Reading Length: 9 minutes
How many times have you said or heard “I’m just not a creative person.” Well, most people aren’t born creative. It can be learned and trained as long as there is consistency and effort towards cultivating more creativity.
1. Follow the best times to brainstorm and learn.
We have the circadian rhythm which is linked to our energy levels throughout the day. So we can make use of certain times of the day when it comes to brainstorming and learning new material. From Melody Wilding, performance coach and licensed social worker, the best time to learn is between 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and then again from 4:00 pm. to 10:00 pm. And the best time to brainstorm is between 11:00 am. to 3:00 pm.
2. Be consistent.
The long run is what matters. Most people give up too soon before they can reach their fullest creative potential. From James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” here are 5 steps to staying consistent in order to reach creativity:
- Step 1: Give yourself permission to create junk. You have to keep producing junk in order to finally come across the great piece.
- Step 2: Create on a schedule. Keep practicing your craft by showing by everyday. Don’t hope for inspiration. Keep doing the work.
- Step 3: Finish something. Stop researching, planning, and preparing to do the work. Just do the work.
- Step 4: Stop judging your own work. It’s natural to judge and feel disappointed with your work. But don’t let those feelings stop you from continuing to do the work.
- Step 5: Hold yourself accountable. Share your work publicly. You’ll get feedback.
I try to hold myself accountable by writing new blog posts every Tuesday and Thursday. But there are many times when I’m not satisfied with the final work I have created. I end up feeling like I could have done more or that I created absolute junk. But I try to remind myself that it’s normal to feel that way. Not every post can be 100% perfect. The key is just to keep going. What comforts me is knowing that many masters in their field had to produce thousands of pieces or content before finding their best work. So now I’m slowly becoming more accepting of this fact and reminding myself to just keep persisting along. And once a while, sudden creative ideas will appear.
3. Keep training your mind.
We should not just rely on technology but try to cultivate a greater memory capacity. Otherwise, our brain can grow flabby. We need to be more active by engaging in hobbies, games, language, instruments in order to train our brain. From the book, “Mastery” by Robert Greene, here are some steps to keep training the mind towards creativity and mastery:
- 1) Connect to your environment. Observe everything in your environment. Don’t take anything at face value.
- 2) Play to your strengths for supreme focus. Determine and identify your mental and psychological strengths and weaknesses.
- 3) Transform yourself through practice. Master a series of skills and then move onto a complex skill. Ignore that society tends to denigrate deliberate practice.
- 4) Internalize the details of the life force. Put a lot of detail into your work for your audience. See your work as something alive.
- 5) Widen your vision. Train to enlarge your perspective by reminding yourself of the bigger picture. Look at all angles before reaching a solution
- 6) Study from within. We tend to study from the outside. We need to participate and overcome feelings of the unknown.
- 7) Synthesize all forms of knowledge. Expand your knowledge to other fields.
A few weeks ago I was at home, trying to write another blog post but hit a roadblock. I had run out of ideas. My mom then came home and pleaded for me to come volunteer with her at our local temple. I instantly felt annoyed at this request, wanting to just work on my blog and stay at home. But I valued filial piety so I followed her request and went to temple with her. I expected a day filled with boredom and frustration. But what I had not expected was instant inspiration. The people, settings, and stimuli brought out more ideas within me which I wouldn’t have got if I stayed at home. It also made me realize how narrow-minded, lazy and selfish I was for not offering my services in the first place. So now I’ve learned to become more open to new experiences and not judge something beforehand. Creativity can happen when we’re more open-minded to new experiences and observant of our environment.
4. Conduct an effective brainstorming session.
Sometimes it’s better to seek help from more people. That way, you can gather more ideas from different sources. From Alex Osborn, author of “Applied Imagination,” for a successful group brainstorming session, the group must:
- Defer judgment. Don’t get upset when people say bad ideas.
- Reach for quantity. Come up with as many ideas as possible.
From Mikael Cho, founder of Crew, here are ways to have an effective brainstorming session:
- Start with alone time. This removes fear of judgment since you give yourself solitary space to think alone.
- Follow with a group session. This is most effective only if you had taken initial time to think about an idea individually first.
- Allow for tangents. Keep the topic in mind but going in different directions can bring up opportunities too.
- No time limit. Let go of the session once you finally realize the creative output is stalling.
- Don’t force immediate conclusions. Sometimes it’s better to remove from the problem rather than directly stare at it. The first ideas may not be the best option.
5. Allow your mind to wander.
Neuroscience suggests that when our mind wanders, our default state gets activated. This is the resting state of our brain. This allows the generation of spontaneous thoughts about ourselves, others, our past and our future. There is a difference between focused thinking and diffused thinking. Diffused thinking is linked to daydreaming which explains why we get sudden thoughts in the shower. From Anne-Laure Le Cunff, writer on Ness Labs,
- Accept your mental oscillations. It is impossible to be focused all the time. You need to oscillate between focused and diffused thinking.
- Take conscious breaks. Go for a walk, take a shower, cook a simple meal or do other activities that don’t require focused mode.
- Deal with negative mind wandering. Try meditation or breathwork to observe the negative thoughts in a non-judgmental way.
To come up with more ideas, it’s ideal to cultivate mental playfulness. Unfortunately, in school, ideas are thrown at us so we need some motivation to find ideas on our own. So from our childhood, we’re not taught to recreate constructively. And society influences us to take on something we hate such as a job rather than going after our true calling. So we need to keep being curious and allowing our mind to stay playful and wander.
6. Take a walk.
Walking raises our heart rate and has been linked to improving our memory, attention and building new connections. Since walking doesn’t require much mental exertion, our mind can freely wander which can lead to ideas. I personally get most of my ideas during or after my walks. Before my walk, I start off with a few questions in mind that I want to brainstorm ideas or solutions for. As I walk, I try to come up with as many ideas and solutions as possible. There are many days when I get zero or terrible ideas. But it still takes me closer to reaching the best idea or solution.
There are many misconceptions that people have about creativity. So we need to remove these myths. From Susan Weinschenk, writer on Psychology Today and Brain Wise, here are some myths to clear up about creativity:
- Some people are “naturally” creative and other people aren’t. Brain science suggests that we can turn on creativity with simple actions. We can learn to be more creative.
- Creativity means creating “works of art.” Creativity isn’t just about fine art. It can be many things like cooking, programming, interface design and problem solving.
- Some people are left-brained (analytical) and others are right-brained (creative). This is a misconception since people are actually referring to their styles of thinking, learning or processing information which don’t relate to the halves of the brain.
- 1. Follow the best times to brainstorm and learn. The best time to learn is between 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and again from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm. The best time to brainstorm is between 11:00 am to 3:00 pm.
- 2. Be consistent. Give yourself permission to create junk. Create on a schedule. Finish the work. Stop judging your work. Hold yourself accountable.
- 3. Keep training your mind. Connect to your environment. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Transform yourself through practice. Put a lot of detail in your work. Look at the bigger picture. Don’t study from the outside, try to participate. Synthesize all forms of knowledge.
- 4. Conduct an effective brainstorming session. For a successful group brainstorming session, the group must defer judgement and reach for more quantity in ideas. Effective brainstorming sessions should start off with alone time, followed by group sessions, allow for tangents, have no time limits and no pressure for immediate conclusions.
- 5. Allow your mind to wander. Our default state linked to spontaneous thoughts gets activated when we wander. We should accept our mental oscillations, take conscious breaks and observe negative thoughts in a non-judgmental way.
- 6. Talk a walk. Walking is linked to improved memory, attention and building of connections. This can lead to new ideas.
- 7. Clear up myths about creativity. Creativity isn’t based on “natural gifts,” it can be learned. Creativity doesn’t just mean creating art, it can be anything. Creativity isn’t based a left or right brain.
Science Says These Are the Best Times to Learn and Create for Optimal Success by Melody Wilding
Creativity: How to Unlock Your Hidden Creative Genius by James Clear
The myth of the brainstorming session: The best ideas don’t always come from meetings by Mikael Cho
The art and science of mind wandering by Anne-Laure Le Cunff
Why Walking Helps Us Think by Ferris Jabr
Myths About Creativity by Susan Weinschenk
Advice on Life and Creative Integrity from Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson by Maris Popova