Tips to Nurture Your Creativity

Okay, here are my time-tested tips for encouraging and improving creativity:

Be nosy. Forget. Keep it moving. Steal. Give up.

Recently I was talking to a friend about our new literary magazine and he remarked that he wished he were creative enough to write. He said he had lots of ideas, but knew that he wouldn’t ever be able to write them down and form a real story.

It’s true everyone was not meant to be a great writer, in the same way that everyone was not meant to be a great ballerina or basketball player. In a recent HBO documentary, author Fran Lebowitz said, “When Toni Morrison said you should write the book you want to read, she didn’t mean everyone!” So yeah, everyone’s not going to create a masterpiece, however, I firmly believe that everyone has a creative spark in them that comes out in some way. And when that spark is nurtured, it goes a long way towards soothing us and making us feel whole. While we may not all be creative geniuses, I believe the ability to express ourselves and share what’s inside of us keeps us feeling connected and makes us better people.

Creativity comes in so many forms that it’s very possible to be a master creator and not even know it. I once knew a computer programmer who felt that he was an artist with code. Accountants and people who understand finance are working with a distinct set of creative tools. The whole financial collapse was the result of highly creative thinking – ‘we can create a lot of money out of nowhere and be very rich when the whole thing falls apart.’ (Remember, use your creativity for good, not evil!)

If the traditional creative arts aren’t your thing, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t able to innovate and work outside the box in other areas. Here are a couple of tips for nurturing your creativity – whether you are the Picasso of electrical engineering or the Shakespeare of auto mechanics.

1. Be nosy. Observe the world around you and take notes. Don’t be ashamed of listening to other peoples’ conversations or peering over their shoulders into the contents of their bags. You know, just don’t get caught.

2. Forget. But only after you’ve written it down somewhere. It helps to have a great notebook that you carry everywhere for keeping track of ideas. If pulp and pen are too last century for you, there are some great note taking apps for that smart phone of yours. Use whatever works so you don’t have to keep a bunch of pesky ideas in your own brain. That’s way too stressful.

3. Keep it moving. When you feel yourself getting into a rut, move! Whether it’s mentally moving on to a different aspect of the problem or physically getting up and having a 5 minute dance break (of which I’m quite fond), move on, make a sandwich, check your Facebook page and come back to it in a little while.

4. Steal. (alright, fine, borrow) – and then make it your own. Most designers start out learning how to create fantastic designs by copying an existing one and then changing it to make it their own. There have been many times when a line from a song or even a movie will inspire me to write something. I take the original line as my starting point and morph it into my own work.

5. Give up. But only for short periods of time. Feel free to say, “I’m terrible at this and I’m never doing this again” as often as you like. Of course if you’re following the other four tips soon some interesting bit of conversation will float your way or you’ll read an article/blog/tweet that will light some match in your mind and bring you back on board. Where you’re supposed to be. Creating something.

Photo by runran.