We love creativity, producing original ideas or making something new or imaginative. We appreciate creativity both as a consumer and as an innovator. Consider the last time you found a new style of shoes, a refreshing logo or a novel restaurant. Maybe you enjoyed sharing a new experience with your family or colleagues. The advertising industry, product design, education and training – as well as entertainment and the arts - are built around creativity.
Quick! Come up with a creative idea. Did you? If you answer “YES,” you’re in the minority.
Creativity has a life of its own, and it’s often elusive. Authors have a name for this phenomenon. They call it writer’s block. For artists, it’s the frustration of standing in front of a blank canvas. For the business owner, it’s coming up short when trying to make a product or service stand out in a busy market place.
I help almost all of my clients clarify their 3-year vision. What would you love to be, do and have in your business and in your life three years from now? Most people struggle with this. The question taps the imagination, the cauldron for creativity. Some people believe they’re not very creative. If that’s you, simply imagine that you expected one of your family members to be home by 10pm. It’s 3am and you haven’t heard from them. If you put yourself in this exercise, your imagination is likely to bring countless images to mind. It’s not about whether you have an imagination, it’s whether you put it into service for your desired outcome.
The single most important factor for inspiring creativity is mindset. Do you believe you’re creative? Do you believe others are interested in what you create? Sometimes creativity is blocked due to a message we heard in our youth that something we did wasn’t very good. Success can also block the creative flow. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, said the success of her book made it difficult to write the next one. What’s it like to feel that your best work is probably behind you?
What opens us to the creative muse? Here are three practices you can do right away:
First, block time for creativity. Set uninterrupted time aside to tap new ideas. A tweet, answering a text message, taking care of urgent business, being interrupted by a co-worker and the list goes on – is quite disruptive. Research shows it takes eighteen minutes to return to deep thought when distracted. When you increase the time you dedicate to creativity, your mind responds with innovative ideas.
Second, seed your mind with diverse points of view. Talk with people who think different than you do. Read material that challenges you. Plan activities to take you outside of your normal environment. Travel, whether local or around the world, exposes us to new people, experiences and cultures. Trying new foods, learning about history or studying a new skill helps your brain see different perspectives and increases your creativity.
Third, frame the area where you want to create with a question that requires exploration. Your mind gets curious when answering a question, so choose a question that stretches you. For example, what are 25 ways to inspire creativity? Chances are you’ll write 12 and stop. Or you’ll write 18 and come to a block. Keep looking and new ideas will come. Once you’ve written all 25 responses, chances are, you’ll find an interesting new idea.
There are many practices to increase creativity. Which of these 3 work best for you?