6 Surefire Ways to Get Your Creativity Flowing
Have a dilemma you’re not sure what to do about? Feel like you’re stuck in a rut lately? Creativity is the key to everything from solving problems to living more joyfully every day. Here, experts share easy ways to boost your imagination and get those creative juices flowing so you can tackle any problem and break free from boredom.
Believe in yourself.
The biggest roadblock to creativity is our belief that it’s a rarified gift reserved for geniuses. “Creativity is about more than just making art or inventing something,” reveals Cyndi Burnett, Ed.D., author of Weaving Creativity Into Every Strand of Your Curriculum (Buy from Amazon, $23) and Director of Possibilities at CreativityAndEducation.com. “It’s about being open, curious, and authentic.” Burnett contends that simply solving a problem without consulting Google means you’re more creative than you realize. “Just knowing that you do indeed have this potential within you is the start to unleashing it.”
Ditch the judge.
Our inner critic often censors our ideas while they’re still in their infancy. “One of the best ways to ignite creativity is to notice why, when, and where we’re judging ourselves,” says Burnett. “Just ask yourself why you’re so hard on yourself. Is it from fear of being wrong or embarrassed? When you can stop and really listen to yourself without criticism, it becomes much easier to see possibilities.”
Follow your daydreams.
“Creativity isn’t about forging something completely new; rather, it combines two already existing ideas in a novel way,” says creativity expert Keith Sawyer, Ph.D., author of Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity (Buy from Amazon, $28) and a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He explains that in a process called “incubation,” our unconscious mind brings together disparate ideas to solve a problem while our conscious mind is relaxing. That’s why so many great insights come to us when we step away from a task to take a walk or daydream. In other words, boredom is a powerful catalyst of creativity.
Chase crazy ideas.
Don’t throw out your weirdest idea, urges Sawyer. Instead, pinpoint the part of it with the most potential. “For example, a wool company brainstorming an ad campaign came up with the ‘crazy’ idea to herd a flock of sheep down Fifth Avenue,” he recalls. “Instead of trashing that idea, they looked at what might be valuable about it, and hired a dog walker to walk 10 sheep through New York City.” Needless to say, it turned a few heads. “Look at what’s ‘okay’ about an idea and see if you can turn it into something great.”
Collaborate with Oprah.
When we’re in a state of “flow,” we have a wealth of insights. “Research shows we’re happiest not when relaxing but when facing a challenge that meets our skill level,” says Sawyer. And “group flow” is arguably even better because it taps collective creativity. He says you can “collaborate” just by picturing your “personal board of directors,” people you admire like Oprah or Sam Walton. “Imagining what they would say is a leap of imagination that stokes yours.”
“When my husband passed, the only thing that helped was being creative. Painting, gardening, and cooking saved me,” reveals Bonnie Cramond, Ph.D. The former director of the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development at the University of Georgia, she promises you don’t need to be a master to reap the benefits. “It’s been said that a good soup is just as creative as a poem.” In other words, an everyday activity like cooking can be an art form, so keep experimenting with new activities. You’re sure to discover hidden strengths!
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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