1. Get out of your head and back to your senses. Touch, smell, and taste. Reach out and feel the texture of bricks as you walk by a building. Forgo utensils to eat with your hands. Notice the sensation of cool water sliding down your throat as you drink. Be in your body.
2. Avoid your playlist. Listen to music from a genre or part of the world completely unfamiliar to you. Music is a language more evocative than speech.
3. Better yet, try silence. The constant presence of media playing in our homes, cars, and public places dulls the essential connection we have to our inner selves.
4. List your aggravations. Highlight the ones you have control over. Cross out the ones you don’t have control over. It’s a smaller list now isn’t it? Once you stop fretting so much you have energy for more generative pursuits.
5. Doodle. What seems like an aimless activity is a great way to allow your brain to idle while creative impulses emerge. And the doodles themselves may tell you something.
6. Play. We function best mentally and physically when we indulge in the free form fun sort of play that calls on us to improvise, move, and laugh. If you’ve forgotten how, consult a three-year-old.
7. Welcome daydreams, they fuel our creative lives.
8. Seek metaphors. Challenge yourself to discern a “message” in the first billboard you see, first sentence you hear when you turn on music, or first visual that appears when you flick on the TV.
9. Listen to your dreams. Before falling asleep, ask for a dream message. Remind yourself to remember the dream. As you waken, pull the threads of your dream into your conscious awareness and let it inform your day.
10. Imagine your own burning questions are being asked of you by someone you love dearly. Then answer as if you’re talking to that person. Your responses tend to be more wide open, innovative, and kind when responding to someone you love, much narrower within your own “self-talk.”
11. Keep creative thinking notebooks, as da Vinci did. Use them to make quick sketches and doodles, note ideas, write observations, free associate, draw mindmaps, and keep track of your inspirations.
12. View issues from all angles. Don’t accept what you’re told or think what you’re expected to think.
13. Don’t wait till you have more time or life gets easier. Cultivate a passion that has been dormant too long. Pick up that paintbrush, practice your guitar, try out for that play, take those glassblowing classes, learn to sail. For inspiration, take a look at Everyday Matters. Author Danny Gregory’s wife became paralyzed in an accident. While caring for her and their infant son, Gregory decided to start drawing. His study of color, value, and ordinary beauty helped to heal their family too. And you don’t want to miss his extraordinary new book, Art Before Breakfast: A Zillion Ways to be More Creative No Matter How Busy You Are.
14. Make an effort to connect regularly with something in nature. Watch the same tree as it changes throughout the seasons, pay attention to a body of water in different weather conditions, take an evening walk (no matter the temperature) each time there’s full moon.
15. Cultivate flow, what’s also called being “in the zone.” That’s the feeling of being fully absorbed in your activity. Time is irrelevant, in fact you may feel at one with the project whether it’s sailing, gardening, sculpting, composing, or welding.
16. Do something unusual (for you) every day. Try an unfamiliar food, drive a different route, make up your own lyrics to a song, compliment a stranger, make a unique board game out of an old one, laugh off an irritation, use a new word three different times, lie in the grass, write affirmations on your underwear, leave encouraging notes in books, compose an anti-thank you letter, go on a media fast, use binoculars, chew every bite ten times, do somersaults.
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. -Martha Graham
15 thoughts on “16 Ways To Spark Creativity”
Thank you for this beautiful list of reminders. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we practiced at least one of these every day!!
Thanks Hollister. Your work certainly qualifies as creativity practice. Now just add some somersaults!
Thanks for “keeping it yours clearly”. You are priceless!
Great post, I’m loving your approach to life. 🙂
Silence is an interesting one. When we gave up electronics so that the kids weren’t quite so batty, I found it really hard to be in a silent (just the fridge/washing machine/dishwasher) house. Now I find most electronic noise makes me feel anxious – I have re-tuned into my body and am not constantly trying to shut the over-stimulation out. I also haul the big boys outside to listen to the dawn chorus – man those kids must think I’m cool!
Your increased sensitivity to electronic noise is interesting. I wonder if you hear it more acutely now that other extraneous sounds are eliminated, or if something else is at play. It reminds me of my body’s reaction to dietary changes I’ve made over the years. As I eliminate some things, I find I can’t go back. For example I used to slurp up ice cream pretty regularly. But after giving up sugar (lovely as it is), now anything sugary makes me feel awful. Even my old pal ice cream.
At the boys (Waldorf) school there are a couple of fabulous teachers who talk about ‘open’ and ‘closed’ children. My understanding is (overlaid with all my own reading etc) the open ones are carefree, child-like and obviously overstimulated by electronics, the moon, food, lack of sleep etc. The closed ones have learned to shut down their senses early so show their stress in other ways – early puberty, sophisication, illness etc
I think I was/am very open – Mum and Dad didn’t get a TV until I was five and then it was always restricted and we lived on a farm. As for giving up ice-cream…oh my.
As a musician, for most of my adult life, I have had a problem with the background hum of some electric noises (air conditioners, commercial overhead lights, etc.). It must have something to do with the pitch, but I’ve never been able to figure out, since it is not always the same exact note. Sometimes I have to mask it with another noise.
Kirscd. You and me both. Apparently it’s called Misophonia. I’ve always been overly sensitive to the a high pitched whine of certain electronics, although no one else can really hear it. There are others that get to me too. There was a recent article about this in the NYT. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/06/health/06annoy.html?_r=0 I don’t react with anger as this author suggests, it’s just hard for me to tune it out.
This is a great list! I’m organizing a retreat this summer for adults to revive their creative self. I’ll be sure to mention this page 🙂
Sounds like a fantastic retreat.
Becca, keep me posted about this! If it’s somewhere with w-chair access., I’d like to come.
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Thank you for this wonderful advice! I will definitely use it and will let you know what wonders it does on my creativity 🙂
Thanks. May we all live the life of our dreams, as you’re doing.
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