03 Aug How to Be Creative When You’re Not Naturally Creative
Written by Brittany Gellerman
“Everything’s already been thought of.”
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“I’m just not a creative person.”
We’ve all had those frustrating moments when when we’re expected to come up with a brilliant new idea, but no matter how much we squint at our computer screens, we just can’t seem to think of anything good.
That’s when we tend to look over at our peers who are “creative types” and wonder why we didn’t inherit any creative genes ourselves.
But it may be that were looking at it wrong. In fact, many psychologists argue that creativity isn’t something people are born with; it’s actually a skill that can be learned. And, as with any other skill, you can only get better at it with practice. The brain is like muscle that needs to be developed — in this case, using cognitive exercises.
So what can we do to exercise that creative muscle when we’re struggling to come up with new ideas? Everyone has their own ways they like to get “in shape.” To get you started, here are 11 different ways to jog your creative thinking.
11 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creativity
1) Start with a morning freewrite.
We all have days when walk in to the office in the morning and all we can think about is all the stuff we have to get done. But this can stress us out and cause us to lose perspective on our own thinking.
On days like this, one way to refocus is by doing a morning freewrite. According to a study from Harvard Business School Professor Teresa Amabile, regular workplace journaling allows you to rediscover your perspective and become more productive.
So instead of jumping right into your projects when you get into the office, block off ten minutes for a digital detox and grab a notebook and paper to just write. Unlike a blog or some other public-facing piece of content, a physical journal is your own personal compilation of thoughts that don’t need to make sense to anyone but you. Writing in a more freeform style will allow your creative juices to flow, while also forcing you to put your thoughts into written words.
Don’t know where to start with freewriting? Check out Twords‘ prompt library, or subscribe to Daily Page to get a writing prompt emailed to you every morning, which you can share or keep private. Here are some more prompt ideas from my colleague Megan Conley:
- Recently, I’m struggling with …
- If I had more time in the day, I’d use it to …
- Today, I’ll relieve stress by …
- I feel out of my comfort zone when …
- My work is motivated by …
- This week, I’m thankful for …
- Today, I should avoid …
- I feel fulfilled at work when …
- From my team, I’m proud of …
- I work best when …
2) Take a creative course.
If you’re the kind of person who prefers more instruction, taking a creative course could be the right way to guide your creativity.
Creative courses could be anything from creative writing to photo and video to music, art, or design. Regardless which course you take, you’ll be exposed to different ways of thinking and approaches to working that you can apply to your own work. Plus, it may help you uncover some of your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
It’ll also surround you with other people who have a similar goal of developing their creative skills. You can learn from your peers and have the chance to review each other’s work to get a fresh perspective on your own ideas. And if you’re someone who is too nervous to ask for help in the office, a classroom setting could give you the opportunity to open up to others in workshop style critiques. By sharing your ideas with others, you’ll be forced to find ways to formulate your thoughts into words and visuals, while learning to handle critique from others.
Courses may not be for everyone — especially if you feel like structure is a hinder to your creative flow. But if you feel like you’re lacking direction in your thinking, it may be worth a try.
3) Brainstorm while you exercise.
If you feel like you’re working your brain hard and coming out empty-handed, try pushing yourself physically for thirty minutes or so. Research shows that exercise can be linked to more creative thinking. One study that focused on how moderate exercise influences participants’ performance on different thinking tasks found that exercising regularly may train your cognitive thinking and creativity in a healthy way.
“Much more of the brain is devoted to movement than to language. Language is only a little thing sitting on top of this huge ocean of movement,” says Neurologist Oliver Sacks.
So take 30 minutes out of your day to go for a run, do an energizing yoga flow, or practice some deskercises. It’ll benefit both your body and mind.
4) Travel to other places.
Since your creativity is related to how your brain is wired, it’s important to keep your mind stimulated by new sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and experiences. Keeping your sense sharp allows the synapses in your brain to think in new ways. Expose yourself to an entirely different point of view through a new cultural experience.
“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School, whose research focuses on the cognitive connection between international travel and creativity.
He emphasizes the importance of not just going to different places, but also immersing yourself into their culture. By engaging with the local art, cuisine, and people, you allow yourself to really learn new ways of thinking that you can apply to your own ideas.
5) Channel your inner child.
Children are considered “naturally creative” only because they know no limits to their creativity. Since children are willing to go in any direction with their creative, they don’t hold back. Channel this mentality, especially when it comes to taking a completely different direction with your work. Instead of being concerned or self-conscious that your work isn’t good enough, be willing to take risks to push your creative limits.
Most importantly, have fun with your work. A child sees everything as an adventure and makes the most of every moment. Instead of being concern about all your responsibilities at once, focus all your energy into one project at a time so you can put your best foot forward.
6) Join a coworking space.
A study at University of Michigan found two key ways coworking spaces create unique opportunities for creativity: flexibility and autonomy. A lot of it has to do with the physical setup of the space: The flexibility to control your space to suit your personal preference encourages creativity. Some studies have shown that have the ability to customize your workspace leads to higher levels of productivity. Your creative funk may be because you’re not in an environment that is conducive to your personal style of work.
Plus, the proximity to others means ample opportunity for collaboration. Collaboration can be a catalyst for innovation, and coworking spaces are great ways to throw yourself into a new environment with like-minded, innovative people.
Not sure where to find coworking space near you? Start by entering your city intoDeskSurfing.net to do a local search.
7) Incorporate breaks into every work day.
Ever noticed that some of your best ideas come to you at the most random times, like the car or the shower? There’s a reason for that: These breaks allow your mind to continue to work on these ideas without getting stuck in a funk where you can’t organize your thoughts.
Adrian Furnman, Ph.D describes in a Psychology Today article, Adrian Furnman, Ph.D says it’s important to give your thinking “incubation time” once you’ve been actively working on an idea for some time.
Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s own CEO and co-founder, is a big advocate for naps at the workplace. He actually finds his best ideas come to him when he just falling asleep or just waking up. In an interview with the New York Times, he said he pushes to make the office into an environment where employees can “work less and think more” by providing nap rooms to encourage folks to take a break. This, he says, will help spark creativity.
Make sure to allow yourself to block off designated break sessions in your calendar so you don’t lose that time after being scheduled for endless, back-to-back meetings. View Full Article >>