“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”– Pablo Picasso
You might be thinking that you’re just not creative, that you weren’t born that way, or it doesn’t come easily. In the past you might have been labelled a left-brain thinker, meaning you were stronger at logical, analytical thinking, and weaker on creative, artistic thinking.
However, with the development of modern brain imaging technology and testing, neuroscientists are beginning to dispel the myth that creativity is higher in right-brain thinkers. In fact, scientists now believe that many parts of the brain influence creativity and do not involve a single side or single part of the brain.
What’s more, research shows that creativity can be taught. In 1968, George Land conducted a landmark research study of 1,600 children aged 3 to 5 years old, using the same test NASA used to select innovative engineers and scientists. He re-tested the same children at 10 years and then at 15 years. The results were amazing.
Test results amongst 5 year olds: 98% scored highly in creative thinking.
Test results amongst 10 year olds: 30% scored highly in creative thinking.
Test results amongst 15 year olds: 12% scored highly in creative thinking.
Same test given to 280,000 adults: 2% scored highly in creative thinking.
The conclusion? Non-creative behaviour is learned. Therefore, creativity can be learned. There’s a great TED Talk that George did on his research you can find here. So, what does this mean for you? The good news is that with the right techniques and practice you can develop your creative thinking. With that in mind, here are some ways to get your creative juices flowing.
Allow the right space for creativity
It’s important to have the right physical space, and be in the right head space for creativity. Make your creative space inspirational and relatively clear of clutter, but not so bare that you feel devoid of inspiration. Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that a messy, cluttered environment can make it harder to focus and process information. But some of the most creative geniuses of our time like Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg created best in messy environments. The trick is to find what works for you. Make a creative space that helps you strike a balance between being productive and being creative, and you’re on your way to developing your creative flow.
Allow time for creativity
Make the time to create something every day. Start by choosing a time when you know you do your best work. You might be a morning person and work best in the early hours. Or, you might be a night owl and have a burst of energy in the evening. Play around with it, and once find your creative sweet spot, build it into your daily routine.
You also need to allow yourself enough time to create without pressure. Pressure, whether time-based or emotional, stifles creativity.
The key is to create every day. Whether you’re inspired or not, just create.
Recognize and Work with your Emotional Blocks
It’s hard to be very productive when you’re feeling emotionally turbulent. Start recognising and working with your emotions. Some ways to do this are through meditation, therapy, exercise and spending time in nature. You need to experiment with this and find what works for you. I find exercise can really serve to clear my mind and meditation helps me process emotional issues. According to an article by Psychology Today, Albert Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity while riding a bicycle. So, get moving to remove those blocks. Please don’t take this to mean you need to be perfectly adjusted in order to create. Some of my best ideas have come to me when I have been at my most vulnerable.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”
― Brené Brown
Believe In Yourself.
We are all unique and as such have a unique perspective on the world. Share it! Other’s will be interested. Don’t compare what you have created with others work . They say comparison is the thief of joy, but it’s much worse than that it’s the thief of everything. If I compared my writing to that of Ernest Hemingway I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the mornings.
“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
― Sylvia Plath.
Do inspirational things
Finding inspiration in life is essential to your creative development. After all, what is creative thinking if not exploration? Get out-side in nature and absorb yourself in your surroundings, practice mindfulness, or daydream and let your thoughts wander.
Inspiration can also come from trying things you’ve never done before. Step outside your comfort zone and try something you never thought you could do, like painting a seascape, abseiling or running a marathon.
Listening to music that moves you, brainstorming new ideas for a project, journal writing, watching a TED talk online or reading an autobiography by someone inspirational are all ways to get inspired.
In everything that you do, open your mind and you will open yourself to new creative possibilities.
Write, don’t type
In this age of computers and technology, writing is becoming a thing of the past. But hand writing could stimulate creative thought. There are many studies that show that handwriting fires up different parts of the brain to typing. Hand writing is important for brain development and cognition. What’s more, writing by hand slows you down and forces you to think more about what it is you need to write. It’s the reason why famous authors, like Stephen King and J.K Rowling prefer to write their novels long-hand. There is a great exercise called ‘Free Writing’ which is a very useful tool for finding new ideas. You can read about it in another article I wrote ‘The Secret To New Ideas’
“Everybody is talented because everybody who is human has something to express.” ― Brenda Ueland
When all else fails, it’s important to remember that creative ideas usually come when you least expect them. Practice the above and you’ll find your creative muscle getting stronger and stronger every day.