Creativity is more than just a personal trait. Continually creating inventive material requires the development of certain skills. The following three exercises use theories of psychology and the experience of successful artists to develop these foundation skills.

Reject the Routine: Even mundane departures improve creative flow.

Keeping a writing routine is excellent, especially to make sure the words continue to make it from the mind to paper. However, in the rest of life where inspiration strikes most often, flowing seamlessly from one activity to another with little variation discourages creativity.

In a recent paper in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, “Simone Ritter and colleagues propose that any life experience, from the traumatic to the joyful, can lead to flexibility and creativity as long as it diversifies your experiences and pushes you outside your normal thought patterns.” (Why Weird Experiences Boost Creativity | Psychology Today)

While many successful artists explore traumatic memories for their material, boosting creativity does not require a major disruption of life events. One of the more simple methods could be simply performing a daily task in a new way. Fold the laundry sitting somewhere different, take a different route to work, watch a movie you wouldn’t normally choose, etc. Continually generating different ways to perform necessary tasks develops creativity, and also encourages mindfulness in daily living.

Seek to Experience the Different: Be present with and open to changes in perspective.

Everyone has a right to hold their own opinions regardless of their beliefs’ popularity, age, obscurity, or opposition. Even while holding his/her own personal beliefs close, creativity suffocates without exposure to novel ideas and diverse experience. Cultivating an openness born of curiosity and interest multiplies natural creative resources.

“Openness to experience is consistently the strongest predictor of creative achievement,” says Kaufman. [a psychologist at New York University who has spent years researching creativity]. “This consists of lots of different facets, but they’re all related to each other: Intellectual curiosity, thrill seeking, openness to your emotions, openness to fantasy. The thing that brings them all together is a drive for cognitive and behavioral exploration of the world, your inner world and your outer world.” (Creativity Boosting Habits | Huffington Post)

In application, consider attending events for unfamiliar hobbies/interests, participating in a blind book swap, visiting a new city, or objectively exploring both sides of a heated debate. Any form of continuing education, especially in an unfamiliar field of study, broadens the mind and feeds the collective pool of knowledge needed to inspire and create a regular flow of projects.

Explore Connections: Time spent processing experience is well spent.

Developing the flexibility to find new methods and the curiosity to experience new things develops creative behavior is wonderful. However, turning those experiences into functional creative fuel is quite another skill.

Psychologists and creatives agree, connecting pieces of knowledge in diverse ways embodies the creative act.

“This great quote [by Steve Jobs] is from a Wired interview in 1996: Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.” (Understanding Creativity and Intelligence | BufferApp)

Maria Popova is arguably one of the best examples (and proponents) of what she calls “combinatorial creativity.” That is, connecting things to create new ideas: … in order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new castles.” (Understanding Creativity and Intelligence | BufferApp)

To develop skills of connection, take time during and after new experiences to write down the thoughts that came to mind. Write what triggered a memory (and that memory, no matter how mundane), the path of wandering thoughts, and especially write down any ideas for projects that come up. It’s always a good idea to get those down before they’re gone!

If this doesn’t yield anything interesting, another way to develop the skill of creative connectivity involves a more methodical approach. Record all the different topics that were discussed that day. Randomly pair them and take a few moments to either think or write every way they could be connected (fictional and realistic, it doesn’t matter). Feel free to explore this as long as thoughts come. Group them by threes, half the pile, or whatever works. Soon, the connections will start to form in the moment. Just keep the notepad handy to catch good ones to work with later.

 

Creativity can be inherent in some people, but skills (which all require practice) keep creative work alive and flowing!

 

Links/Resources:

 

Why Weird Experiences Boost Creativity | Psychology Today

Understanding Creativity and Intelligence | BufferApp

Are You as Creative as You Want To Be? | LifeHack

How Experiences Influence Creativity | Creative Something

Creativity Boosting Habits | Huffington Post

Culture and Creativity | William Maddux

 

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