Thanks to my persistent creative practice of writing 10 ideas, I am building my creative muscles every single day. It rocks. That is my favorite recipe on how to boost creativity.
There are always more tips and hacks. For instance, if you lose your passion for the creative projects, try THIS technique. If you feel that it’s all been said and done already, find some encouragement HERE. If your inner critic starts bothering you, please go THIS WAY.
But if you want to find some inspiration in unexpected places and boost your creativity in some surprising ways, don’t search any longer. I complied a list of 10 not-so-common creativity boosters. I hope this list nudges you to try something new. Remember, creativity loves novelty. So let’s get started.
Here is what Twyla Tharp said in “Creative Habit”: “Limits are a secret blessing and bounty can be a curse. I’ve been on enough big-budget film sets to appreciate the malignant influence of abundance and bloat.” It definitely seems that having no limitations (read: tons of time, money and resources) will make us more creative, but it’s simply not true. The blank page is the field of infinite possibilities, but it can also be paralyzing.
Imagine two guys with tennis rackets, in the middle of the field, kicking the ball back and forth. That can be fun for approximately 3 and half minutes. Introduce the lines. A net. A set of rules. That is the game. Now we can talk about strategies and skills. Limitations actually create all the fun.
Sarah Von Bargen learned this lesson when she created an awesome cat calendar. She says: “If you’re feeling overwhelmed by possibility or you don’t know where to start – narrow your view…Things actually get easier when you create creative boundaries.” ((Tweet this!))
2. Physical activity
According to Henry Thoreau, the thoughts begin to flow right when the legs begin to move. Being stuck, and often times being creatively stuck, means that you are too much in your head and not enough in your body. Start moving as soon as possible. Rhythmic movements (running, walking, dancing) will boost your creative thinking.
Julia Cameron suggests going on weekly Artist’s Date. That is a regular meeting with your creativity. She suggests going to a long walk or a beach alone, to meet your creativity. That sounds like fun and magic. Start moving and go meet your new ideas half way.
Liz Gilbert nailed it, following your passion is very radical and can be even dangerous. Following your curiosity is much more subtle, less demanding and fun.
Have you noticed something that makes you turn your head just a little bit and look just a little closer? Have you noticed something small, that appeared to be super interesting? Has some interesting thought recently surprised you and stayed with you for a few days? If so, give yourself permission to look a little bit closer, watch a little bit longer. Curiosity will lead you to new places and you might end up somewhere magical and unexpected. Even Einstein claimed that the curiosity is more important than the knowledge.
4. Small and measurable goal
500 words. Haiku. Two lines of poetry. One blog post a week. Or two Quora answers. 10 ideas a day. Set a small and measurable goal. It doesn’t sound badass enough? Who cares. Done is better than perfect. It’s even better than good.
Maya Stein gave herself a small, achievable writing task: 10 lines of poetry on every Tuesday (AKA “Ten Line Tuesday”). Eight years and many Tuesdays, later Maya has an impressive body of work.
Small, measurable goals boost your motivation, build up your courage and momentum, and yes, boost your creativity. Small steps will take you everywhere.
5. Starting from the middle
Here’s the trick with big, scary, hairy creative project: it’s super difficult to start. How to start writing a book? Or ecourse? Or manifesto? The answer: from the middle. (Chris Guillebeau taught me that!) Think of one thing you know for sure, one single good idea and develop it. Do it a few more times. And there you go!
Good opening usually comes at the end. The final product won’t look much like a first draft. But it won’t even exist if you don’t start somewhere. A middle is a good place.
6. Creating a sketch
Michael Bungay Stanier is a great fan of creating sketches, schemes, and visuals because it engages our mind in a whole new way. (His company’s name is Box of Crayons.) Do you have an idea for a book or a story or a business? Visualize it. Create an illustration. See how things are connected in a visual form. Play with Wenn’s diagrams, arrows, stick figures, flow charts, different shapes, and colors. You don’t have to share your masterpieces with anyone. Use them as a tool for play and discovery.
For additional inspiration, follow Austin Kleon and Wait But Why.
7. Doing what you can
Have you played strategy video games? I was obsessed with Settlers and Pharaoh when I was a kid. When you start a new game, all you can see is the small piece of the map and a lot of darkness around. But when you send the first little settler to the edge, a little bit more of the map will open up. If you do that enough times, the large piece of a virtual world will be yours. You will discover new rivers, mountains, forests and resources. I think it is a perfect metaphor for the creative work.
We are often hesitant to start because we don’t know what will the 10th step look like. We are afraid what will happen when we get close to the edge of the map, to the darkness. However, when you reach the edge, something new typically appears. You spot some new resources and opportunities. New ideas pop up. So do what you can. March bravely to the edge, believing that there is something good, even if you don’t see it yet.
I guess we all have the notion how the creativity should be fun and exciting and magical. And it certainly can be. However, the creative discipline requires us to endure some boredom. Being stuck. Not knowing what to say and how to continue. My practice of writing 10 ideas every day is the perfect example. I typically get stuck on the idea #5 or #6. But that’s when my brain starts to sweat and struggle. That’s when I dive deep and catch what David Lynch calls “A Big Fish”. Last few ideas are usually the best.
If you interrupt your boredom by checking Facebook, the big fish will slip. The availability of technology nudges us to fill every single second with something entertaining. But we can deliberately let ourselves to be bored. Boredom can yield some amazing creations.
Liz Gilbert said that one of the most important traits for the creative life is not the courage, or rigor, or discipline, but the ability to forgive. Why? Because your doodles probably won’t look like Dali’s “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening”. Your poetry won’t be as fluent as Rumi’s. Even if you become amazing in your craft, you will have to create a lot of shitty little things to get there. And in order not to give up in the process, you will have to forgive yourself. Be compassionate with yourself. Pat yourself on the back and say: “There, there, it’s all good. This is just a step in the process,” or “I am totally putting this on the fridge.” (And tell everyone that your 8-year old nephew has some serious talent.)
When you forgive yourself for bringing a sloppy creation to life, something magical will happen. You will feel better. You will realize it’s not a big deal. You will create more. You will do it relaxed. Slowly and gradually, your creations will improve and your ideas will get better.
10. Leaving a little bit more in yourself
My friend Don has a terrific rule for creativity: “Never put an empty coffee pot on the burner.” It’s not just a good Feng Shui practice, but also a powerful metaphor. Don’t create and create until you have nothing left in yourself. Don’t squeeze every last drop, always leave a bit more. Hemingway was famous for quitting his writing in the middle of the sentence so that he can easily continue on the next day. That is how the prolific creators sustain the flow.
So that was my list of surprising creativity boosters. What do you think? Which one will you use today and how? Let me know in the comments below.
P. S. Cookie of Wisdom: “Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas.” Donatella Versace ((Tweet this!))