“Creative thinking is a skill, it’s not just a matter of individual talent, it’s not just a matter of sitting by the river and playing baroque music and hoping you get inspired.”- Edward de Bono
Recently I picked out a copy of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin. It’s a book that consists of 45 interviews by notable creative’s such as Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Chris Madden and Sigrid Olsen. Though I’ve gained a lot from it and other similar books, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve found have worked for me and my students.
So here they are, my 5 tips for improving creativity…
1. Be Consistent
I’ve discussed this before, being consistent is THE most important skill you as an artist can develop. What this means is that in the initial stages of learning your craft you must be consistent. The brain is very much like a muscle, it will not improve or strengthen in its abilities without use!
As you get out into the world and are lucky to make money from your craft it is even more important to be consistent, people are relying on you to produce. You can not afford to be idle while waiting for inspiration.
“Eighty Percent of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen
If you sit down and start writing/ painting/ practicing, eventually something will come. If at the end of the day you don’t like what you’ve created, change it, that’s what the editing process is for.
2. Learn Skills Outside of Your “Art”:
I recently read an article on life as a writer, in it the author discussed how learning to promote her book was something that had little to do with the art of writing itself, but nevertheless was integral to her job. So I ask, is there a skill you could be learning but have been putting off because it’s seemingly not relevant to your art?
If you want a record contract one day, learn a few things about contract law while you wait. If you are an actor, learn how to film and edit movies (it’ll save you heaps of money paying for showreels in the long run).
Furthermore, learning lateral skills and gaining life-experiences will enrich you as a person, and by default as an artist. The things we learn along the way are bound to influence our work. So who knows – maybe I’ll use those latent archery skills to write a book about a lean, mean (arrow shooting) heroine one day?
3. Write it down:
This one is pretty self-explanatory and once again I’ve discussed this more at length in the past but I’ll say it again:
“Don’t ever leave your house without some means to write down your ideas and when you have an idea document it, IMMEDIATELY, Never say ‘I’ll write it down later.’… You might forget later.”
Imagine if J.K Rowling had have ignored her idea for Harry Potter while sitting on that long training ride to Manchester?
Writing it down is not just limited to your ideas. Write down your ‘to do list’ also, it’ll drastically improve your chances of getting things done and quicker. The less stuff you have floating around in your head, the less stressed you’ll be.
4. Take Risks:
In this video Maltese physician, author, inventor Edward de Bono states:
“One of the reasons people are reluctant to be creative is that if you try out an idea and it doesn’t work – that is regarded as a mistake. Now a big deficiency in language, certainly in the English language, is we don’t have a word which says ‘fully justified venture, which for reasons beyond your control did not succeed,’ so anything that did not succeed is called a mistake, and people don’t like mistakes because that stands in the way of their promotion and their career.”
People within the creative field need to look at the possibility of making a mistake differently. A key way to approach work with less angst, is to think of what you are doing as an experiment – you are in the process of figuring out what works and there is nothing wrong with rethinking or binning an idea that is not effective. Again, that is what the editing process is all about.
5. Build Community:
Something that I’ve really been embracing lately is the concept of building community. With community you get guidance, with guidance you reduce the amount of time spent making mistakes. But it’s important to note that with community comes the need to work on ones ability to take and even embrace criticism. In other words, don’t join a critiquing group if you are only open to glowing reviews.
What I enjoyed about The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women, was that it discusses this topic and defines the need to be choosey about whom you collaborate with or whose advice to take on board. Be aware that we all go out into the world with our on biases and you must keep this in mind when ‘choosing your team’. For example: if you are a romance writer creating work for the Young Adult market, keep in mind the feedback received by someone who is a Historical Romance writer may conflict with what is actually relevant to your genre.
And one final note….
I want to conclude this with another interesting quote from Edward de Bono:
“One of the very important things about creativity is that the new idea, the creative idea, must have value. Far too many people who think they are creative, think that just being different for the sake of being different is creative. It is not. And that’s what gives creativity a bad name. So if you look at a door and you say doors are normally rectangular, let’s make a triangle a door – unless you can show value for that, that is not creativity. That is just being different for the sake of being different.”
I hope this has left you with a few things to think about, please subscribe to my regular email updates, alternatively you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ to receive notifications on when new posts are up. Feel free to comment on this article!
image source: Smithsonian Institution
* This post first appeared on my personal blog Accidental Muse.