People often ask me for the secret to being more creative, whether it’s for their life or in business. Unfortunately, there’s no one magic formula for creativity that’s going to work for everyone. However, there is a key we can use to filter out which creativity techniques are going to bring us each success.
While we’re all creative, we all express it in different ways and to different degrees. Similarly, we all like different things, structure our day differently, have different tastes and preferences, and go about our business in different ways. So it’s no wonder there’s no simple ‘one size fits all’ response to being creative. But this doesn’t mean that we shut up shop, give up and go home. We just need to apply a filter to all the creative tips out there to make sure that they can work for us. It all depends on this one thing: YOU.
There’s no point battling to wake up at 5am in the morning to do your writing, like Ernest Hemingway, if you are a chronic night owl who struggles to get out of bed before 7.30am. It’s better to work with who you are and adopt some creative habits or tools that are easier to incorporate into your lifestyle. For instance, find another time to write that fits better with your schedule and energy levels, and then make sure to keep a notebook next to your bed so you can scribble in the dark for those bursts of inspiration late at night.
Or what if you find that you can never hear yourself think when you’re trying to nut out a problem for work? Well, do your creative thinking in more quiet surroundings – like a library or cafe away from the lunchtime rush, or go for a walk in a park. But if hustle and bustle are more your thing, then park yourself in a busy cafe or on a bench in a busy pedestrian mall to do your thinking.
We’re more likely to be creative when we’re relaxed and being ourselves. So the best way of finding out what creativity tools work for you is to understand yourself better: your nature, work patterns, priorities, and habits.
You’d think that this is obvious. But it’s so funny how often we overlook such simple things about ourselves that we could harness to become more creative. For example, I’m a very visual person. But it wasn’t until something happened in my old job that I realised how important visual stimulus was for me.
There was a project that had finished and they had a whole lot of different coloured post-it notes left over. I was so excited to discover these remnants in the stationary cupboard that I decided to collect a few and make my own little mixed up multi-coloured pad of post-its. I was in heaven! I loved looking at that little burst of colour on my desk and it felt so special and exciting to write on them (so much nicer than the standard bland yellow ones we normally had at our disposal). But the funny thing was that after a while I noticed that by changing this one small thing I had increased my happiness and productivity at work (now I also am aware that by using more colour I was stimulating the more expansive, big picture thinking part of my brain). I am always amazed at how small a thing could make such a big difference to how I worked. This seemingly small little change also led me to discover how important colour was for me, and led to me being more deliberate in bringing colour into my work day by using coloured paper, pens, pencils and markers. It also reminded me of how I had previously used this strategy when I used to colour code my university notes to quickly distinguish between factual information, examples and my own opinions. Proof that these gems of wisdoms are always waiting for us to discover them.
So is having colour important to you?
- What about noise? Do you need absolute stillness and quiet to work? Or do you like to be in the thick of it with some background noise or music?
- Are you a morning person or a night owl?
- Do you like to work in big blocks of time or in short bursts?
- Do you like to bounce off your ideas with others to refine them on the fly? Or could you think of nothing worse, and would prefer only the company of yourself to nut out your idea before sharing it with others?
- Do you like to get ‘hands on’ when you’re thinking and tinker on your project? Or do you need to see everything visually mapped out or written up first?
There are no right or wrong answers. It’s all about finding out what works best for you and then honouring it. Try to see how you can harness your preferences, even if in a small way (just like I did with the post-it notes). And if you do want to make a complete turnaround, say waking earlier to work even though you’re a long standing night owl, then do it gradually over time.
It’s also good to remember that these preferences are not fixed. There are no hard or fast rules. And there will always be exceptions. We all change over time. So experiment. Test things out.
Once you discover what works for you (your own set of personal creativity formulas) then you can use that understanding to inspire your creativity.
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