Whether you are interested in creative writing or other creative activities, would you describe yourself as the type of person who has many creative ideas, whose creative juices are always flowing? In other words, how creative are you?
Many have experienced moments of genius and great creativity, but these moments might not occur frequently enough for those of us who need to be creative all the time (because of our job and occupation). Truly creative minds, people successful in their creative jobs, need to produce high-quality artistic works in a unique creative style. And they need to be innovative on a regular basis
Of course, regardless of our jobs or whether we think of ourselves as creative, we all need creativity; it is an important aspect of life. Creativity is needed for growth. It is also useful for finding unique and imaginative solutions to both big and small problems.
We do not all have the same reason for wanting to become more creative. For instance, you may simply enjoy using your imagination or engaging in the creative process itself. Or perhaps you have a problem and need to come up with new and creative solutions. Indeed, some problems can not be solved using logical and analytical skills alone; solutions to these problems require creative thinking skills.
So how do we nurture our creativity? A friend of mine, a songwriter, has tried to become more creative by observing and studying himself and his habits—whether he is more creative when he is sad, tired, etc—so he can both predict and increase his creativity.
What else can you do to spark the flame of innovation or fuel the burning fire of your imagination? Here are three strategies.
1. Read/write creative content.
We get used to the world around us, to common narratives, to what things look like and how they work, and we come to believe that how things are and how they could be are one and the same. Though we sometimes try to think outside the box, we fail because to think outside the box one must first truly see the box.
What we need to do is defamiliarize our world, our taken-for-granted assumptions, and the old ideas and familiar realities. A simple example is putting the TV on mute while watching your favorite movie, or closing your eyes and listening instead to your favorite TV show. These actions make the familiar unfamiliar. Look at the picture here, at the bottom of the page.
Writing creative works or reading the work of other artists is also helpful in defamiliarization. For instance, a good poem can, through use metaphors and other figures of speech, help us look at life with fresh eyes. See this short poem by Charles Simic.
I am reminded of creative stories the physicist Richard Feynman used to tell his young son, in which he would describe things from an unusual point of view, like going to “a moist cave where the wind kept going in and out.” In case you are wondering, the setting of this story was a dog’s nostrils.
2. Look at paintings/photographs/sculptures.
Another option is looking at visual arts, such as sculptures, paintings, and photographs.
Watching creative or experimental films is also a good idea; however, static works of art might be more effective because movies do not allow viewers to participate actively in the art. When we watch a movie, each scene is immediately followed by the next one, so we are not given any time for reflection.
Of course, there are exceptions; some masterfully done slow-moving films make good use of the medium and involve the viewer in a way other movies do not. However, they are a rarity.
So choose whatever form of visual art that speaks to you, but make sure you engage with it actively.
Here are some examples of works of visual art which might inspire you—pictures of the first three have been posted in this article already:
Giovanni Strazza’s The Veiled Virgin
Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night
John William Waterhouse’s The Soul of the Rose
Spend a little time experimenting to see what art form and style (e.g., realistic, surreal) encourages your creativity.
Many people find traveling helps them put things in perspective and see things anew. Travel provides a break from the world that has become too familiar—be it your house, work, city, social and political norms and views, etc. It also shows you how other people live their lives. So you return home with new creative ideas and new ways to make sense of life.
Ideally, one should travel to places that are very different from one’s place of residence, though even minor differences can be of benefit. To obtain even more benefits, you need to interact with the environment and culture during your vacation. If you spend all your vacation time in your hotel room, you may feel well rested but not necessarily feel the creative juices flowing when you go back home.
As the social psychologist Adam Galinsky says, “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms.” So what are you waiting for?