People often ask me how they can be more creative. There seems to be a general consensus that only certain people are able to be creative. I would like to disagree. We all have the capacity to create amazing things in our lives and in the world. Creativity knows no bounds, and is always inside and around us, waiting for us to tap into it. Perhaps some people are more creatively inclined than others, but just like any skill, creativity can be cultivated. Here are a few things that I have found to be helpful in living a creative life.
Do it for the love
Maybe this is a cliche, but only so because of the truth it rings. It is possible to make a living doing something you don’t love doing, but when you find that thing that makes you come alive, your creativity will naturally awaken. You might have to start doing what you love in your free time at first, but sooner or later you will find a way to turn this into something that supports your vision for your life. The first step is to find something that you feel passionate about. Something that you love doing. When you find this thing, you will want to make more time for it in your life.
Follow your intuition
You know that initial feeling you get in your gut when you think about something? This is intuition. This is the primal part of us that knows instinctively what will be good or bad for us, before we get a chance to process the situation mentally. We all have this, and most of the time we lose this feeling once we start thinking and analyzing a situation. This is what causes confusion and indecision. Creativity is not logical, it’s intuitive. If you want your creativity to flow naturally in a way that supports your mission on earth, you need to follow your gut feeling.
Take leaps of faith
Every new endeavour will require you to step into the unknown at some point. This is when you will start feeling doubt and fear. You will come up with many reasons not to do what you want to do. You may even try to convince yourself that you don’t really want it. The excuses you come up with will make it seem like it’s a better idea to stay in your comfort zone. This is a totally normal part of the process. The key here is to not give in to it. You need to take action despite the fear and doubt. This will get you to where you want to be. When you surrender and trust the process, you will experience amazing things in your life. All of the best adventures begin when you are brave enough to leave your comfort zone.
Don’t make assumptions
Are you questioning things on a regular basis, or do you find yourself making assumptions about the way things are? Most of us don’t really pay attention to what is really going on around us. Whether we are looking at something, reading a book or an article, watching a video, or even listening to someone speak, our brain usually filters out most of of the information that is being presented to us. A lot of this information is filtered out by our beliefs — for example, when someone ignores new information simply because it doesn’t correspond with one of their pre-existing assumptions about reality. Information can also be filtered out by our senses, as well as by our level of awareness.
Our eyes can see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum that the universe is made up of. We can only hear frequency ranges between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, which is a narrow range within a much broader audio spectrum. When you consider that cats can see things that humans can’t see, and dogs can hear things that humans can’t hear, imagine how much information we are actually missing out on. It is possible to develop our perception by paying attention to these things. By really seeing. By really listening. By taking notice of textures, smells, sensations. By being present. By feeling. Assumptions are a lazy way of thinking. When you start noticing more of the information that your brain filters out, you will become more aware of the infinite possibilities that are present in every moment.
Don’t limit yourself
We humans are here on earth with the ability to create amazing things in the world. We have the potential to create anything we can imagine, but unfortunately most of us use this magnificent creative power to limit ourselves. Mostly we limit ourselves by our beliefs. We are capable of achieving whatever we set out to do, but if we believe we can’t do it, then that will become our experience. However, if we set out to do something and believe that we can do it, then we will do it. We are free to choose what to believe about ourselves, and this will determine the results we get in life.
The universe is subjective. Our beliefs shape our experience of reality. In other words: each one of us experiences our own personal universe, and reality forms itself around us based on what we believe to be true. Are your beliefs helping you to achieve your goals, or are they holding you back? Are you restricting your growth based on dogma that is no longer serving a purpose in your life? Maybe it’s time to review your beliefs about what is or isn’t possible. When you can recognize belief as a tool, rather than a control mechanism that defines your perception of reality, you will experience how malleable the universe actually is. Decide what you want, believe that you can achieve it, take action, and you will find your personal universe rearranging itself to support you in achieving your vision.
While it is important to have a certain amount of structure in your life, doing something unexpected can do a lot to open up your creative flow. Do you always take the same route to go to work? Try a different route. Do you always order your favourite meal at a restaurant? Try something you haven’t eaten before. Watch a movie you wouldn’t ordinarily watch. Speak to someone who you wouldn’t usually speak to. Doing things that are outside of your normal routine literally rewires the brain by creating new neural pathways between the left and right hemispheres. The more pathways we have between these 2 parts of our brain, the more we will be able to understand, communicate, and create. While the right hemisphere is known to be the creative part of the brain, it’s really the synthesis between the logical (left) and intuitive (right) hemispheres that help us to turn our creativity into something tangible.
We are constantly being bombarded by countless distractions that prevent us from spending our time doing what we really want to do. Maybe you have been wanting to spend more time writing or drawing. You finally set aside the time to do this. You sit down, ready to be productive, only to be interrupted by your phone. Then you check your email. And then Facebook. You see an article you want to read. Before you know it, your allocated creative time has run out and you still haven’t achieved anything. This is where streamlining comes in. You can take streamlining as far as you want (Tim Ferriss’ book The 4-Hour Work Week does a good job of outlining streamlining as a step-by-step strategy), but for purposes of this post we will keep streamlining simple.
Set aside time to be creative. Treat it as an important appointment. Turn off your phone or put it on silent during your creative time. Distracted by email? Check it only once or twice a day, at pre-allocated times. In most cases, whatever it is can wait a few hours until after your creative time. Feeling obliged to go to an event you don’t feel like attending? You don’t have to go. Make time for yourself. Eliminate distractions. Once you do this, it will also clear space in your mind, which will allow your creativity to flow more freely.
Surround yourself with inspiring people
They say that we are the average of the 5 people that we spend the most time with. Do the 5 people closest to you inspire you to be the best version of yourself that you can be? Do you feel energized after spending time with them, or do they drain your energy? Are any of them achieving similar results to what you would like to see in your life? Do they inspire you creatively? If you want to be more creative, it is important to spend time with creative people. It’s important to have a good balance of different types of people in your life. If you find yourself only hanging out with logical people, you may find this diminishing your creativity. You may feel misunderstood by your peers if they do not acknowledge the importance of your creative endeavours. If you have some creative people in your network, you will find yourselves inspiring and encouraging each other to create amazing things. You will learn from people who have achieved what you wish to achieve, and you will influence people who recognize your achievements.
Spend time alone
Solitude is one of the most important components of living a creative life. While there are amazing things in the world that may inspire us on a regular basis, the creative process is only able to really flourish in solitude. This doesn’t mean that you should become a hermit. Only spending time alone will not give your creativity much room to grow. Balance is key. If you wish to live a creative life, you need to allocate a certain amount of time to be alone. This amount of time is up to you. It could be an hour every day, a weekend morning or an afternoon, one day a week, or whatever suits your schedule. What’s important is to make sure that you spend a certain amount of time alone on a regular basis to cultivate your creativity. Write it in your calendar and treat it as an appointment. You don’t need to use this time to be creative at first, but once you start doing this regularly, you will find yourself using this time to create wonderful things.
Don’t be a hater
If you’re not being criticized, you’re probably not doing enough. Don’t be discouraged by anyone else’s negativity. Equally important: encourage those around you to be the best that they can be. Look to those who have achieved what you want to achieve and learn from them. If you criticize them, you’re missing the point. Once you start exploring your creative side, you will realize how much bravery, commitment, time, and effort it takes to turn an idea into something you can share with others. When you respect those who have gone through with this process, you will find yourself being inspired by their achievements instead of being jealous of them.
Another method of redirecting criticism is to use is as a launching pad for your own creativity. For example: Don’t like someone’s music? Make your own music the way you like it. Don’t like a particular book? Write a book that you think would be better. Don’t like someone’s art? Create your own art. Don’t like something that someone else is doing? Become the solution.
In the words of my musical alias, matek: “Lovers gonna love. Haters gonna hate. All that really matters is what we create.”
You don’t need to do everything on this list if you want to live a creative life. Take what works for you and run with it. The more you can do, the more your creative flow will open up. But if I were to leave one parting word of advice, it would be: Just do something. Start somewhere. If you want to be more creative, you will be. Use whatever you have, and develop your own style.
In closing, I will leave you with these great words by Theodore Roosevelt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I would love to hear about some of the things that help you to be more creative. Please share what works for you in the comments section below.