November 21, 2013
Ordinary ways for achieving exceptional creativity.
Creativity is a hot topic these days. Everyone from accountants to zoologists is asking: How can I be more creative—produce more ideas, better ones, and do so more quickly and reliably? Here are a few methods for keeping your thinking fresh and the ideas flowing.
Master the art of doing nothing.
Ever have a great idea appear out of nowhere during a “mindless” activity, such as showering, cleaning the house, or even sitting in traffic? When our bodies relax and our minds wander off the beaten path—when we daydream—that’s often when we discover the unexpected and the extraordinary. That’s right: you can get in the zone by zoning out. To create a mindset that fosters more of these aha! moments, develop a daily routine or ritual that allows your brain to switch from “always on” to autopilot. It’s one of the best ways to come up with a creative solution.
Get in touch with the great outdoors.
Scientists call it attention restoration therapy, but your mom or dad called it “go outside and play.” Whatever you call it, schedule some time each month to disconnect from all the tech devices that pull you into virtual worlds, and reconnect with the physical world. Because nature deficit disorder is real, and more and more studies say that it’s causing us to become less and less creative. So make a date to get outside, and then make a day of it. You’ll be more creative and productive, and you’ll be healthier, too.
Silence your worst critic.
That critic is you, of course. It’s easy to get stuck in your head, twisting the same few ideas until you’re not sure they make any sense. Soon, the doubt escalates, and your mind shuts down. Instead, try letting your ideas flow early on in the creative process: write them down, key them in, or draw them out, even if they’re incomplete. Not only does this free your mind to consider other ideas, but you also create the psychological distance to analyze your thoughts without criticizing your thought process. That’s crucial, because quieting your inner editor is essential to generating ideas.
Take to the streets.
Studying design and writing in the real world can be like Pilates for your creative mind. When you’re sitting in traffic or standing in line, make a habit of asking questions: Why that billboard in this intersection? Could that sentence have been shorter? Does that logo make sense? Why is that color suddenly everywhere? How did they come up with that car’s name? Does that ad in People do anything for you? How about that headline in your local paper? Not only will you become a true student of advertising and marketing, but you’ll strengthen and stretch your creative muscles.
Learn something (anything) new.
Connecting the dots—seeing how new information relates to what you already know—is a time-honored way to create something entirely original. But to do so, you have to get outside your field of expertise. Here at Ologie, design books stock the shelves of our library, but so do the latest issues of Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, Parenting, Bloomberg Businessweek, and many other publications. It’s how we stay current, and it’s how we stay curious. And it’s how you can do the same. Read something that you wouldn’t normally pick up. Listen to a podcast or watch a documentary on a subject you know nothing about. Because knowing even a little about a whole lot of things goes a long way toward a more creative life.
In short, the key to creativity is connecting with your inner child. You remember him or her, right? You were really creative, constantly so. You asked questions, because learning was your job. And the results of your labor—although it didn’t feel like work at the time—came through in all forms of creative pursuits. You didn’t see what you were doing, whether it was daydreaming or playing outdoors, as a waste of time, and you saw the product of your work as something special. Everything was wondrous. Everything was a work of art.
The secret is this: Everything still is. Be that kid again.