange of MarketingProfs.com. His website is a love letter to the world of small business marketing.
To learn more or to get in touch, read the About page.
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