I hate it when people tell me, "I'm not creative," as an excuse. What I mean by this is that it's fine if you're not creative! Not everyone has to be. But "not being creative" is not an excuse for refusing to pick up a new hobby that you're interested in, not learning a new skill, or simply not trying something altogether. "Not being creative" is most often a choice, not a state of being (although creativity might be harder for some than others).
Well, I'm here to tell you that I am definitely creative! I may be less so than some, and more so than others, but I am definitely somewhere on the spectrum of "Creative."
You can be too!
Just like anything else of value in life, creativity is an every day habit. No one magically starts being creative. In fact, I think most people are far more creative than they realize; it's just that their creativity emerges in tiny day-to-day moments more so than in bursts of flame.
I'd like to give you a few examples of things that I do to become more creative on a day to day basis. If I'm going to make a living writing, I have to get ideas from somewhere.
Strategy 1: Find a problem that needs to be solved, and try something that hasn't been tried yet to fix it.
Sometimes it takes me ages to come up with a creative solution to a really dumb problem. For example, my bed was next to the outside wall of the house, and I could hear every drunk that stumbled by at 3 am. It took me months to realize that even though my room was small, I could just move my bed to the other side of the room.
This creative thought was definitely a late bloomer.
Let's look at my parents for a better example. My mom is allergic to eggs. More specifically, my mom is allergic to chicken eggs. How did she find this out?
By trying duck eggs to see if they would make her break out in hives like chicken eggs do (spoiler: they didn't!).
Just taking the time to consider that duck eggs might be okay while chicken eggs aren't = CREATIVITY!
Then they bought ducks. But that's a different story.
Here's another example. These creative geniuses wanted a pool. All they had was a truck, a tarp, and water. Voila!
Creativity can be relative to anything. Maybe it's plumbing. Maybe it's gardening. Maybe it's figuring out how to use a new Excel formula, or looking at an everyday object in a completely different way, or figuring out how to explain to someone what your job is in a way they will understand.
What is one problem or struggle that you have on a day to day basis that you could fix simply by looking at the problem a little differently?
Strategy 2: Watch what other creative people are doing, and pay attention to how they solve problems.
The phrase, "monkey see, monkey do" may seem like it only applies to monkeys and small children, but it also applies to me. I've learned dozens of things by watching other people do them: walking and talking, for starters; reading, braiding hair, driving a car, riding a bike... Eventually, of course, I have to get my nose out of a book and actually try it, but there are plenty of people who I watch to help me learn to be more creative.
Ted Talks are a good start. This one simple resource offers a collection of some of the most creative people of the world.
I read other authors' books and ask myself questions about it. How did they figure out that plot twist? How did they cue me (the reader) into feeling like it was going the opposite direction than it did? How did they make that character so awesome? I might also read interviews with them, their blog, or other work if i really like their voice or writing style.
I read stuff about being creative. The most recent book I picked up is called "A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative," by Roger von Oech. It's a good read and full of fun strategies. There are dozens of books that can help someone become more creative.
You just have to... be a little creative.
Who can you learn about being creative from?
Strategy 3: Do something creative every day.
I don't mean that I paint a picture every day. I don't mean that I write a novel every day. I don't mean that I solve world hunger every day.
What I do is much simpler than that. And I have lots of options.
1. I go for a walk and pay attention to something I've never paid attention to before. For example:
- This seems like an odd building to rent out for office space. >>
- I find this particular garden unusually appealing. What exactly makes this yard unique?
- I've never noticed how the cracks in the sidewalk look like pieces of a puzzle or the empty spaces of a spider web.
- Which house in this neighborhood is likeliest to have a legion of fairies hiding in the basement?
2. I take mental photographs (and sometimes real ones) of things I want to remember or of scenes I think would look good in words. This can be a house, people, clouds, or simply something that gave me an idea, even if the idea doesn't seem related to the image whatsoever.
3. I write a tweet or a Facebook post that I think is funny or clever or entertaining (they aren't usually, but I give it a go). I'm actually not a huge fan of social media, but I use it as a way to communicate with more people. It's so easy to be lame and just be like, "buy my book! buy my book!" Instead, I at least make an attempt to be a little creative.
What interesting observation or comment can you share with others?
4. I do something new, I do something normal, or I do nothing at all.
The first time I went on a harbor cruise down Piscataqua River, I came back with a million ideas. I love hiking for this reason, too. Stick me in the woods for a few hours and I'll come out with the plot to The Clock Winked or my future alien fantasy novel.
I try to run or exercise every day and I don't watch television while doing it. Read sometimes, yes, or just think. At very least, I have time to ponder problems, consider conundrums, or think things.
On the days when I'm exhausted and really don't feel like solving problems or doing anything remotely creative, I allow myself just 5 minutes to take a deep breath. Because you really can't do anything without breathing.
What can you do every day to help yourself become more creative?
In conclusion, being creative is like bursting into flames.
I'm serious. If you light one match everyday, eventually they will all light up and it feels so good, and when it's over you feel like a zombie. Then you just have to start lighting them all over again.
What strategies do you use to be more creative? Comment below!