How Can I Be More Creative? Developing Creativity as an Adult
How Can I Be More Creative?
Have you ever wished you were more creative? Have you ever looked at something and secretly wished you could come up with ideas like that or create something so beautiful or unique?
Well, here's some good news. Everyone has the ability to be creative. In fact, everybody is born creative. Yes, even you, person reading this who thinks you're only good at math! You were born creative, too, and you can re-find your creativity. Creativity is like a muscle; you can exercise it and make it stronger, but first you have to overcome your fear of creativity.
Are you Afraid of your Creativity?
Young children are naturally uninhibited in their creative expressions, but, as we age, we become constrained by societal expectations. Pablo Picasso is known for expressing this sentiment time and again, stating things such as “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” That truly is the problem - how to remain creative in the grown-up world.
I insist that I cannot draw. All my life I've wanted to be able to draw, but since some point in elementary school I have been convinced that I absolutely cannot draw. When I was younger, I drew things all over the place (including, quite infamously, the wall of an apartment and my sleeping father), but then something happened. I don't remember the moment I decided I couldn't draw, but, somewhere along the line, I came to that conclusion.
The first step is attempting to identify when you became afraid of your own creativity. Think back to your own childhood - do you remember a time when someone made fun of your drawing, criticized your ability to dance, told you couldn't sing, or otherwise made you feel poorly about a creative effort? Even if you can't remember the turning point for you, try to remember a time when you enjoyed being unabashedly creative. It may have been a long time ago, but there was a day when you weren't afraid of your creativity.
Make sure to choose a durable notebook, like this Moleskine pocket notebook, that can withstand the wear and tear of every day use.
Dare to Be Creative
The second step to boosting your creativity is re-learning how to express yourself. You can start really, really small by taking private steps toward becoming more creative either by expressing yourself in new ways or trying new things. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Dance around the house to your favorite music.
- Eat at a new restaurant with a type of cuisine you've never tried before.
- Turn off your TV for a night (or a week) and come up with something else to do.
- Keep a notebook and pen with your and, if you have a random thought, jot it down.
- Enroll in a class - dance, yoga, painting, voice, scrap booking beading, anything- just something you've never done before.
- Come up with a plan to enjoy your Saturday on a $10 budget.
- Try writing a sentence or a paragraph, without using the letter "e." (This is actually really tricky because e is the most common letter in the English language!)
No matter how silly you feel to begin with, force yourself to do something different each day. Experts say it takes 21 continuous days for something to become ingrained in your mind, so don't just trying being creative for a week and then give up! Do it every single day.
If your schedule or budget won't allow you to enroll in a class, find an all-inclusive kit that shows you, step by step, how to make something new. Creating something tangible is an amazing feeling!
Don't Wait for Inspiration
Inspiration doesn't just show up and knock on your door. It simply isn't something you can wait around for. Instead, find activities that allow you the time to think, such as jogging or bicycling, or force yourself to work at creating something. Look up a craft project or painting guide online and attempt to create anything, even if you're not feeling particularly creative that day. If you don't like the results, try again another day. Exerting at least some creative effort every day will help you reinforce your creative habits. If you can't force yourself to try being creative, join a club or enroll in a class so others can at least hold you accountable for your attendance. Simply showing up and trying is at least half the battle!
You know the saying "Necessity is the mother of invention"? It is true. If you want to get really radical in order to improve your creativity, remove luxuries from your life and force yourself to get creative. This may not be for everyone, but it will certainly improve your creativity! For example, you can:
- Totally do away with your TV/cable access. If you're anything like the average American, you will have to find something new to do for approximately four hours a day!
- Get rid of your car, or at least pledge not to use it as much as possible. You have to be creative to figure out most bus schedules!
- Set an incredibly restrictive food or entertainment budget for the week or month and find new ways to feed and amuse yourself.
Every time you remove a comfort or luxury and force yourself to adapt, you increase your creativity and each time you successfully defeat one of these obstacles you gain confidence in your creative abilities.
Watch Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi Explain Happiness
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness | Video on TED.com
TED Talks Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of "flow."
Csikszentmihalyi has several well-known, highly-respected books on how you can achieve "flow."
Characteristics of Creative People
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a positive psychologist who has made a career of studying happiness. He has also studied creative individuals in order to learn what makes them more creative. These are some of his conclusions:
- Creative individuals regularly experience a state of being he calls flow.
- Flow is a heightened state of pleasure that is experienced when a person is engaged in an absorbing mental and/or physical challenge.
- Every person in the world is capable of achieving flow by cultivating his or her curiosity and interest.
Csikszentmihalyi has simple tips for improving curiosity and interest. He believes every person can improve his or her creativity by doing these three things daily:
- Try to be surprised by something every day.
- Try to surprise at least one person every day. Life has a habit of becoming predictable and regimented. Breaking free of the routine boosts your creativity.
- Journal about what surprised you and what you did to surprise others. Memories are fleeting and Csikszentmihalyi has found that most creative people keep some sort of journal or log to record their thoughts and feelings, ensuring they are not lost forever.
In his research, Csikszentmihalyi also found that creative people get up every day with a specific goal or activity in mind. In short, creative people are eager to start the day. This does not mean they are pathologically chipper, it simply means they have a specific task they want to accomplish each day and can't wait to get started.
Becoming More Creative
You really can become more creative, it just takes practice. Start small by forcing yourself to do something different each day, then practice creating situations that make you exercise your creativity. Before long, you'll be hooked on the excitement that comes with overcoming obstacles creating new things or ideas, and expressing yourself.
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