This week I’ve been exploring the topic of Creativity and how to be a more creative blogger (see the previous posts on the creative process and attitudes of creative people). The first part explored methods of creativity, yesterday I shared some attitudes of creative people and today I’d like to get a little more practical and will share a few ways that I one might bring a little extra creativity into their lives.
1. Stimulate Yourself
Most of us know the theory of ‘what goes in determines what comes out’ pretty well when it comes to our physical bodies – however the same principle applies when it comes to our minds.
I find that the more I stimulate myself with a variety of new sounds, sights, ideas, conversations, tastes, people etc the more creative ideas that seem to come out. I’m no scientist but am assured by friends who study this type of thing that stimulating your mind with ‘new’ things is very good for it.
So you hereby have permission to take yourself to see a movie, to read a book, treat yourself to a magazine, to make a new friend, to buy yourself a new CD, to try a new radio station and even to take a trip and visit a new culture!
Regularly stretch and exercise your brain and you’ll be surprised what it can produce when you call on it to perform.
2. Give Yourself Space
When it comes to physical fitness we know that exercise is a good thing – but so is rest.
I once heard of a study that was done on different groups of people to determine how much work they should do each week to be most productive on an hourly basis.
The finding was that six solid days work and one day with complete rest was the best balance for being productive.
If you’re anything like me, life’s pretty busy and the concept of space or rest can be a challenge – however if you want to be a productive and creative person you need to prioritize it.
I find that the best way to have times of relaxation in my week is to schedule them. Grab your diary and block out time to ‘just be’ over the next few weeks.
I give myself hour long breaks each day (at least one), days off each week and longer breaks off every few months.
PS: there are different types of ‘space’ that it can be worth giving yourself. The above might just sound like I give myself complete time off – however I also give myself space in my work to be creative.
For example, every week or two I set myself an hour or so to do some brainstorming. I’ll sit down with a notebook or my computer and either just write (free flow) or will sit down with a particular idea or problem that I want to work on and brainstorm around that. While these are ‘work’ times they are always done offline with the phone off and in a place where I know I won’t be interrupted. There is usually a very open agenda and it’s all about letting my mind take me where it takes me. It’s often in these sessions that I get great ideas.
3. Mix Up Your Environment
A few months ago I had a realization that really challenged me.
1. I spend most of my day in front of my computer – online.
2. I rarely have creative ideas when sitting in front of my computer – online.
3. Most of my creative ideas come when I’m out and about interacting with people or in different settings – offline.
My most creative ideas come when I’m not at home sitting in front of my computer – yet that’s where I spend most of my time. Hmmmmm.
Since having this realization I’ve started being intentional about going out more.
Now, if I’ve got a meeting, I schedule it for a cafe, park or bar.
Now, if I have to spend a morning writing posts or training material for b5, I do it offline in a cafe, at a mates place or even in the backyard.
4. Be a People Person
I’m an introvert. In fact some of the personality tests that I’ve done rate me at the most introverted level possible. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of people – it’s just that I don’t get my energy from interacting with others – I get it from being alone.
So I’m introverted – however I also know that if I give into my introversion too much that I’m depriving myself of something that I need to sustain myself – both emotionally but also creatively.
People bring new ideas, perspectives, questions and experiences to the problems that you’re attempting to solve in your own work. It’s when these new perspectives come together with your own that the creative sparks often fly and some of the best new ideas come to life.
So this little introvert has been on a bit of a mission lately – to spend more time with people – real people (and not just those virtual friendships that so many of us are used to having). I’m trying to do this both on a friendship/mateship level but also intentionally as a business strategy by finding a handful of creative people who I can regularly hang out with and swap ideas, brainstorm and dream with on a semi-regular basis.
5. Record Your Ideas
Those crazy and zany creative ideas that begin to come when you start stimulating yourself with new things, creating space, mixing up your environment and hanging out with creative people can come at the most unexpected times. The problem is that unless you have a way of capturing and processing them they will only ever remain as a fleeting thought – soon to be forgotten.
There are many ways to record ideas like this. Here are a few that I’ve used lately:
- Idea folder on desktop – for those times that the ideas hit me while I’m in front of my computer – I jot them as a text file and park them in a folder on my desktop.
- Memo’s on phone – I’m increasingly relying upon my phone to keep me organized (it’s synced with my computer’s calendar) but also to help me capture ideas. I’m constantly adding memos to myself.
- SMS yourself - since getting a phone with a better memo function I don’t do this as much but I used to text message myself all the time with ideas
- Leave yourself a voice message – sometimes it’s not practical to write yourself a memo or text message and you need to capture an idea verbally. I do this my calling my mobile phone, from my mobile phone which then diverts me to my voice mail service where I leave myself a message with the idea that’s buzzing around in my head. In a sense this becomes a dictaphone of ideas. In recent times I’ve stopped doing this and have started recording my ideas on my phone in video to replay later.
- Notebooks – yes, very un-webby – but effective. I’m a moleskine fan and try to have one with me when I’m on the road and needing to capture longer ideas but am unable to use my computer.
I’m sure you will have other ways of capturing creative ideas (please share them below). However you do it, the key is not just to get them down – but to work out how to refine them and do something with them. I suspect that most well intentioned creative types have a method of capturing ideas – however if you’re like the challenge is in collating them. Most of us probably have notebooks, phones and computers full of ideas (not to mention the 400 post it notes gathering dust on our desks) however we don’t actually ever go back to them.
I’m attempting to spend a little time at the end of each day going through all my notes and writing them down in an ideas document on my computer that I regularly return to. It seems to be working so far.
By no means do I have a monopoly on this ‘how to be creative’ stuff. Having chatted to many of you I know that ProBlogger readers are some of the most creative people going around and I’d love to hear your ideas on the topic.
When are you at your most creative? How do you get yourself in a creative zone?