Creativity is a mindset, and a way of thinking. It’s not a task. One way to think of creativity is the bringing together of previously unrelated concepts or ideas to create something new. Naturally, like anything else, some people are better at doing this than others. The good news is that there are some things anyone can do to better create an environment that sparks and encourages this mindset. What follows is a list of ten things to try if you find yourself in a creative slump.
Be Quiet. Turn off all distractions. Sometimes total silence can get us in touch with the voice in our head. Listen to it. So many ideas come to people in the shower because there is nothing else to do but think. My sanctuary is a nice long run.
Try Something New. How can you expect to bring together unrelated concepts and ideas if you’re never exposed to any new ones? This is why I love to travel, why I love to tell a waiter to “bring me whatever you want”, and why I am constantly pursing new creative projects. Some experiences I love, some experiences I hate, but all experiences bring me new ideas.
Pick From a Hat. There are authors out there who have admitted to coming up with story ideas by throwing a bunch of words and phrases into a hat, picking out two or three strips of paper, and coming up with a way for them to relate. Even if the idea ends up being stupid, it might lead to another fresh idea. You may want to try Team Storyteller.
Question Everything. Sherlock Holmes is a genius not because of his intelligence but for his ability to notice everyday “elementary” things that others take for granted. The process of discovering an answer, even crazy ones, can lead to profound insights that can give rise to other ideas or methods of doing things.
Soften Your Focus. There’s a video that floats around the internet every so often in which you’re asked to count how many times a basketball is passed between teammates at practice. Meanwhile, a gorilla walks through the scene. Most people miss it, because they’re concentrating on just one thing. Always watch for the gorilla others miss.
Carry a Notebook… Better Yet Get Evernote. Rely less on your memory. Writing down ideas as they come to you, no matter how trivial, gives you material to work with later and frees up your memory for other things.
Free-write. Sit down and just do something. A lot of time is wasting sitting around waiting for inspiration. Doodle. Once you give yourself permission to do, you can start planting the seeds that can be revised later and grow into something great.
Keep a Dream Journal. Again, another great use of Evernote. Dreams are our subconscious mind literally sorting through ideas and concepts without the interference of our own internal dialog. Writing them down will help you remember more of them, and start giving you insights into how your own thought processes work. Even though most of my dreams are cray cray… every once and awhile there is a gem hidden in there.
Talk to Yourself. Tara (my wife) often catches me talking to myself. While she thinks I have an imaginary friend, it is actually me sorting through my ideas. Talking to yourself allows you to put yourself in the position of someone else. You can play Devil’s advocate to your own ideas. This forces you to come up with explanations and justifications, and to see a problem from another perspective.
Give Yourself Permission to Fail. As a guy who has failed many, many times I can tell you that nothing is perfect the first time. If you have an idea that you know needs more work to be perfect, don’t wait for that to happen on its own. Get your idea out there. You can go back and revisit it whenever you want.