Most people think that creativity is something only creative people have. Well, I have studied the behavior of several creative people (including myself) and have come up with a guaranteed formula to make you more creative at whatever it is you do.
Ready? Here we go:
There is no question about it: creative people always do things at the last moment. This is not the whim of the absent-minded. Here’s why: it is scientifically proven that creative people use their sub-conscious more than the norm. And because sub-conscious thinking is correlated with creativity, the longer you wait to do something the more time your subconscious mind has to work on it.
So, to be more creative, set a deadline and procrastinate. The creative solution will come to you when you least expect it.
Most people’s instinctive reaction to this advice is that it’s way too risky an approach. “What do I do if I hit the deadline and I came up with nothing?”
By definition, this approach will make you less creative. The creative solution might be completely out of the box, like coming up with a great story about why this was a bad idea in the first place and so you ended up doing something entirely different.
2. Always Be Learning
Creative people have a thirst for knowledge. Learning is different from curiosity which is also known to be linked with creativity.
You do not, in fact, have to be curious to be a learner. The connection between learning and creativity has to do with motivation. Some people are content with life exactly the way it is. If you want to be more creative, you also need to be motivated to change “life.”
When you are motivated to change things, you start finding innovative ways to meet your goals. How can you do it? Look at stuff around you that are not perfect and decide that you WANT to change them.
Annoyances are everywhere for you to spot, they could be anything: that scotch tape that keeps sticking to your fingers, the fact that you hate folding laundry or even inefficiencies in someone’s computer code. If you are motivated to change something you will learn more about it (why do people shave? What is the history of razor blades?)
3. Clear Some Space (Mentally)
Creative people LOVE new ideas. To make room for new ideas in your brain, you must toss out the old ones. Make a conscious effort to delete old stuff, forget ideas and get a bit more impatient when people re-hash a topic.
Whenever I lose a file I’ve been working on, I rejoice because I need to do the work all over again. I know this time it will be different and, because I’m not saddled by the old, it will also be better.
Creative people hate taking notes. They never read the meeting summaries and they refuse to have the same conversation twice.
How do you implement this methodology? Use cheap sticky notes instead of a notepad. Why? The sticky notes will fall off the wall within three days. So anything that is not completely fresh will get blown away and forgotten, and you will make space in your brain for new ideas.
4. Don’t Finish The Project
This one is my favorite. While I love the satisfaction of completing a project, I make sure to stop what I’m doing right when I’m in the middle of it. I’ll get back to it after a day or two (sometimes more) and will not spend any time at all thinking about it concisely. So when I get back to working on it, I see it with a whole new perspective.
5. Think Out Loud
I have always noticed that creative people talk to themselves, and I often wondered why do they do it. Apparently when you talk to yourself out loud something fascinating happens. By talking to yourself, you are giving yourself a set of instructions or questions. And, as it turns out, your subconscious is listening.
In fact, when you are talking out loud you are asking your sub-conscious for help. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat, Pray, Love” talked about the importance of talking to your sub-conscious in her TED talk “Your elusive creative genius.”
Gilbert encourages people to have in-depth conversations with their sub-conscious and hands out a couple of interesting tips such as: “talking to the wall” and “having a vocal argument with your imaginary muse.”
6. Don’t Stop When People Don’t Get You
The creative process often starts with an insight into a possibility. At that point in the process, you know what is possible that others can’t see, and they will likely not get what you are trying to do. Perhaps they may even try to talk you out of it.
Creativity has everything to do with INTERNAL MOTIVATION: the drive for new ideas comes from within. Follow that instinct.
Di (Internal drive) – Dx (External Drive) = Cp (Creativity Potential)
This does not mean that you should never listen to anyone, just that you need to understand that “their” motivation is to maintain the status quo while yours is to introduce something new.
Creativity will inevitably create conflict.
7. Drink More, Sleep Less
Research shows that alcohol inhibits the more deductive reasoning functions and boosts some of the primary processes of creativity. So, when you drink, you think less logically, are less able to plan ahead, and have a hard time following a linear thought progression.
Perhaps more importantly, alcohol removes inhibitions so that ideas which your mind immediately dismisses as “stupid” make it through to your conscious thought. Something similar happens when we are very tired: it’s hard to hold onto our thoughts, and our reasoning functions are diminished.
In fact, Creative insomnia is an actual “thing.” Perhaps all that late night drinking at the office during work in “Mad Men” was not such a bad idea after all.
8. Create Non-Standard Environments
You need to get comfortable with a bit of risk. Our natural fear is that if we don’t do what everyone else does, we might fail.
There is a comfort in conformity, and therefore, we tend to slip back into conformity. That is why creating constant change in your environment is good for the creative mind.
Try setting up a business meeting at a strange place (like the beach). One thing is sure, it will not be like any other meeting that other person ever had, and probably something very interesting will happen.
You need to feel comfortable “always being in Beta mode” where trying new stuff is the norm.
Do you see yourself as a creative person? What do you do to be more creative?