Tapping into our own creativity to allow it to come forth in fresh ways is the holy grail of an artist. Creative self-expression can be seen in any almost any industry, realm, or facet of life, and I truly believe it is one of the essential joys of life. But we all take inspiration from others at least some of the time, a fact which often leads me to wonder whether there are any original ideas left in the world.
My conclusion, based on meditations I’ve done, exercises I’ve undertaken, and conversations I’ve had, is yes! We can have original thoughts, and we can have them every day. Fresh ideas, brimming with ingenuity and sparkling with authenticity. New ideas are our bread and butter when we are creating. But how can we keep them flowing? I’ve noticed that new ideas used to come in waves for me. And then those waves eventually turned into bursts of inspiration. Now, I have to practice. Daily.
Here are some ideas on how to keep a nice flow of creativity in your life. Think of them like workouts for your mind.
1. Use Structured Exercise
It may seem counterintuitive to incorporate structure into what is usually a flexible, free-flowing practice, but our brain loves patterns and actually thrives when forced to work within set parameters. Giving yourself little word exercises to do can increase the scope of your thoughts, allowing your imagination to travel further with each session than it did before.
“Storyline” is a great example of a constructive creativity exercise. It asks you to select 4 words at random and then create a story using them. A similar exercise involves completing a drawing using only a certain number of colours.
Joining forces with another person is a surefire way to get both your juices flowing. You can ignite the spark of a small idea within a person and soon enough, if the conditions are right, a fire can burn; crackling conversations, which usually illuminate back and forth. By sharing and discussing ideas with another person, we challenge our point of view, which gives us the luxury of perspective. This shifting and broadening of our viewpoint can, in turn, really take our ideas to the next level.
A major component of The Artist’s Way, a book and online course which teaches how to develop creativity, is writing three pages every single morning. Not the easiest thing sometimes, but I find it an incredible tool for accessing ‘higher’ parts of myself or Source. Keeping a journal stimulates thoughts that may been passed over, forgotten, or unexplored throughout the day. I always like to engage in stream of consciousness writing to let free any ideas that need to come out. This means it’s just pen to page, no judgement. Just write. It’s fascinating to see seemingly separate ideas converge or morph into new ones. And I find the best time to do this is first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed. (Bonus: you will probably sleep better, too.)
4. Read Books
Typically, ideas develop from known facts. Why not expand your mind by switching up your reading material? Grab a newspaper, reread an old book, check out some new blogs, or pick up a novel. These new ideas and ways of looking at the world are sure to inspire you. Our world is filled with visual distractions, however, so don’t worry if you get caught up and find yourself mentally wandering. Your mind may still be processing the words, and the thoughts or feelings they evoke, while you rest.
5. Be Curious
How will we ever have new ideas if we see the same thing every day? Get outside and take a look around. I would bet at least one question about your surroundings comes to mind. This is your brain being stimulated by the noises, colours, objects, smells, and textures. Many times, just the act of moving your body and taking it to a new space is all it takes to spark a new idea. We need that stimulation. Take a walk at lunch, hit up a new grocery store, or check out a different part of town to get those ideas flowing.
6. Use Metaphors
Metaphors compare two things to explain or entertain. I’ve used a couple in this article already. Your friends might think you’ve turned into some kind of poet, but using metaphors engages the emotional and creative parts of your brain, forcing you to make connections between seemingly disconnected objects or ideas. Pairing and comparing concepts which may seem unrelated forces you to explore each one more thoroughly and in new ways.
It’s been said time and time again: there is no better way to master something than to teach or present it. The very nature of teaching forces you to dig deeply into a subject, calling forth new ideas as you bring your own unique experiences to them. You simply can’t summarize a topic or concept without having a full understanding of it yourself. Also, public speaking doesn’t come naturally to all of us. The next time you’re asked to present or teach something to someone or a group of people, peel yourself out of your comfort zone and learn the ins and outs of a new topic!
A Note on Note Taking and Routine
‘Eureka’ ideas come to us at all times of the day. How frustrating is it when you just can’t remember them? Writing notes to yourself throughout the day — documenting ideas or writing down things you want to accomplish — is always a good idea. And giving your mind time and space to process can go a long way towards really honing and perfecting these concepts. Generating new ideas is a skill like anything else, so keep practicing. Choose a couple of your favourite methods and incorporate them into your daily routine. If we’re going to have habits, they might as well be beneficial ones!
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