Trying to Jump-Start Your Creativity? Here’s How to Do It
You’re a fountain of originality. You don’t need recipes in the kitchen, icebreakers in social situations, or workout plans at the gym. So why, when you sit down to draft a tweet, do you struggle to come up with something fresh?
When you’re feeling creatively stale, it can be tempting to wait around for inspiration to strike. Paul McCartney famously woke up from a dream with the melody for “Yesterday” in his head. But McCartney’s “miracle” was, in fact, the product of his hard work.
In one of the best new books on creativity, author Allen Gannett points out that McCartney credited the artists he listened to with his father, like Fred Astaire and George Gershwin, in at least one interview about the song. “The things we view as unexplainable genius often have a genesis of some sort,” Gannett writes in “The Creative Curve.” He notes that McCartney also enjoyed a community of supportive musicians and spent the next year and a half developing the song.
If McCartney hadn’t understood the work of creativity, his melody might never have made it out of his head. Instead of pressuring yourself to be creative on the spot, follow Gannett’s four-part creative process of consumption, imitation, community, and iteration. Checking out others’ work isn’t a distraction from your own; it’s a critical first step in the creative process.
3. Create something “bad” on purpose.
If studying or avoiding the work of creativity isn’t cutting it, try deliberately creating something you dislike. Your expectations for yourself and your work may be choking off the creative impulse you’re trying to let out. By lowering the gates of acceptability as much as possible, you increase the odds that something inspiring will tumble out.
Much as we might like it to, creativity cannot be forced. Freelance writer and editor Jane Porter likens it to squeezing an empty tube of toothpaste: No matter how hard you try, you’re unlikely to get more than a drop. Instead, Porter seeks out beauty in poems, museum pieces, and music, in part because it reminds her how taking creative risks can pay off. “There’s something liberating about knowing there are artists out there making portraits out of hamburger grease,” she jokes.
For filmmaker and marine photographer Nikita Mor, beauty breaks down creative blocks for another reason. Mor looks for beauty in small things because it makes her grateful for her own capacity to consume and create beautiful things. “We understand that our perception of things is what changes them,” she notes. Appreciating beauty helps her see creative problems as pathways to something new.
The next year, Guillebeau committed to creating 100 paintings for clients in 100 days. She held herself accountable by emailing a photo of her painting each day. “It was a little intimidating at first, but the project ended up being so successful that I continued daily painting logs long after the initial 100-day commitment,” Guillebeau says. If you’re intimidated by such a commitment, like Guillebeau herself was, share your plans with friends or family instead to lower the stakes.
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April 22, 2019 at 09:29PM