How to be Creative — the Mental Workout
You are seated in front of a computer and a word document is open – it has been for some time. A cursor sits at the top of the page or at the end of your text.
It idles there blinking as an insult, a reminder of your progress, or more likely lack thereof. You are stuck.
We have all found ourselves in this state of total mental exhaustion, or one that is comparable.
A blank canvas, an unfinished score, a dispute between colleagues, even a budget deficit all await inspiration to reach a solution.
What is Creativity?
It is not an isolated act. It is not exclusively for writers, artists, and musicians. It is not a right-brained process. Creativity is a mindset.
Creativity is the process of applying new solutions to problems.
Creativity is a workout.
Picture your muscular system. This interconnected network of skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscles is responsible for all your movement, including blood flow throughout the body.
Each muscle is strengthened with use, and there are many ways to develop each individually or in conjunction with others.
Some people run while others swim, practice yoga, attend Zumba classes, or lift weights. Each form of exercise possesses its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Whichever you choose to engage in depends on the end results you are trying to achieve.
More importantly, remember to do what you enjoy.
Your mind functions in much the same way. Your brain is also strengthened by repeated usage. One of the chief ways to promote this growth is through creativity.
Like physical exercise, creativity can be honed in a variety of ways depending on your goals and personal preferences.
Establish a Routine
Of course, there is little value to an exercise of both mental and physical nature if it is not repeated. It is not very beneficial to water an indoor plant once and expect it to thrive and flower. If you are committed to the growth of this plant, you must nurture it frequently.
This principle of regularity is crucial for the encouragement of creativity.
To make the process of exercising easier, you will notice that people establish routines. For example, a body builder may engage in a cyclical schedule where he focuses on certain muscle groups together. It need not be that complex, though, and may be as simple as walking down the block every morning to pick up a copy of the newspaper.
Exercising your creativity is as easy as applying the principles you already use in your daily routines toward your own mental workout.
For example, if you run a blog, dedicate ten to fifteen minutes a day to brainstorming concepts and drawing unique and fun connections to your own life.
How to be Creative: To help jump start this process, here are 6 easy tips to encourage and supercharge your own creativity
#1 Set Specific, Challenging Goals
Goal setting is widely recognized by psychologists as one of the most effective ways to set yourself up for success. By establishing objectives, you are providing yourself with a direct and powerful source of motivation.
Set goals so that you may achieve them.
According to Dr. Edwin Locke’s Goal Setting Theory, there is a strong correlation between the difficulty of a task and people’s performance on it. Specific, challenging difficult goals produced the best task results because they provide high levels of motivation and the framework to achieve them.
Find out whether your goals are holding you back, and transform your goals into progressive, actionable objectives.
#2 Use an Accountability Partner
If you find yourself struggling to maintain committed to your creative goals, a helpful strategy to re-energize your mind and ensure progress is to use an accountability, partner.
If you visit any gym you will notice they likely offer exercise, classes. These are incredibly popular because they create large social groups invested in the success of one another. You can harness the essence of these groups by establishing your own creative accountability partners.
Periodically talk about your goals or creative devices with a close family member or friend.
By doing this, you are creating a support system to work through challenges, and further enhancing your commitment to these goals.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and encourage critiques; this will strengthen your habits and output quality whether it is for your business or strictly creative work.
#3 Make Incremental Progress
I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It may be a tired cliché, but it is also true. An active long distance runner didn’t just one day decide they wanted to run a marathon, then immediately hop off the couch to set out and complete one.
Sure, the idea or the goal may have been there from the start, but I am willing to bet they began small. First they went for a run around the block. This behavior was repeated over time and eventually they signed up for a 5k race. Then they signed up for a 10k, etc.
The idea here is that all of the runner’s training built toward their ultimate goal, in this case literally one step at a time.
This same progression is present in creative processes. Leonardo da Vinci didn’t decide to paint one day and immediately produce the Mona Lisa. He apprenticed under another artist, Andrea del Verrocchio, at a young age and honed his skill set and creativity through practice.
To improve your own creative processes, start small. Start by dedicating a few minutes each day to flexing your creative muscles. Over time, as you maintain this regularity you will notice growth – which in itself is rewarding.
Continue to expand your habits and enhance your routine and there is no limit to the problems you can solve.
I would love to be able to provide you a direct cure all solution to promote your creativity, unfortunately, I cannot do that. It simply doesn’t exist.
Fortunately, we are all different.
Each individual has their own bank of unique experiences to draw from. These are the core of creative thoughts and ideas. The way to best stimulate your mind differs based on your experiences and interests.
If you love to watch movies, try jotting down and developing ideas for a screenplay. If you like to eat, try experimenting in your own kitchen with seemingly unrelated ingredients to create a cohesive dish. If you identify more with logic and numbers, try your hand at writing computer code.
The takeaway here is to start. Through experimentation of different practices, you will be able to identify the processes that work best for you, and just as importantly, the ones you like doing.
#5 Take Breaks
When you are engaged in physical activity for any period of time, your muscles experience fatigue and break down. It is actually the rest after a workout that allows your muscles cells to be repaired and strengthened. Extended periods of mental activity, whether creative or not, also result in brain fatigue.
It is vital to take time off and recharge your brain. Whether that means stepping away from your work for a few minutes to take a walk, talking with a coworker, or temporarily putting one project down to focus on another – resting your neural pathways and recouping attention are crucial.
#6 Supplement Yourself
If you’ve ever seen inside a weightlifter’s pantry, it looks like they bought out an entire health and wellness store. Rows of gargantuan whey protein drums, mounds of protein bars, pill bottles crammed with digestive enzymes, creatine powder, vitamins …
Why is this?
In order to achieve the maximal returns from your efforts, it is important to complement your workout.
A bodybuilder will do this by accompanying his lifting regimen with an equally important schedule of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Every jogger knows the importance of stretching and hydrating.
But how do you supplement a creative workout?
Let’s return to Leonardo da Vinci for a moment. We previously touched on da Vinci’s contribution to the arts – but he wasn’t just a painter. He was also a sculptor, writer, and musician.
And an inventor.
And an engineer.
And a mathematician.
And a geologist, cartographer, botanist…
You get the point—
Da Vinci was a professional creative.
He understood the importance of supplementing the knowledge of one field with that of another. By developing an expertise in a variety of topics, he was able to draw and make connections across disciplines, resulting in creativity and the discovery of a wealth of organized information.
But, this isn’t just for the da Vinci genius— you can do it too!
By engaging in your interests and developing new ones, you are constantly increasing your knowledge base. This encourages new associations, offers solutions to your problems, and increases your capacity to be creative. Keep seeking inspiration to fuel your creativity.
“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.” -Leonardo da Vinci
Let’s Review what we’ve covered: Tips for How to Be Creative
Creativity isn’t an act, but an exercised habit.
When you regularly set aside time for creative work and thinking, you are working out your brain and growing your creative potential.
Employ these tips to spark and maintain your creative routine
- Set specific, challenging goals to direct motivation
- Use an accountability partner to reinforce creative habits
- Strive for achievable, incremental progression
- Experiment to find the creative processes that work for you
- Take breaks to refresh your mind and encourage creativity
- Supplement your mental workout with your interests and new knowledge to promote growth
Remember to extend creativity into your business. Start with building your brand strategy essence and radical differentiation.
How do you flex your creative muscle?
If you have any tips or strategies to inspire creative habits please respond in the comments below.