“Creativity is just connecting things,” Steve Jobs famously said in an interview in 1996.
As inspirational as this quote may be, you don’t have to spend much time asking people “What is creativity?” to see that everyone has their own vision. We all look at it from a different perspective and, as a result, we have unique ways to convey and nurture our imagination. Here is how Maya Angelou approached the creative process, in all its mystery: “You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
When searching for ways to channel more creativity at work, while you are studying, or even for a personal project, it helps to experiment and keep an open mind. So, take a look at some of these creative techniques and start looking for your daily dose of originality.
Explore something new
In the whirlwind of their daily activities, people often start to feel stuck and boxed in by their routines. But there is one crucial aid to getting unstuck and finding inspiration, whether at work or at school – opening up to new experiences.
Everyone will have their individual approach to exploration. For example, you might benefit from adding new resources to your daily reading. Don’t be afraid to move right away from your usual choices. Read about scientific discoveries, world politics, news from different parts of the world – anything that is completely new to you. This exercise will help you get ideas from diverse fields and apply them in practice.
Trying out new experiences works with everything, not just reading. You could sign up for a conference, watch a foreign film, or practise a new skill. As Deanna deBara, writer at 99designs, notes, stepping into an unfamiliar setting is the ultimate route to fresh ideas:
If you’re a designer, try writing a poem. If you’re a writer, try practising a new instrument. The point is, there are a lot of different ways to be creative – and when you try something new, it can help your brain create new connections and inspire a new kind of creativity.
Get off your phone
It might seem counterintuitive at first, but going off the grid even for a while can do wonders for your creative thinking. Thanks to technology, most people are used to accessing all the information they need with just a few clicks. But while the digital realm presents us with infinite ideas and possibilities, embracing idleness and sitting still can enrich our thoughts in ways we never expected.
This is what psychologist Sandi Mann found in her research which explores the benefits of daydreaming. “It literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas,” Ms Mann said for The New York Times. “Let the mind search for its own stimulation. That’s when you get the daydreaming and mind wandering, and that’s when you’re more likely to get the creativity.”
While most people would understand the need to switch off their phone while they talk to someone or when they are busy at work, few would ever think to put it away when they are bored. Here is a revolutionary thought – boredom can be good for you! In fact, spending some time with your thoughts is necessary to give your brain a rest. So, next time your imagination needs a nudge, try doing nothing for a change.
Some people will say that trying new activities and switching their phones off are very general suggestions. What if your job or your studies require you to be creative at all times? How can you maintain a steady level of creativity that helps you in your daily work?
The answer is simpler than you might think. Working on your creativity is like exercising your muscles – it takes deliberate action and effort to keep them healthy. For example, if you are studying or working in marketing, take a really successful and memorable advertising slogan and analyse it from every perspective you can think of. Use your critical mindset and ask yourself why it worked so well. In other words, try to be creative on purpose.
“Research shows that when people try to think more creatively, they almost always can,” notes Hayden Field, Associate Editor at Entrepreneur Magazine. “Consider dedicating specific time in your day to thinking creatively – and remind yourself to do so before any brainstorming session.”
While creativity is a very personal process, perhaps these techniques could give you the head start you need. Search for new experiences, remember to take breaks every once in a while, and practise creative thinking the way you would practise anything else.