Tuesday, August 27

How to Stimulate Creativity

Ah! Creativity, you either have it or you don't. Not true. Just like any skill, there are ways to tap into creativity and master it via practice. All one needs to know is how to change their work flow.

Speaking of "flow", that's what I like to call what happens when the mind is at work in that creative zone. I first learned about it from an art teacher that I admired, and they would talk about getting in the "flow" all the time. Well what's this magical mindset that they spoke of? How can we benefit from it? Of course it's easy to tell people how to be creativity, but learning how to actually do it can potentially be a challenge. The more one does anything, the more it will come. It is truly a skill that can be obtained over time, and we always find the time for the things that are most dear to us.

Here are my creativity tips:

- Keep a notepad of thoughts and ideas. Creativity can happen anytime, anywhere, and it's vitally important to capture these precious thoughts when they enter your mind. I personally keep a digital notepad file of all my creative thoughts when I start a project or even ideas for future projects. Any random thought that I have goes into the notepad file. Also, if I'm away from the computer or on the go, I use my iPod/iPad to write down things that I can later transfer over to my main notepad files. Feel free to keep a paper journal as well if that's your preference. Just record those thoughts in some way! 

- Breakdown an overwhelming project into small tasks. This has saved me too many times and now I just do it right from the get go. So many of my large projects wouldn't have been completed if I didn't have a rough plan or clear understanding of how to break them down into smaller tasks that I could focus on within a day or even a few hours at a time. That way little victories happen often and it motivates one to keep going. It keeps the mind focused on a single issue, and not everything at once.

- Just start. It's really as simple as it sounds. We'll find a million reasons to procrastinate, and ultimately this is because we fear the outcome. We're afraid that whatever we produce is never going to be good enough, and it happens to everyone. The idea is better kept in one's mind, because there it can stay perfect and beautiful. This is something that I personally have struggled with, and as soon as I realized that I'm being fearful, it helps me to recognize it and get over it confidently. If laziness is the issue, then whatever you're working on might not be right for you because it's not compelling enough. Think back to childhood when you were free to do whatever you loved without being forced. Perhaps finding a way to do that again will be most satisfying. 

- Set due dates to get small tasks done. An example of this can be creating an outline, writing a crappy first draft, or making edits for later. Or even with art, brainstorm ideas and mock up a quick thumbnail sketch of it. Getting something tangible into the world, no matter what the quality, is so important. I keep a calender of due dates for my tasks, that way I can stay on schedule and focus on one thing at a time.

- Find a quiet place to work undisturbed. This may be challenging for some in office cubicles, but if you have the luxury of finding a quiet place where you can work, go there and close the door. This works great for groups as well, and lets everyone focus on the task at hand. Closing the door works like magic because then one can be truly alone with their thoughts or work, and then it will just all flow. I notice that my productivity is extremely high when I do this in my home office, in comparison to being forced to work in a cube at a studio. So that's why I freelance these days, or work at a company that gives me my own office.

- Set aside a good few hours to work. It takes awhile to get into the zone. Depending on the task, it can take about a half an hour to really get going. So schedule at least two hours to work at a time, because getting into this state will allow for one's natural creativity to come forth. Also, the more time that's given to a particular problem, the better the solutions gets. It's not about being talented, it's about dedicating more quality time than others to stick with the problem for longer, and thus resolving it in a more original manner.

- Work during the same time each day. This is important, because it helps one to get into an open state of mind. Just like any habit, the brain will get use to it and start to preform accordingly. If one works at the same time each day, then the body and brain are prepared. It's easier to get into the flow faster. For example, I write my blog posts every morning when I wake up. I get some water, and I write until the article is done, sometimes breaking for breakfast depending on the length of the writing. This leaves my afternoons open for large projects, that I chip away at bit by bit until I release them into the world. Having this time scheduled has helped me out immensely so then it's easy to distinguish between work time and normal life. 

- Turn off the cell phone, and no internet while working. No, the world will not explode. It's impossible to work with distractions, and I have spent too many days wasting good time because I was procrastinating. One phone call, text, or email turns into hours of messing around. So pull the plug! Loved ones will understand, and you can always get back to them after creativity/work time is wrapped up. After awhile the mind will calm and it's easy to get into the zone, because life as we know it can resume after work time is done.

- Play, relax, and be prepared to make mistakes. One cannot learn without making mistakes, and it will happen naturally so it's best to welcome it. This has stopped me from being creative because I didn't want to fail and waste time on mistakes. That, in and of itself, is a huge mistake because I wasn't growing or learning without practice. Get into a childlike state of mind and go to town! One needs to have those experiences, and learn what not to do, so that the creative mind can ponder on something else instead of fixating on a potential solution that was never worked through. I'm reminded of the famous example of Edison's 1,000 attempts at the light bulb. He had to experiment to learn from the mistakes. The same is true with any creative process. Get the elementary ideas out first, so that they can evolve or that better ones can manifest.

- Get quality rest. Not only is this optimal for a well-functioning body, but it's also ideal because the mind needs time to step away from the task at hand. Now, I'm not talking about laziness and procrastination, I'm talking about a good night's sleep and cool down time in the evening. I've found that if I work until bedtime, I can't get my problems off the brain and I jeopardize my relaxation. In contrast, if I put my work up a few hours before bed, I'm well rested and ready to start work the next day with enthusiasm and excitement. What's also great about rest is that some of the best ideas can pop into one's mind when they least expect it. I often have amazing thoughts when I'm in the shower, dreaming, preparing food, or out on a walk. Just jot it down, save it for the next work session, and continue to enjoy your free time.

I wish you the best with all of your creative endeavors. I'm a big believer that we all have a special purpose or calling, and sometimes it's scary to pursue that. Well, just put one foot in front of the other and the finish line will get closer with each passing day. Live with passion my friends, 
because the world needs whatever unique gift you have to offer.

Cheers and here's to creativity!

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