When I tell people I’m a writer, I can expect one of three responses:
1) The Practical Response: “How do you make money doing that?”
2) The Impressed Response: “Wow, that’s so cool.”
3) The Wistful Response: “I wish I could do that.”
Luckily, the majority of people I meet have some tact, so they fall into the latter two categories, but I am always surprised by the number of people who tell me they wish they could have been a writer (or, if not a writer, a more creative person in general). To those people, my response is always: “YOU CAN!”
Being creative isn’t the hard part. That may sound like a line, but it isn’t. Neil Gaiman once said in an interview, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”
To me, there has never been a truer word spoken about human creativity. Regardless of in what capacity, human beings are creative beings. Our minds wander, daydreaming to fill the voids of activity. You may daydream about supernatural worlds or being at the scene of a bank robbery. You may imagine the cute cashier at the grocery store hitting on you or slipping you a coded note that leads to a locked safe buried in the park. Bottom line, everyone has ideas. As Neil Gaiman said, writers just notice when they have one.
I think all other forms of creativity are similar, whether it is painting, sculpting, dancing, illustrating, photography, inventing, etc. The people who practice, who work on their art form even when it’s hard, recognize when they have a good idea. So, to help those of you who feel you can’t be creative, I’ve put together a list of five ways you can harness your own creativity.
1) Write Things Down
You’re in the shower shampooing, when, suddenly, you strike gold. You have the perfect idea for a TV show or a painting or a song. There has never been an idea more amazing than the one you just came up with. You think about it the entire time you’re in the shower, staying under the hot water until it begins to run lukewarm. You get out, dry off, get dressed, brush your hair, read the paper, eat breakfast, put your shoes on, reach for your keys…and realize…you’ve forgotten the idea. Your perfect idea has fallen into the abyss at the back of your head, and, if it’s anything like the name of your third grade teacher, you’ll never get it back.
This doesn’t have to be your life! Buy a fifty cent notepad and use it exclusively for writing down those amazing ideas! Who cares if you’re dripping wet from the shower or covered in dirt and grass stains from mowing the yard. WRITE IT DOWN. The idea won’t be any less amazing because it comes with a dirty smudge or a water stain. Don’t give your brain time to fall back into normal, routine thinking and forget your creative, unique idea. Your brain is the most overworked secretary in all of existence, and expecting it to remember an idea that pertains little to your day to day life is like asking Americans to remember every word to “Oh Canada.” Not going to happen. Write it down.
No, not to a new house. Though, that could help you become more creative. I mean move your body. Take a kickboxing class, go for a walk, do some yoga. I don’t have the science on this (though I’m sure there is some), but being active always makes me feel more creative. Maybe it’s the endorphins or the adrenaline or some other chemical in your body that makes you happy and alert, but it’s true. Get off the couch (or office chair), sweat it out a little, and see how many more ideas you can add to your freshly purchased “Idea Book.”
3) Stop Brainstorming
I know this seems counterintuitive, but hang with me. Ever heard the phrase “a watched pot never boils”? Well, brainstorming is kind of like that sometimes. If you sit down in front of your canvas/sketchbook/glob of clay and don’t move or take a break for eight straight hours, it can lead to a lot of frustration. Sometimes you just need to step away from the project for awhile, give your brain some time and space, and come back to it another day.
Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you should wait for a moment of pure inspiration before you start creating. Most works of art come from one second of inspiration and countless hours of frustrated toil. Instead, I’m saying to pay attention to your energy levels and your emotions. If you’re sitting in front of an empty page for three hours trying to come up with an idea, on the verge of tears because you feel inadequate or less than, step away. Gain some perspective, eat some frozen yogurt, and come back when you’re in a better place. Essentially, don’t push yourself to hard.
4) Ask Questions
What if dogs could talk?
What if anger made people physically ill?
How would humans survive if the world was covered in water?
What if my house burned down?
What if you could see the wind?
5) Try Something New
Sometimes, nothing beats stepping out of your comfort zone and learning something new. Maybe it’s signing up for a dance class, learning a new language, talking to a stranger in the grocery store line, sketching in the park, reading a non-fiction book. It can be anything, but trying something new can help you see the world in a slightly different way, and seeing the world in a different way can give you new ideas!
Some of you may be thinking those ideas are silly or I would feel too uncomfortable to try any of these. If that is you, I say this: you can’t do the same things and expect a different outcome. If your life feels devoid of creativity, what makes you think following the same old routine will fix it? Sometimes you have to do something that makes you feel foolish or uncomfortable in order to grow as a person. You can be more creative. In fact, you already are creative; you just haven’t found a way to harness it yet. Hopefully these tips and tricks will help!
Let me know if you plan to try out any of these tips or if you have some of your own that I didn’t mention!