10 ways to unleash your creativity

True creativity is all about disruption. Changing the world, changing the media, changing your worldview.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of real-life, really effective ways to radically alter your perspective and set your inner creativity free. Learn how to get out of your rut and produce something truly astonishing.

1. Try a new medium

If you’re used to writing on your computer, try picking up a stack of paper and a pen. Or a crayon. If you’re used to seeing the world through a camera lens, try turning your hand to watercolors. The simple act of changing the physical tools you work with will force your brain to think in new ways—which should drive you to create things that are totally unexpected.

Don’t take our word for it—it works on a global level as well. New media are changing the way artists all over the world are creating. Technologies like multi-media presentation software, internet streaming services, 3D printing, and ebooks enhanced with audio and video) offer new creative canvases. Not every medium might be right for you, but keep in mind that new tools can lead you to new places creatively.

Illustration of medieval people

2. Look at a picture

Many people find images more inspiring than words. Start with some keywords that describe what you’re trying to create and search for them on Pinterest, a crowdsourced home for inspirational images and links. Even a simple Google image search should lead you down a new path, or at least provide some clarity about your subject.

If you’re usually words-focused, try reading a graphic novel. A typical graphic novel’s mixture of text and pictures, unusual layouts, and unconventional narrative structures can provide high-octane creative inspiration for any writer.

3. Choose a theme

Allow yourself to do whatever you want, as long as it fits an overarching theme. Choose a song, a color, a time period, a historical character—or anything else—and just focus on distilling the essence. Attack it from all angles, make a list of keywords, brainstorm on associations. You can draw pictures, write songs—whatever it takes to explore your chosen theme inside and out. You may not end up using 95% of what you come up with, but you’re sure to find a gem or two.

4. Set a schedule

Everyone’s “productive period” is different. Yours might be first thing in the morning, right after you get up, at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee. It might be mid-afternoon during a break from your work. It might be in the evening or right before you go to bed. No matter what works best for your schedule, carving out a specific time to work on your book is like making an appointment with your creativity—it’s bound to show up sometime. You could even set up a personal schedule on your phone or tablet to make it easier to remember.

5. Break your schedule

Now that we’ve advised you to set a schedule, don’t let yourself get into a rut. If you find yourself staring at a blank page day after day, move things around to get those creative juices flowing. Try spending an afternoon in the park with a notebook or waking up an hour early to see if the sunrise gets you thinking.  Do you usually sit in front of your computer for an hour? See what you can come up with in two five-minute sprints, 45 minutes apart. And take a walk. Scientific studies show that just walking around can clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost creativity.

6. Don’t be afraid to be wrong

If you’re waiting on perfection, you might be setting yourself up for certain failure. Don’t be afraid to take risks—serious risks—when you’re being creative. You may fail, but that’s the point. People who play it safe rarely change the world. And even your worst failures can contain the seeds of success—or lessons to help you get closer to a creative breakthrough the next time. Getting in the habit of taking risks can even help your career at the same time it’s boosting your creativity.

Magic eight ball with the text "concentrate and ask again"

7. Make creative friends

Surrounding yourself with truly creative people can be a great way to recharge your mental batteries. People who radiate curiosity, intelligence, and fun will help build you up instead of bringing you down. Strike up a conversation with a musician at an open mic night or a fellow laptop jockey at a coffeehouse. Chances are you won’t be completely aligned or in sync with these random acquaintances, but you’ll still be absorbing new ideas that can grow into big projects. Not a people person when you’re out and about? That’s fine—meet creative types online at your own speed. A simple search on Facebook comes up with thousands of interesting groups you could join.

8. Consume creative things

Break out from the same old TV shows and magazines. We’re not saying you need to stock up on pricey coffee table books and art tomes, but challenge yourself to fill your world with creative, cutting-edge, intriguing media and objects. Follow design blogs and click through links to discover where they lead. Pick a book off the library shelf at random and see what you find. Visit a museum or gallery. Make a mood board of found objects, signs, images, and articles.

9. Change your scenery

It’s great to have an office to work in day-to-day, but it can feel a little stifling sometimes. If the view out your window has become so familiar you don’t even really see it anymore, get yourself a new view. Turn your desk around. Move it to another room, if you can. Try writing on the porch or in the tub (careful with your laptop there—this might be a better time to write on paper). Once you’re in your new space, really look at what you’re seeing. Take a moment to absorb all the details and attempt to describe it for the first time.

10. Carry a notebook everywhere

A notebook can become your best friend when you’re out and about every day. Being able to capture a phrase or a sketch or an idea as you think of it can change your whole process. Waiting until you get home or into the office to document those creative thoughts makes it easier to forget the wonderful details that made your idea so great in the first place. Keeping a notebook with you can help you stay in the moment—and help you develop better habits for capturing your creativity. There are plenty of notebook apps out there, but try using old-fashioned paper and pencil. The fewer obstacles there are between you and capturing your idea, the better.


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