Did you know that more than half of CEOs find creativity the most important leadership quality?
We’ve all been victims of the empty page syndrome. Sometimes it feels like the empty page is mocking us. Don’t you wish there was a magic spell for how to be more creative?
Creative block is no joke and it stops us from accomplishing our goals. Boosting your creative thinking skills is just like training at the gym. You have to be consistent in order to see results.
No matter what you do for a living, creativity is your greatest asset. If you want our top creativity tips, keep reading!
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1. Oblique Strategies.
Though you may not know Brian Eno by his name, you would know the people he produced. Eno is known primarily for his work with David Bowie in the 1970s. However, Eno also had interesting techniques for how to be creative.
In the 1970s, Eno and Peter Schmidt pioneered a tactic for overcoming creative blocks. This tactic came in the form of a deck of index cards with vague advice on them. Eno coined the name “Oblique Strategies” for the deck.
Eno would use this deck in the studio upon reaching a stalemate in the creative process. Notable cards include: “Honor thy error as a hidden intention” and “emphasize repetitions”.
The cards were perfect for giving just enough direction to get new ideas. Yet also lacking specifics so creativity could still flourish.
You can pick up a physical copy of this deck or use a digital copy. The most important part of this deck is to follow the card you pick however you feel it applies to you.
2. Embrace Empty Pages
An empty page is the worst enemy of a creative. Though, as the old saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Don’t think of the empty page as a mocking force, instead, think of it as an opportunity for creativity and art. Nothing will get done unless you do it, so take a step to break the emptiness.
This step could be writing one word or drawing a stick man. Anything to start filling the page.
As a warm-up, fill an empty page with whatever strikes you at the moment. Once you know you can do it, the next page won’t seem nearly as daunting.
3. Keep an Idea Log
Have you woken up to an idea at three in the morning and convinced yourself you’d remember it tomorrow? Did you remember that idea over breakfast or was it lost to the ether?
An easy way to avoid losing these ideas is by keeping a dedicated idea log. This can be a note on your phone or a notepad; so long as you have it all the time. You never know when inspiration will strike, so it’s best to take advantage when it does.
The key thing here is to have all your ideas in one place. Start a note on your phone specifically for ideas. If you’re into compartmentalizing, have a note for every project you have on the go.
Having an idea log is better than just scrawling notes on a napkin. This way all your ideas are in one place.
When you’re lacking inspiration, take a gander through your idea log. At the very least, elaborating on one of your ideas will lead to a better idea.
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4. Give Yourself Deadlines
Creativity in business often has deadlines, but if your deadline is further out, it might not feel as real. Suddenly, your deadline is next week and you’re rushing.
Giving yourself deadlines will divide the project into more manageable chunks. Especially with creativity in education, a term paper can seem like a ton of work. Telling yourself you’ll have up to X done by Y point in the semester will break up the work.
This is crucial for those who create as a hobby. So many projects will never get done because they don’t have due dates. Committing to your own deadlines will give you a sense of accomplishment.
If you think that you won’t be able to hold yourself to a deadline, that’s okay! Ask a friend or a family member to hold you to your deadline.
Treat it the same way you would treat a deadline from work or school. If you’re not going to be done on time, ask your friend for an extension. This will hold you accountable and ensure your art gets created.
5. Document Everything
Along the lines of an idea log, this is a great exercise for how to be more creative.
Documenting everything sounds boring, but writing in a journal is documenting. In fact, it’s called creating a primary document.
This is just writing about your day; what happened on a personal level, global level, what have you. When we write, we’re getting creative juices flowing. You also may find some inspiration in the mundane!
6. Find Inspiration From Unlikely Sources
Paul McCartney once wrote a song at the request of Dustin Hoffman based on a Time Magazine article. Of course, McCartney sang the words off the page right in front of Hoffman.
Later on, the song McCartney wrote for Hoffman based on Pablo Picasso’s last words would end up on an album. It’s a strange place to find inspiration, but it proves creativity comes from anywhere.
Reading the newspaper might lead to a beautiful painting. Talking to a kid may lead to a hit song. Never discount the weight of creative inspiration based on the source.
It’s worth your time to look for inspiration everywhere. You never know when it’ll pay off.
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7. Goof Off
When you google “how to become more creative” you should also ask yourself “have I broken a rule lately?”. Whether we know it or not, we adhere to rules. Rules have kept humanity alive for thousands of years, but there’s a time and a place.
Try fooling around with your medium like you’re an amateur. When you’re in a creative rut, break the constraints you place on yourself.
There are different options for creative hobbies everywhere. If you’re a writer, try writing a coffee shop AU of your own characters. If you’re a painter, use a risky color palette.
Sure, it’s not productive, but you’ll find ways you’ve never thought of using your medium.
8. Boredom is Your Greatest Resource
A great tragedy of adulthood is that we rarely get the privilege of being bored. When we do, we spend it agonizing over what we could be doing or scrolling our feeds.
Allow yourself to be bored in the absence of your phone. You might be surprised at all the other ways you find to kill time.
Effective use of boredom would be going through your idea log and elaborating on a couple of them. Utilizing boredom as a tool instead of a slump will heighten your creativity tenfold.
9. Cultivate a Community
If you know a quilter, you know that they have a strong community. It takes many to make a quilt so they get together as a group of like-minded individuals to make a quilt.
Now, we’re not saying to become a quilter, but we’re saying to seek inspiration from quilters. Cultivating a network of like-minded individuals is how to find your creativity.
When you have a group of people to bounce ideas off, you can boost your creativity. Surrounding yourself with a network of people who want to create will inspire you to create.
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10. Be Yourself
Uniqueness is not only what separates you from others, but it’s also what makes your ideas good. When you put a project into the world, you want people to know who made it.
When you have an idea that seems a little outlandish, try seeing it through a bit more. Creativity and uniqueness go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Being yourself will gradually create your personal brand and style. Take the risk and show your authentic self. Your art will thank you.
11. Stay Focused
Getting into the creative zone can seem hard. Try eliminating distractions as best as you can in your workspace.
This will look different depending on who you are and what your project is. If your projects are mostly on your computer, try making a separate desktop on your computer. Keep this desktop clean of distractions like games and online shopping.
You can even take it to the next level! Have a separate google account to personalize your chrome extensions to harbor creativity. This also means that you’ll only get emails related to your creative projects.
Another way to stay focused is to stay as far from your phone as possible. Whenever your phone is near, every notification is a new opening for distraction.
12. Avoid Your Socials
This might seem redundant, but we promise it’s not! Avoiding your socials extends beyond eliminating distraction.
Every time you open your social media, you’re getting influenced by external sources. While this might be good for getting inspiration, it can also make you second-guess yourself.
As a creative, you probably follow other creatives online. These can be everyone from hobbyists to professionals. When you see their work, you might end up comparing your art to theirs.
That can make you second-guess yourself like crazy!
Besides, social media has a tendency to be a breeding ground for nihilism these days. It’s hard to be creative when you’re agonizing over current affairs.
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13. Deconstruct and Reconstruct
When Descartes was looking for the truth of the self, he went on a crusade of doubt. He doubted until he no longer could. Eventually, he found that the one thing he could not doubt was his existence.
From there, he rebuilt from the doubt. He found that there were two separate pieces of the self. He called them thinking substance and physical substance.
Sometimes when you’re stuck on an idea, it’s beneficial to break everything down to the bare bones. That way, you can expand on the idea from the ground up and iron out the details gradually.
When you deconstruct, you find out what the crucial parts of the idea are. The parts that cannot be excluded. When you reconstruct you’ll know what your actual point is.
14. “Follow the Fun”
“Follow the fun” is a quote from Jordan Peele about how he deals with writer’s block. The advice boils down to if it’s not fun, find a way to make it fun.
Peele goes on to say that if you’re not having fun, then approach your project from another angle. This quote isn’t just for writers! It can be applied to any creative field.
If you find that your heart’s not in what you’re doing, try and find out why. Once you find out why you can approach the scenario in a new way.
15. Don’t Start at the Beginning
This one goes along with following the fun. When you start a project, you don’t have to go in a linear way. Instead, start from where you have the most inspiration.
Especially with creativity in education, it’s hard to write an intro for a paper you have yet to write. Start from the part that excites you. Then, base your project on the section you have written.
This is also the best way to start a project. Any progress is progress, sometimes you have to dive headfirst into the end of a project. It may just be the kick in the butt you need to get things done.
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16. Tackle Your Inner Critics
We’ve all been there, ready to work. Suddenly the voice of a critic invades your thoughts.
Maybe it was the biting notes in the margins of a paper you poured your soul into. Maybe it’s your dad telling you you’ll never be good enough. No matter, having these inner critics can stop a project before it even starts.
How do you get rid of these inner critics? Anne Lamott spoke about inner critics in her book Bird by Bird.
She recalls a time when her hypnotist told her to imagine her inner critics as mice in jars. He told her to imagine the jars as having volume buttons. Turn one mouse up and listen to it and then turn down the volume.
If the mice in the jars don’t work for you, don’t worry! You can also try personifying your inner critics.
Give these critics faces and names so you can know your enemy. Identify where these insecurities come from. That will give you the opportunity to confront them.
17. Take in Your Surroundings
We now know that inspiration can come from unlikely sources. That can also mean it can come from taking a walk or a drive!
Getting out and moving your body can help you think. Especially when you’re walking or driving a route you’re very familiar with.
Taking the time to be alone with your thoughts can be a meditative experience. Let your thoughts run wild and wait and see how inspired you are when you get back.
18. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
When you get hung up on mistakes, whether you know it or not, it paralyzes you creatively. Your rough draft should be rough. A sketch is just a sketch.
Mistakes get fixed later on. The whole point of a first draft is to get the idea out of your head and onto paper. Fearing mistakes is just a mental hurdle that stands in the way of creativity.
How do you get over your anxiety? There are a couple of ways.
One way is to take the time to do a low-stakes warm-up before you do your work. This will get those jitters out. With time, you’ll start to appreciate the roughness of these warm-ups.
You could also take a page out of the Oblique Strategies book. Honor thy error as a hidden intention. Work with your mistakes to springboard your creativity!
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19. Go Down Rabbit Holes
Have you ever been down a rabbit hole that netted approximately zero useful information? If not, try it!
Pick something that interests you and spend an afternoon learning. You can even do this with podcasts while you work.
This can not only be an informative experience, but it can also be inspiring. You might read about something that completely re-contextualizes your project. Taking the time to learn some useless information may even give you an idea for a new project.
20. Beat Perfectionism
Perfectionism is good in theory, but in practice, it’s a detriment. So many projects get held back by not being perfect. Getting paralyzed by trying to achieve perfection is nothing new for creatives.
A way to beat this is by going for a C+ on your project. At the end of the day, nothing is going to be perfect. Think about it this way, a finished project that gets a C+ is better than a perfect project that never gets handed in.
Creativity is imperfect by nature. That’s the beauty of it! Finishing a project not only feels gratifying, but it will make you more creative.
21. Make What You Want in the World
In order to fully harness your creativity, your target audience should be yourself.
As a creative, you probably get hung up on the thoughts of others a lot. While it’s good to consider your audience with your quality of work, your ideas should excite you.
Chances are if you haven’t seen it, it needs to be made! Take a leap and make it. Don’t worry if it’s too niche because there are more than likely people who want what you want as well.
This also allows you to be more imaginative. Making what other people make is suffocating. It’s best to be unique!
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22. Set Medium-Sized Goals
We all know setting goals is a good way to maximize our creativity. That said, consider the size of your goals. Goals that are too big or too small rarely accomplish anything.
The best way to set goals is to have a big goal with a bunch of little goals to help you achieve it. If this sounds familiar, it may be because this is similar to Aristotle’s philosophy: means to an end. Your end is that big lofty goal and your means are the little goals.
Setting these medium goals will enhance your creativity. Not only will you help yourself finish projects, but it’ll give you a bit of structure. Creativity needs structure to truly flourish.
23. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Pushing boundaries is nothing new for changemakers. Although pushing your own boundaries is scary, it’s creatively liberating.
If you find that you do something the same way all the time, shake it up! Try to break out of your patterns. Trying a new technique can be the spark that leads to great things!
Complacency can sneak up on all of us. Even shaking up your routine can reframe something from a creative standpoint.
24. Shake Up Your Time and Space
When you’re trying to become more creative, one thing we often overlook is the power rooms have over us. Sometimes, all it takes is to move closer to a window to get the creativity flowing.
Time is also something to look at here. Nine to five is the usual workday, but changing up these hours can make all the difference. You might find that your creativity starts at eight at night.
Shaking up your routine regularly can set you up for more creative success. Worst case scenario, you got fresh air and little done. That’s hardly a loss!
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This one feels so painfully obvious. Yet when was the last time you sat and daydreamed?
Daydreaming not only helps you come up with ideas but also changes how you think. Your creative thinking skills will be strengthened no matter what you daydream about!
Before bed, put on some headphones and listen to some music to get you in the zone. From there, it’s up to you!
How to Be More Creative
Becoming more creative is more than just making art. It’s all about changing your frame of mind and finishing projects. When you learn how to be more creative, you’ll see the benefits right away!
If you want to learn more about improving various aspects of your life, check out the rest of our blog!