You can learn how to be more creative. Creativity is mostly skill, not just a gift, and this skill can be developed.
“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”
— Erich Fromm
Can anyone be creative?
Most of us understand creativity as being able to paint a stunning picture, write a bestselling book, design beautiful clothes, create delicious new recipes, or write killer computer programs.
It’s a talent that not all of us have.
We cannot all be artists, designers, or the best cooks in town.
Or can we?
The most creative people on the planet will admit that their work is 10% talent and 90% hard work — the practicing and polishing of their skills.
That’s right! Talent is not the major component of creativity, so you don’t need it in order to be creative.
Creativity is, in fact, a skill that can be acquired and mastered at any age. (1)
Let’s take a look at ways you can actively develop your creativity.
How To Be More Creative
There are many ways to become more creative.
Some of them are easy and can be practiced every day.
Others are more difficult and require a lot of time, effort, strong will, and the desire to learn and improve.
You don’t have to try them all.
Pick those that inspire you and give them a shot.
You’ve nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
Here are 10 proven techniques to help get your creative juices flowing!
Matthew Killingsworth, PhD, a famous scientist who studies the nature and causes of human happiness, argues that mind-wandering (daydreaming) is a unique ability that “allows us to learn, plan and reason in ways that no other species can.” (2)
When you daydream, your mind is unconstrained.
It means that although you cannot change the physical reality that surrounds you, you can go wherever you please in your mind.
This special and unique ability we possess, if practiced frequently, can lead to more creative problem solving. (3)
It can also help you generate more original ideas effortlessly. (4)
You might have already noticed this in your everyday activities.
Think about the time when you go for a walk with your dog, take a shower, or stare through a window while traveling by bus or train.
Isn’t that the time when you come up with the best ideas?
That’s the power and the beauty of daydreaming.
Thus, in order to be more creative, make mind-wandering one of your pastimes.
How can you do that?
Well, first of all, limit the time you spend on social media, watch less TV, and spend less time in front of your laptop.
Also, when you go out, don’t put on headphones or stick earbuds into your ears.
Teach yourself to think about yourself, the past and the future instead of listening to music while you’re walking or running.
Practice self-awareness, and thus, let your mind rest and wander.
It’s not as easy as it seems, but it gets results.
Oxford English Dictionary defines a doodle as “a rough drawing made absent-mindedly.” (5)
It means that when you doodle, your mind is wandering, thinking about everything and nothing at the same time.
Did you know that, throughout centuries, people have been trying to understand historical doodles (the work of such famous artists as Albrecht Dürer, Desiderius Erasmus or Fyodor Dostoyevsky)? (6)
That’s right! Historical doodles, especially those made by artists, are being studied because they provide a window into the psychology, as well as the personality, of the doodler.
The most thorough research of doodling, though, was done in 1938 by psychiatrists Maclay, Guttmann, and Mayer-Gross who investigated 9,000 doodles submitted by the public. (7)
After examining each and every drawing, they concluded that people doodle while idle, bored, meditating or resting; or, when they are in states exhibiting “affective tension” such as indecision, concentration, expectation, and impatience.
However, when people doodle, their brains can be occupied doing something else like solving problems or generating original ideas.
Thus, for many, especially artists, doodling is indispensable to the creative process.
For others, doodling is simply a relaxing or entertaining activity that also encourages creative thought.
An easy way to be more creative is to take a piece of paper and, while listening to music, watching a movie or cooking, draw whatever comes to mind.
Doodling is one of the easiest and simplest activities you can do to boost your creativity.
3. Admiring Surrealism
Surrealism, a 20th century art movement, “explored the hidden depths of the unconscious mind.” (8)
The Surrealists rejected the rational world and searched for a new reality, which was discovered in the imagination and in dreams.
Thus, they created surreality by combining something familiar with something strange, and so showed ordinary objects in an extraordinary way. (9)
The basic assumption of the movement was that creativity can be unleashed by letting go of the conscious and giving freedom to the unconscious. (10)
In our daily lives, we are trying to understand various concepts and eliminate uncertainty.
However, when you want to be creative you need to let go of the reality and maximize the uncertainty.
Admiring Surrealism gives you the means to do this by encouraging deep thinking.
It makes you question all that is real and look at the world from a different perspective.
Here, creativity is awakened.
Why do you think we have museums? Why do people pay thousands of dollars for paintings and enjoy looking at art? Well, because art …
- Evokes feelings and emotions
- Has no boundaries
- Fascinates us
- Encourages us to think and …
- Is inspirational
Art inspires us and thus boosts our creativity.
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Does it mean that in order to be more creative you must go to museums more often and start buying paintings?
No, not necessarily.
You can admire paintings online.
Also, a great idea is to surround yourself with surrealist art by downloading pictures you find most inspirational and using them as wallpapers on your phone, tablet, or laptop.
You can find some at WallPaperCave.com.
This way, you’ll receive a creativity boost without even realizing it.
4. Painting and Coloring
Since we are on the topic of art, let’s investigate if not only admiring paintings but also creating them has a positive effect on our minds and creativity.
The internet is stuffed with articles discussing the benefits of painting and coloring. (11)
What we can learn from them is that creating art helps us to relax, reduces stress, and improves critical thinking skills and concentration.
It also increases creativity.
First, when you paint or color, you need to use your imagination, pick the right colors, and combine them.
Second, it helps those who think they are not creative to discover their inner artist.
It also has a therapeutic effect. (12)
Creating your own special piece of art will make you feel happier and more self-confident about your skills.
Learn more —
The Mental Health Benefits of Art Are for Everyone
Thus, going forward you’ll be more likely to continue practicing your creativity and be more original in anything you’re doing.
One of the simplest ways to engage in art is to try painting a picture by numbers with acrylic paint.
It will introduce you to the world of art and you’ll be able to check if painting is something you enjoy.
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Or, you can buy yourself an adult coloring book, a set of pencils, markers, or fineliner pens and start coloring.
Coloring and painting are affordable, so try them.
Remember, practicing art will not only enhance your creativity, but also relieve stress, make you relaxed, and help you unplug from technology.
5. Learning a Language
Learning a foreign language is a long and often difficult endeavor.
It requires time, lots of practice, and willingness to learn.
Why then should you decide to learn a foreign language if it’s tough?
If your mother tongue is English, you may believe there is little point in learning another language.
English has become lingua franca, a language spoken worldwide. (13)
And yet, there are many people, especially in Europe, who speak multiple languages.
Is it just out of necessity?
Or, is it perhaps because foreign languages expand your horizons and make you more creative?
Learn more —
The Brain Benefits of Learning a Second Language
A study of the effects of foreign language learning on creativity proves that mastering a foreign language increases “the four components of divergent thinking ability, i.e., fluency, elaboration, originality, and flexibility.” (14)
Also, learning a foreign language gives you a new way of seeing the world, enhances your memory, encourages you to experiment, and helps you express the unsayable. (15)
It exposes you to new cultures and customs.
All of that has a huge impact on your creativity.
When learning a language, your way of thinking will change, and so, you’ll be more open to novel ideas.
If you still think learning a foreign language is of little value, this video, How Does Language Change Your Brain?, may inspire you.
6. Writing … Anything
Another powerful tip to be more creative is to write.
The act of recording your thoughts can significantly increase your creativity.
Here are a few ways this works.
First of all, writing improves your thinking.
It encourages you to think deeper about your problems, work issues, or various concepts.
And, when you think deeper, you start generating novel ideas. (16)
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In the beginning they are simple, but as you keep on writing, they will get more complex and more original.
Second, when you write you reflect and that gives you a deeper understanding of problems and issues, thus enhancing your creativity.
It really doesn’t matter what you write.
Any kind of writing can boost creativity.
A simple way to start is to adopt the habit of journaling. (17)
Also, you can start writing a novel or a short story.
Or, you can start a blog and through blog posts and articles, share your knowledge and ideas with your readers. (18)
7. Playing Video Games
A research study done by Michigan State University scholars proves that there is a relation between video game playing and greater creativity. (19)
They examined nearly 500 12-year-old children and found that the more kids were playing video games, the more creative they were in various tasks.
But how do video games actually enhance your creativity?
According to the book Video Games And Creativity, playing video games has the following effects:
- Better concentration
- Enhanced spatial skills
- Better neural processing and processing efficiency
- Brain changes that lead to behavioral changes
- Improved performance
- Increased problem-solving skills
- Better social skills
- Improved mood, greater inspiration, and self-esteem
- Enhanced motivation and much, much more
To sum up, playing video games increases creativity by “its beneficial cognitive, social, emotional, and motivational effects.”
Games such as strategy games are also useful since they teach strategic thinking, and when you are a strategic thinker, you begin to interpret your environment creatively. (20)
If you’re not into video game playing, try such computer games as Civilization V/VI on your laptop, jigsaw puzzles on your tablet, or Fishdom on your phone.
Enjoy the time spent playing and all the benefits that come with it!
8. Decluttering Your Space
Have you ever heard the saying “declutter your life, declutter your mind”?
Science has shown that too much clutter kills creativity.
It leads to mental and physical health issues.
It ruins your focus and concentration.
It makes you stressed out, and stress kills creativity.
In order to spark your creativity, you need to clean and organize your space, especially your working space. (21)
Learn more —
If you have problems decluttering your environment or find it painful to shed your belongings, read Declutter Your Life for Less Stress, Better Mental Health.
Of course, there are many people who argue that clutter can actually increase your creativity.
However, what they mean is “creative chaos,” and that doesn’t mean having unfinished food, piles of papers, and clothes all around.
Creative chaos — surrounding yourself with inspirational items — can be helpful.
Mess, on the other hand, is harmful.
So, if your home is messy, you probably shouldn’t be surprised that you’re not creative.
Declutter your space and see the effects yourself.
9. Reading Absurdist Fiction
Our minds are desperate to make meaning from any experience we have. (22)
If we experience absurdity, which can be explained as “a meaning threat,” our brains will be stimulated beyond measure, and thus, we’ll receive a creativity boost.
Right, but what exactly is absurdist fiction?
It is a fictional narrative in the form of a novel, play, poem or film.
It presents experiences of characters in situations where they are unable to find purpose in life. (23)
The text is full of meaningless actions and events which make us question existing concepts, truths, and values.
Absurdist fiction is also full of satire, dark humor, and incongruity.
Such works are not meant to be comedies or nonsense, but studies of human behavior in situations that appear to have no purpose or are philosophically absurd.
Immersing yourself in such stories makes you use your brain in different ways.
It makes you think more deeply while stimulating your imagination.
As a result, your creativity increases.
If you’re interested in reading some absurdist fiction, check out these masterpiece books (some of them you might already know):
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
- The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
- A Series of Unfortunate Events, Lemony Snicket
- Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
- Discworld, Terry Pratchett
10. Being Curious About … Everything
My last piece of advice on how to be more creative — start being curious.
When you discover new things, learn about interesting facts, and investigate the world, you spark your creativity and increase your imagination.
Think, why are children creative and imaginative?
Because they want to learn, see, and touch everything around them.
They want to experience the world.
They yearn for answers, question reality, and want to know everything, literally.
They are curious by nature and that stimulates their brains and enhances their creativity.
This thirst for knowledge doesn’t disappear once we grow up, but it certainly can subside.
You can encourage your curiosity if you never stop asking questions.
Here are a few ways to encourage curious thinking right now.
Have you ever wondered:
- Why does your body twitch just before you fall asleep?
- What noise does a cheetah make since it cannot roar?
- Why do men have nipples?
How To Be More Creative: The Bottom Line
There are many ways to enhance creativity.
You can do something artistic like drawing, coloring, or writing.
You can also do something that stimulates your mind like playing a video game or reading an absurdist text.
Whatever you choose, it’ll have a positive effect on your brain and mind and help you come up with original ideas.
If you have other ideas on how to increase creativity, tell us about them in the comments below!
About the author
Emily Johnson is a blogger and a content strategist at Omni Papers. She is also a contributor to many websites about career advice, productivity, work issues, college life, blogging, and writing. You can always find more of her work on Twitter.