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How to Increase Your Creativity in 5 Simple Steps

Boost creativity

I used to tell myself I wasn’t “creative.” I honestly believed other people were better suited to be painters or crafters or writers, and I just didn’t have the gift.

When I finally found the courage to leave my job and started writing full time, I struggled to increase creativity at first. But then I began embracing every idea that came my way. Instead of wondering whether it was good, I decided to welcome every single idea with open arms. And as I did, the ideas increased. My creativity increased. Over time, I trained my brain to increase creative output.

So many people I know doubt their creative ability. Maybe you try to make your kid’s Halloween costume, or come up with a new recipe, or repurpose old materials into cute Holiday décor. But it never turns out how you want it to; the ideas just won’t come. 

The truth is, you are more creative than you think, you’re just out of practice. With a few simple tweaks, you can train your brain to increase creative output just like I did.

Here’s how to increase creativity:

Go out & live your life

Have you ever heard the expression “You can’t pour from an empty cup”?

Creativity involves molding existing thoughts and experiences in the mind into something new. If all you have in your mind are stale thoughts and old experiences, you won’t be able to make much.

I like to think of creativity like a pantry. You have to keep it stocked with lots of quality ingredients if you want to produce a delicious dish. If all you have are a few stale slices of bread and an old jar of sauerkraut, you’re in for a pretty disappointing meal.

You have to have new experiences in order to increase creativity. You can’t draw from what isn’t there.  In her book, The Artist’s Way (probably my most favorite creativity-boosting product EVER), Julia Cameron calls it “filling the well.”

Try these to increase creativity

  • Take a long walk or hike in a natural setting
  • Try a food you’ve never tried before
  • Listen – really listen – to a new album or one you haven’t heard for a long time
  • Have a deep conversation with another person, either friend or stranger. (No small talk allowed.)
  • Go somewhere you’ve never been – like an art gallery, museum, plant nursery, or specialty grocery store, somewhere that has many new objects for you to look at and explore.

Become a thief

increase creativity

Along the lines of filling the well, the most creative people I know steal some of their best ideas from others. Creativity is not magic – you don’t just create something out of thin air. Creativity happens when you take something that already exists and turn it into something else.

Some of the best works out there are stolen. One of my favorite movies of all time, Clueless, is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma. Bram Stoker based his novel, Dracula, on an earlier work called The Vampyre, written by John Polidori. George Lucas based Star Wars on a film by Akira Kurosawa called The Hidden Fortress.

If you want to increase your own creativity, you’ll have to steal ideas from others and rework them into something that is uniquely you. Soak up any inspiration you can find. It doesn’t have to just be the type of work you want to create; you can find inspiration anywhere. The band Mumford & Sons based their song “Sigh No More” on William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

If someone can turn Shakespeare into a hit song, then you can certainly use existing ideas to make whatever new thing you want. 

Try these to increase creativity

  • Start collecting anything that speaks to you. Save images to an album in your phone. If you’re flipping through a magazine and see something you like, rip it out. Use the images to make an inspiration collage.
  • If you’re inspired by a movie or TV show, write down what you liked about it or what really got you thinking.
  • Write down song lyrics that spark for you. Try to rework them into a poem or short story.
  • Use Pinterest to keep track of anything that inspires your creativity – be it a recipe, a color scheme, or an outfit. You’d be surprised what can trigger a new idea. 

Teach your brain something new

increase creativity

The brain is a funny thing. It’s capable of staggering amounts of thought, calculation, and creativity. Yet it prefers the path of least resistance. Whether you like to admit it or not, your brain? Is lazy.

Don’t feel bad; mine is too. That’s how brains are wired. The brain requires more energy to function than any other organ, so it has learned to underperform as much as possible to conserve fuel, so to speak.

This means that our brains tend to get stuck in patterns; they prefer to do the same thing over and over. 

This is a great strategy for conserving energy.  But it’s a terrible strategy for increasing creativity. If you allow your brain to coast, doing the same things and following the same thought patterns it always has, it won’t be sharp enough to come up with new, creative ideas when you need it to.

You need to train your brain to think differently. A great way to do this is by shocking it with new problems from time to time.

Try these to increase creativity

  • Use your non-dominant hand to complete an everyday task, like brushing your teeth.
  • Take a different route to work or the store. Park in a different spot. Go in a different entrance than you normally do.
  • Learn a new skill – take a language, dance, or art class, or learn to play an instrument. Make a new recipe from scratch or learn to sew or crochet.
  • Try geocaching or participating in an urban scavenger hunt.
  • Get involved in your community in a new way – volunteer or join a club.

Realize that creativity is what you make it

Boost creativity

Do you waste time worrying whether you’re doing creativity “right?” Stop worrying about the rules when it comes to increasing creativity. There aren’t any rules.  

This used to be something that really held me back. As a former perfectionist (I’m in recovery now), I used to feel like I had to do everything the “right” way. I lived in a constant state of hesitation, half-expecting the creativity police to pop out at any moment and issue me a ticket for doing art wrong.

There isn’t a wrong way to do art, though. Creativity isn’t supposed to be right, and it can’t be wrong. It can be messy. It can be slapdash. It will almost always look different than what you pictured in your head. But it can’t be wrong.

If you want to make something, make it. If you have an idea, follow it through. Maybe it’ll turn out to be a masterpiece and maybe it won’t.

To increase creativity, you must increase output. Notice I didn’t say “good output.” Is every piece I write amazing, or even good? Nope. But with each piece I put out, I become a better writer. 

Try these to increase creativity

  • Set a timer and see what you can create in a set amount of time. You’ll have to work fast, so you won’t have time to second guess yourself.
  • Complete a creativity challenge. Create something new, in whatever medium you prefer, each day for a week, a month, or even longer.
  • Remind yourself that the best artists you know weren’t always as good as they are now. They had to practice, just like you.
  • Have an art day with a kid (borrow one if you don’t have any of your own). Children usually enjoy the act of creating more than they care about the finished product. Be like them. 

Create an environment of welcoming

boost creative ideas

Studies on workplace engagement show that offices promoting a “there’s no such thing as a bad idea” mentality tend to have higher engagement and more creativity. On the other hand, offices where people are often criticized for their ideas rarely have any engagement at all. Surprise, surprise.

Even though my workplace consists of me, myself, and I, I’ve noticed this in the way I work, too.

I used to scrutinize every idea that came to me, trying to decide if it was “good” before I pursued it any further. This tactic made brainstorming difficult and frustrating. Then, I decided that I would embrace every idea that came my way. I wrote them all down and gave them equal weight during the brainstorming process. Even if I didn’t end up using an idea, I celebrated every one that popped into my head.

Over time, I noticed that ideas came more and more often. When they came, they were more fleshed out and usable. In short, the more I allowed myself to be creative, with no thought to judgment or standards, the better I got at it.

Remember what I said about your brain loving the path of least resistance? You can use that to your favor. To increase creativity, you need to create an environment of welcoming in your own brain. If you embrace ideas as they come, your subconscious mind won’t hesitate to present ideas again and again.

Try these to increase creativity

  • Set up several different ways to record ideas. Keep a text file on your computer, tablet, and phone. Keep notepads stashed around the house. Download a voice recorder app to your phone, so you can take notes when you’re driving.
  • When an idea comes, write it down. Don’t worry about whether it’s good or if you’ll ever use it. Give each idea the same amount of validation.
  • Schedule time to actively think of new ideas. Try 15 minutes once a week to start. If you have a specific goal or problem you’re trying to solve, focus on generating as many ideas as you can in the set time. 
  • If an idea comes when you can’t write it down, don’t freak out. Assure yourself, ‘if this idea has value, my subconscious mind will bring it to me again.’

Creativity is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Don’t worry if you struggle to come up with ideas at first. You’ll get better with practice. Keep trying!

If you’re ready to learn how to start being creative on a larger scale (I’m talking big, scary,  awesome LIFE GOALS here) check out this super simple dreamstorming exercise

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