I have always heard people say, either to myself or any other ‘obviously’ artistic person in the room at the time, “OMG, you are sooo creative. I could never do that!” or, “I wish I could be as creative as you are!” or, even better, “How do you come up with that stuff? It’s amazing how it just comes from no where…”
I’ve learned to recognize these as comments in passing, for the most part. I don’t take the time to explain to them that I believe that we are all creative beings, and that our creativity comes from our spirit – that which makes us human, the “infinite intelligence” that Deepak Chopra writes about. The only variations, I believe, are the level to which each of us has allowed creativity to be cultivated within us, and the form of expression we choose to use. Even those of us who have taken on the title “artist”, “musician”, or the like, have moments that the creativity stream seems to run dry – the ideas seem to disappear, and with them go the motivation and any clue of what to do next.
We’re living in the era of creativity. No longer is it only artists, musicians, and writers who are expected to be creative – everyone is. Businesses and corporations want increasingly creative solutions. Creative ‘giants’ like Google, Behance, and Apple are at the top of the economic ladder. More and more people are employed in a creative capacity, and more and more people have taken their employment into their own hands. So, if creativity is in all of us – even those who make no claims at being an “artist” – and we all need it, how do we get to it?
I would love to tell you that I’ve developed the end-all-be-all comprehensive formula for finding and cultivating your creativity – but I cannot. What I can do is share with you some of the things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Feed Your Brain, then Give it Time to Rest.
While creativity comes from within, inspiration does not. Your creative mind needs creative food, and without it, the creativity will dry up faster than you can do anything with it. Think of your brain in the same terms you do your body: your body needs fuel to function, and so you eat food. Your brain is the same way. Practice seeing things that are inspirational – whether it be browsing the internet, flipping through a book with provoking images, reading beautiful verses – anything – then allow yourself time to digest it. Give your brain a rest – take a nap, go for a jog, most importantly, don’t force it. It will come if you let it.
2. Know the Difference Between Ideas and Execution.
“Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not. -Micheal Dell (founder, Dell) You can have 1000 different ideas at any given time – and many people do! Without execution, however, two problems occur. 1) The ideas – as numerous as they may be – won’t amount to anything. 2) You creativity will never grow past idea-making. Execution is what helps you sift through the onslaught of ideas and helps you identify the right one. It’s what refines your idea-maker – your creativity. Don’t forget to do stuff!
3. Stop Clinging to the Idea of the Lone, Reclusive Artist.
The age of the internet has given the creative in all of us an invaluable resource. Not only is the world smaller than it has ever been (in that physical boundaries and distance matter less and less), and there are countless resources for creative inspiration at our collective finger tips, but there is also a seemingly endless community with which to collaborate. Leverage that community – or the one you live in, or your friends, or your family – they can offer essential feedback, resources, support, exposure, etc – all of which you need to continue to be an effective creative (or start exercising the creativity you didn’t know you had!)
4. Finish Things!
Sometimes, the bombardment of ideas can lend a not-so-helpful hand to our very artist-like propensity to not focus on one thing well. As a result, many people end up with umpteen projects in process and none of them finished. There are times that things needs to be abandoned in the middle for greater pursuits, but finishing things is a good way to move forward, feel accomplished, and encourage your inner creative to keep creating bigger and better things. Always keep a long term goal in mind and make conscious effort to work toward it, even if in the tiniest of steps. Set smaller goals, reevaluate often, and have a general sense of direction – you’ll be more effective than you ever dreamed.
5. Don’t Forget Your Passion.
In our society, we have become all-too-good at doing thing for the sake of doing them. We go day-to-day doing the things we’re “supposed” to and we “have” to and we “should”. Some of these things are simply unavoidable, but your creative experience shouldn’t be that way. Make an effort to have new, exciting experiences as you creativity grows. Try new methods, new mediums, even something that you thought you would never be able to do. Most importantly, remember what it is that you’re passionate about, and whatever that things is, make sure you’re doing something to grow it – even amidst all the other stuff.
“A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock pile when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.”– Antoine Saint-Exupery