Creativity is in hot demand. Not just in art, but in business too. So if you’re heading into the new year with a resolution to improve your creative skills, we feel you. Here are 8 ways to get that creativity flowing…
What is creativity?!
There are four distinct types of creativity, each using different areas of the brain.
- Subconscious creativity
This is the phenomenon where you suddenly have a moment of clarity and a new idea or a solution to a problem pops into your head, as if by magic. The theory is that your subconscious mind has been working away on the information in your brain while you weren’t aware of it – usually when you were zoned out, relaxing or thinking about something else.
- Emotional creativity
A rush of creative energy that’s triggered by strong emotion, whether it’s a result of hearing music, looking at a painting or watching a beautifully-made film. This type of creativity doesn’t require a lot of knowledge or study, but it does mean you need the artistic skills available to express what you’re experiencing.
- Reflective creativity
When something goes wrong, we enter a period of reflection where we review what has happened and think about how things could have been done differently. Because it’s about increasing your self-awareness, this reflective phase can be a time for coming up with your best ideas.
- Cognitive creativity
This type of creativity involves a trial-and-error approach to getting results. You work through all possible solutions to a challenge until you come up with the best one (or one you’re satisfied with at least!) What’s creative about that? Well, it means combining your existing knowledge about a subject in novel ways to develop an original idea.
How to be more creative
Ever hear the saying, ‘creativity is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets’? There’s a lot of truth behind this. Developing practices that support your creative faculties, and allow you to use them on a regular basis, will strengthen your creative potential and make you more open to ideas and inspiration.
Wondering how to be more creative? You’re in good company. Follow these tips and discover achievable, fun ways to improve creative thinking.
Reflective creativity (the kind where you look back on what’s happened and learn from it) is at the heart of this one. As well as setting off your reflective creativity circuits, making mistakes is a really efficient way of learning, and can remind you how to do things better. The occasional mishap helps you understand the limits of your skills and materials, and force you to think up new ways of doing things.
2. ‘Steal’ ideas
According to creativity expert Austin Kleon – who wrote the best-selling book Steal Like an Artist – one of the best ways to boost your creativity is to let go of the idea that you need to be original. Instead, embrace the influences around you. Of course, plagiarising other people’s work is a no-go, but you can (and should) reference, remix and extend other ideas.
In other words, absorb other people’s work, ideas and philosophies to enrich your own. One way of doing this is by attending an industry event where you can connect with other design professionals. (Don’t forget your business cards!) This can fuel your cognitive or subconscious creativity by adding more reference material to your brain’s library of knowledge, leading to a burst of creativity.
3. Set intentions
Intention-setting has become something of a trend recently, thanks to its ability to give us focus and perspective. Doing this on a regular basis is a way of sparking reflective creativity.
Review what you’ve achieved and whether or not you’ve met your goals. That way you’ll be prompted to think in new ways, and plan for what you could achieve in the future.
4. Make time for creative practice
Creative ability is sometimes seen as a talent – something you either have or you don’t. But the reality is that creative skills are strengthened and improved with use and effort, just like any other type of skill.
Carve out time in your schedule to practice creative skills like drawing, digital artwork, crafts or even cooking. If you’re more of a cognitive creative, use that block of time to learn about new subjects and deepen your knowledge on things.
5. Do something unfamiliar
We look up to those who can ‘think outside the box’ – AKA take existing ideas and perspectives and turn them around, or recombine them in ways most people wouldn’t have thought of.
One way to encourage yourself to do this? Break out of what’s familiar. Make a change to your surroundings – move things around on your desk, work in a new location or even try learning about things unrelated to the task at hand. This fuels creativity by making you look with fresh eyes at what’s around you, rather than falling into habitual and routine ways of thinking.
Why not let your media be your muse? Exploring the possibilities of new kinds of paper, card, cloth and extra embellishments like foil can provide new grounds for your imagination.
6. Talk about your plans
It’s true – talking about how to be more creative can actually improve your creativity. We all know sharing knowledge and talking about what you know to another person can accelerate your own learning, as well as theirs.
Why? Because teaching someone else makes you remember what you already knew, strengthening your knowledge in the process. And since knowledge is key to at least two types of creativity, that can only be a good thing.
Talking about your ideas and goals has another benefit – you’re simultaneously giving another person a window on your creativity, inspiring them and helping develop a creative community.
Sometimes, creative communities coalesce around a trend, with collaborators fuelling one another’s creativity and building off one another’s ideas so a design movement appears. For example, 2019 saw a lot of excitement around hand-drawn type and illustration.
7. Keep a note of your ideas
Creative skills are built over time, and so is the knowledge that drives cognitive imagination and subconscious creativity. Get into the habit of keeping a notebook with you and write down any ideas you’ve come up with. Not only will your notebook be a handy reference when thinking about how to be more creative, it’ll free up space in your working memory for new ideas to fill.
Give your imagination complete free rein. Free-association is a technique for letting ideas flow from your mind and capturing them without judgement, so you can look back at what you’ve created later on.
To get your ideas flowing again, try sitting down for a set period of time with either a pen and paper or a computer and writing down exactly what comes into your head. Don’t censor, hesitate, or delete anything you’ve written. Once the timer stops, you can read back what you’ve written and keep whatever you like. As well as being useful, it’s one of the most enjoyable and therapeutic creativity skills going.
So, now you have the hacks you need, what better time is there than the new decade to improve your creativity?
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