10 Ways to Increase Your Creativity
If you are trying to brand your business, come up with creative content or copy or develop new products and services, getting in touch with your creative side is key. The more you try to force an insight, the more you prevent the insight. Makes sense right? Cultivating creativity does not always come easy. So what can you do to set yourself up for some creative thinking? Here are 10 ways to increase creativity.
Set Up Your Optimal “Get-Creative” Environment.
What your creative space looks like will be different for each person, and it might change day to day. Natural light, reference materials, a notebook and some pens, a big glass of water and/or some coffee or tea can help.
Have kids at home or work in a busy co-working space? Headphones are your friends. Turn off the social media, put your phone in another room and close those browser windows until break time. And if today your space just isn’t working for you, get out of it. Often a change of locale can change your perspective. There is a reason creatives flock towards coffee shops or libraries. And if you want to stay home, think about bringing the coffee shop to you with help from some ambient noise.
How many times has an idea come to you in the shower? Stress, multitasking and all of the demands that come with every-day mom-life are creativity killers. Want an “a-ha” moment? Sometimes you need to turn it all off and really chill out in order to come up with an incredible idea.
Haruki Murakami praises running, many top performers find benefit in meditation, and of course there is often attributed Hemingway quote: “write drunk and edit sober.” So whatever it takes to get you to unwind a bit, you are going to want to try it. Heroic quantities of high-balls, aside.
Plugin for Some Brain Waves.
Chat with any group of creative types and you are going to find that this is a contentious issue. Some creative minds need total silence, others need music to focus. I have a hard time getting into my ideal creative space without a specific soundscape. I listen to soft drum & bass or jazzy and vocal-free EDM, audio books or Binaural beats - which stimulate different brain waves.
Theta waves are the slowest conscious brain waves, running at 4-7 hz. They induce a dream-like state coupled with intuitive awareness, which is great for enhancing creativity. Youtube has a number of playlists with creativity enhancing binaural beats tracks if you do a quick search.
Carry a Notebook.
Swayed by post it notes, and wonderful digital options, I gave up my practice of jotting all of my thoughts in my notebook temporarily. Now back toting my spiral ring companion, I can tell you that there is something really satisfying about putting pen to paper. “Downloading” the mind chatter can be a great jump-start to creativity.
Additionally, going back through past ideas and looking for patterns of thought can be really powerful. Take your notebook with you and jot down anything that might come to mind. If you are into sketching and wireframing, you can do that too. Or just use it to make grocery lists, because eating well is also a good idea if you want to be a productive human.
Creative-types have been using mood boards and colour swatches for a long time, and Pinterest is an absolute gamechanger. It is completely common to zone in on what your competitors are doing, their look/feel, their verbiage, their imagery and get boxed in there.
Set up a board for your project and begin browsing. Pin what you are drawn to. It may be completely unrelated to your project. (It could be a “who wore it best” and you might be working on a logo for a lawn care company...) PIN IT. When you review your project’s pins, you can go through and delete whatever won’t be of service, but it is worth the review. You never know what inspiration you may have gotten instinctively. Feeling shy? Pinterest allows you to keep your projects a secret.
Brainstorming for creative ideas is a popular tool, primarily because it works so well. Brainstorming can be more effective if done in groups, so you might want to call some friends over. Have a moderator / record keeper keep track of the session using pen and paper, apps, a word document... whatever. You also might find benefit in recording your sessions. The moderator throws out a thought and everyone is encouraged to go through a stream of consciousness, sharing whatever comes to mind.
This is not the place for judgement, just idea gathering. And because our brains get tired, you are best to time-box it at 30 min or so. After a quick break review the notes. Sort each thought into “Useful”, “Interesting”, “Requires further exploration”, “Discard.” Choose an idea marked “Interesting” or “requires further exploration” and repeat the activity.
Mind Mapping is likely worth a Google, because it is so visual. Very basically, you want to jot your main point of focus or idea in the center of a page. Then, like brainstorming, you look for connecting themes. Here, you jot down a keyword or sketch a key image as a branch from the main theme. From this keyword, have other ideas or keywords radiate out like twigs on those branches. In the end, all of the ideas are connected, much like a spider web. Try to find at least two branches from each idea, and at least two twigs from each branch. There are a number of tools, and apps you can use as well (like these).
It is normal to feel as if an idea needs to progress or develop in a certain way. We like to see progression in a linear direction but creative thought does not necessarily work this way. When I write, I always write the first paragraph last, and at that point, I am in such a flow that it comes easily.
Designers often jump from one part of a design to another. Jot down notes, experiment with something new, start at the end, start over. Sometimes shifting your focus a bit can help get your ideas unstuck. So feel free to jump around with abandon. Doing a couple of dance moves cannot hurt either here, because exercise.
Give yourself constraints.
Want to jump-start the creative process? This may be the number one thing that I need in order to get creative. We have all been told that creative thinking is “outside of the box.” But sometimes you need to box yourself in to get really into the flow. If your brain is like mine, endless possibilities are overwhelming. Setting some boundaries can really help you focus. Maybe it is screen size, budget, timeline, word count, colour scheme, materials. Getting a defined space for you to think within can be a big help, especially if you are prone to big ideas.
Know when to step away.
This is incredibly important. Sometimes it just isn’t working. Get up, get out and take a break. Take a walk, get hydrated, dance it off, shake it off. It is easy to get mad with yourself when ideas are not developing as planned. Especially when you have limited time allotted for creative exploration. Many times if you get really stuck, really frustrated, the best thing you can do to get things moving is to take a break and come back when you are refreshed.
Jennifer Myers Chua spends her days as creative director / partner at Hip Mommies, Canadian Distributors of products for happy and healthy families. She spends her nights pinning and deconstructing recipes in anything but maternity jeans.