Let’s get this out of the way to begin with: you are creative! Creativity is a governing force in humanity – an innate function of the mind. It is, at its essence, your outward expression of an inward thought or emotion.
This means that there are two hindrances that can limit your creativity: an internal barrier that limits your imagination and inspiration, and an external barrier that limits your expression or presentation of your creativity.
In either or these instances, there are simple but very effective techniques you can use to get your creativity flowing.
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Find Your Source
Finding your source of inspiration (or "muse") is the doorway to your creativity. This seems like an obvious factor, but I am constantly surprised in how few people can specifically tell me what inspires them.
Your muse can be found in nature, in people, in music, in a memory, or in a particular situation. When you find it, you don’t have to wait for those moments of inspiration to come around, you can activate your creativity on demand.
Search out and take note of anything that makes you say, "I want to do that!" "What if?" or "I have an idea!".
What’s your source?
Surround Yourself with Excellence
I have discovered my most favorite music by not just listening to talented musicians, but by finding out who they listen to. Without fail, good artists observe great artists, and great artists observe extraordinary artists.
You should always study and surround yourself with great art, great music, great literature, and especially great people. This builds in you a template of quality and standard of excellence that can propel your creativity forward.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with studying and even copying aspects of the greats of your industry. As Pablo Picasso once said, "Good artists copy, great artists steal." While I agree with Picasso, it goes without saying that you should steal their methods and not their products.
What was the factor that changed Edgar Allen Poe from a depressing houseguest to an inspirational figure? He wrote. If you do not use your creativity you will not improve your creativity. Try something original, and try something new, put yourself in positions that require creativity, and practice your art continuously.
(Image Source: Stephen Wiltshire)
This is where creativity flourishes or dies. When you first start off, your end result is rarely your desired result. This is okay and absolutely normal. For every great painting you see in an art gallery, there are a dozen sketches, rough drafts, and discarded concepts that you don’t see.
Every single one of history’s most creative heroes, from Da Vinci to Edison, started off with a failed attempt. What sets them apart is that they worked until their finished product finally matched their mental image.
Cross Creative Borders
As a designer, writer, and musician I can say with absolute certainty that the arts parallel each other. I feel that as I improve as musician, I improve as a designer, and as I improve as a designer, I improve as a communicator.
Have you ever noticed that successful people get nearly all of their inspiration from a few select victories in life? The athlete uses sports metaphors and principals to build a great company. The soldier uses military principals to raise a family. The biologist uses the principles of nature to improve their photography.
Use your confidence in one area and apply it to a something new – you will find that both skill and creativity are transferable to any new challenge.
Your creative source is known as your "muse". This is an ancient Greek word meaning to be absorbed in thought or inspired. Amusement is the absence of thought or inspiration.
While being amused can be healthy in small doses, over saturating yourself with it can be detrimental to your creativity. Use things like television or movies as ways to expand your imagination – not replace it.
Television for example, requires little creativity or thought. If you don’t believe me, find someone watching TV and observe their facial expressions. Most of the time you will find that their eyes are open and their mind is off. This is because most shows do the imagining for you. Again, this can be a good thing, so long as you use it as a creative trigger rather than an imagination killer.
A fantastic way to exercise your creativity is to use literature, audiobooks, or good storytelling songs as a form of entertainment. Since there is generally no imagery to go along with the story, it forces you to use your imagination – something desperately needed in a graphic-filled world.
Take Care of Yourself
If you work in a creative industry you know that you can do more work in a few hours of focus and inspiration than you can do in a full day with your mind wandering. Physical and environmental distractions can destroy the creative process.
Keeping your body healthy and your workplace tidy will have a profound effect on your ability to imagine and create. Creativity requires quality of work more than quantity, so make sure that your home, workplace, and body aren’t limiting your work.
Ignore the Scoffers
Creativity must be expressed. However, this leaves the artist in a vulnerable state, open to scrutiny and judgment. In business, athletics, the arts, and in life in general you will come across those discouraging critics who feel that they can build themselves up by pushing you down (you yourself may even be your own worst critic).
Keep yourself open to suggestion and improvement from those who have your best interest at heart, but refuse to give any space in your mind to a spiteful comment.
Ignore the scoffers, or better yet, use their negativity as motivation. Every great creative figure has had critics say they were inadequate, but history doesn’t remember the reviews, it remembers innovation, inspiration, imagination, and creativity.
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