Creativity is one of our most powerful characteristics we possess, as it can be the knight in shining armor whenever we face a dangerous situation or the source for the ideas and concepts that help us to earn a living.
Creativity has helped brilliant thinkers, geniuses and ordinary people to discover fantastic theories and concepts, encouraged the arousal of exciting ideas and allowed people to find solutions where pure logic wasn’t sufficient enough. The amazingly positive characteristics of creativity are the reason why it feels so painful and awkward whenever we experience a lack of creativity, especially if one is dependent on his creativity, e.g. in one’s job. A lack of creativity is an uncomfortable sensation as the fascinating ideas that would normally start to arise are beyond a veil of unimaginativeness. Luckily there are some really great ways that can help you to boost creativity.
Drug abuse to stimulate creativity?
Many creative people such as authors, musicians and artists are known to (ab-) use drugs and alcohol in order to enhance their imagination and to stimulate their creativity, whenever they lack creativity or – in very special cases – whenever they need to be creative. For the author Aldous Huxley it became a routine to start writing whenever he had used drugs – which is why he became addicted to drugs. In fact: creativity is a mental process that is highly dependent of routines. Normally, our normal routines would help us to discover new concepts and let creative ideas arise, however once a person starts abusing drugs for the purpose of enhancing his creativity he is mostly rewarded with creativeness, that starts to replace his “regular” routine to become creative as it seems easier and more effective. This person is more apt to repeat the drug abuse until he cannot even be creative without the stimulation. Therefore, I highly recommend you not to use drugs or alcohol by any means to enhance your creativity.
How to Enhance Creativity?
The best ideas are often those that arise all of a sudden, without any warning at all.
Part I: The Arise of Ideas
Whenever I lack creativity I noticed that I’m stuck in a routine, e.g. I’m continuously staring at a blank paper, hoping that fantastic ideas start to arise without having any inspiration to start writing at all. These routines can be found wherever a person uses the process of creativity to create something, e.g. the painter stands in front of his easel without the inspiration on how to color the white paper and the musician is not “in the right flow” to mix vocals, rhymes and beats to a masterpiece. Something that helped me tremendously to break this unimaginativeness is distraction, particularly with inspiring activities that enable me to enhance my creativity. Whenever I face a lack of creativity I break the routine, sit down on a chair, put headphones on and turn on some music. [You can feel free to do the following with or without music, as some might get too much distracted by music]: I close my eyes and try to let go of all my thoughts, especially thoughts that revolve around creativity, such as:
- “Why don’t the ideas start to pop up?”
- “Where are the cool ideas?”
- “I´ve got to get started!”
It is my aim to solely focus my mind on my own breathing or (in case I’m listening to music) on the colorful pictures that start to arise in my mind, created by the different sounds of drums, beats and voices. It definitely takes some time and exercise to reach the point of inner silence, but from then on something amazing happens: an idea pop’s into my mind like a flash of light in split-second. Sometimes really brilliant ideas arise, however most of them are just thoughts that I start spinning around and – if they are great and excite me – evolve into ideas or whole concepts. Not every idea that arises in these moments is fantastic and brilliant, some of them are totally random or not good at all, which is why it is important to let them go. Needless to say that this little method figuratively boosts my creativity into new spheres, whenever an exciting idea pops up.
2. Know your creative moods
Scientists have shown that the brain processes the events of the day when we sleep. I have discovered for myself that my brain does not only processes events, but also starts to slide into a very creative phase before I fall asleep, which is why I placed a notepad on my bed stand to capture ideas arising out of these phases. It can pay off to know everyday situations when you are in a creative mood and to make some efforts to capture and evolve ideas that arise out of such a mood. These creative moods occur especially in situations where you do not get distracted, which allow your thoughts to wander.
3. Ideas are situational
Only a slight fraction of my ideas arise when I’m following the method I explained in #1 Distraction. The huge majority of ideas pops into my mind in everyday situations, when I’m showering, cooking, eating, talking with someone, exercising, bicycling, or driving in my car. Some of my very best ideas have arisen out of conversations with different people that inspired my creativity. You see, there are techniques to figuratively “force” ideas to arise, however most of your ideas will arise in everyday situations, especially when you haven’t thought about the topic of the idea at all. I heard a story that a painful steel spring in a mattress inspired a person to use wire for his light bulb, a century ago. I might be mistaken and do not remember where I heard that story, however many other brilliant ideas arose all of a sudden, without someone forcing them to do so! This is why the next part is going to be very important, as it focuses on ways on how to catch these ideas.
Part II: Capturing Ideas
The best ideas will arise totally unexpected, sometimes in the most inconvenient situations, which is why it is important to have made some preparations to catch these thoughts as well. Here are some ways to capture the little bits of genius that occasionally arise and would disappear within a couple of minutes:
Basically, it all comes down to the method you prefer to write ideas down, from small notebooks, notepads, mobile and smart phones or audio-recorders. If you prefer the old fashioned approach to write ideas down on paper, then place a pen and a notepad on your workstation, your bed stand and try to have a piece of paper and a pen everywhere you go. Same goes for small tape recorders, digital recorders and smart phones that you should have around whenever an idea arises.
Whenever I have a flash of genius I immediately try to write it down, either into my mobile phone or on a notepad and – in case I’m driving in my car or are in any other situation that makes it impossible for me to write it down – I try to remember as much as possible by creating associations. When I’m having a great idea in my car I try to associate it for instance with the warmth feeling of the sun on my skin or the grotesque look of an abandoned house. As soon as I found something where I can write my idea down I only need to re-think about my associations and the idea comes back into my mind.
Part III: Stimulation of Creativity
I already mentioned that music is for me an amazing way to stimulate my creativity with the variety of images that arises it in my mind. Variation in general is a fantastic way that helps me to enhance my creativity, as it supplies me with a lot of new experiences, feelings, thoughts, ideas and insights. You can increase creativity by discovering new places and areas, plunging into new societies when travelling around, listening to new sounds and inspirational conversations with your friends or people you just met. It isn’t required to spend thousands of dollars to start travelling around, just make sure to break out of your everyday routines (especially those that were barriers for your creativity), habits and mix the inspirational sensation of variation into your life. Routines can be a barrier for innovation and creativeness, which is why I recommend you to implement activities that have a positive impact on your creativity, such as painting, learning how to play the guitar or simply by writing a poem. By implementing variation into your life you activate especially the right parts of your brain that is responsible for inspiration, creativeness and intuition.
2. Mind Mapping / Brainstorming
The creative potential of mind mapping or brainstorming shouldn’t be underestimated and can be beneficial for your creativity. These tools help our brain to establish associations and integrate different ideas with each other. A brainstorming session can help you to generate a dozen of new ideas, concepts and associations.
3. Evolve ideas
Living in our modern society means that we have to accept the fact that many secrets have already been unhidden, theories constructed and many ideas discovered, often even before we could have thought about them. However, whenever I have an interesting thought or idea I try to evolve the idea until it starts to develop to an interesting concept/theory/etc. This process allows me to find new ideas as a result of already existing thoughts. Excellent questions to ask yourself are
- “How could I solve (insert problem)?”
- “How can I improve this idea/concept?”
- “What are the problems of this idea and how can they be solved?”
Sometimes it can also be helpful to look at an idea from a completely different perspective. By changing your point of view you might discover some really fantastic new ideas.
- “Could this idea be viewed from a completely different point of view?”
- “How could this idea/concept be approached differently?”
- “What would another person think about this idea?”
4. “Think outside the box”
The ability to think outside the box is a fantastic characteristic creative people have discovered for various aspects of their lives. Many people struggle with thinking outside the box, often because it is not clear what it really means. Therefore I’d like to give you a great example what it means to think inside the box, by quoting Charles H. Duell, Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 1899:
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Duell’s statement – fantastic example for thinking inside the box at its best – is especially remarkable when keeping in mind that it was made in 1899. Another characteristic of in the box thinking is the acceptance of the way the things are how they are, in short: accepting the status quo.
Thinking outside the box can sometimes be different as it will require you to approach things completely different than you would have and it often takes the willingness and openness to view things from a new perspective. For me personally, thinking outside the box also means that I do not stubbornly persist in my opinion, whenever another person presents me facts that prove me wrong.
The Attitudes of a creative person
Creativity is definitely something that can be easily acquired by training oneself one creative characteristic. It is more a mixture of different characteristics and attitudes, mindsets and abilities that allow a person to develop creative thoughts, concepts or masterpieces. What are some attitudes and characteristics that creative people have in common? Or maybe even more important: what are attitudes that non-creative people have in common? Let’s start with attitudes and characteristics of non-creative people:
Stubbornness, In-the-box-thinking and following instructions
I have been working at an insurance, which felt like it was the least creative place in the whole wide world. Every employee had to accomplish his very own tasks by following meticulous instructions and guidelines, always having the laws in mind that were pointed out in the legal text. I had varied tasks, however for nearly all of them I had to follow guidelines on how to approach tasks. My working experience in this job allowed me to find some insights about some of the least creative people: they are stubborn, follow instructions as precise as possible and feel uncomfortable whenever a situation requires to come up with own solutions.
What are the attitudes of creative people?
Individuality and Uniqueness
Creative people have many characteristics and attitudes; however their individuality is something that makes them unique. Just think about favorite musicians (Michael Jackson, Bob Marley) and how everyone of them was a unique individual. Their individuality is the main reason that creative people are often considered to be “ahead of time” and why they come up with completely new ideas on how to address problems.
Unconventionality and individuality are two characteristics of highly creative people and both of these have a lot in common. Galileo Galilei is such a creative person who was amazingly unconventional. Unconventional people tend to do whatever they believe is right, even if it means to swim against the flow. Galileo by contrast had to figuratively swim against a whole storm surge with his revolutionary but true statement that the earth evolved around the sun.
Curiosity is another characteristic of highly creative people. A person that is curios discovers and experiences a lot more than other people would, simply by questioning things and by searching for suitable answers for his questions. I’ve written an article on how to develop curiosity and the reasons curiosity is so important, feel free to have a look at it as well.