In math, creativity is called problem-solving. In education, it’s innovation. In business, it’s entrepreneurship. When it comes down to it, it’s undeniable that creativity is used everywhere, and can be a profitable skill to learn.
Yes – you can learn to be creative.
Although experts agree that some people have a genetic predisposition to be more creative than others, every human has the innate curiosity that makes up a creative personality somewhere in them. It’s just about find in what sense you are creative, and practicing.
Creative experiences – often times discouraged in the typical college classroom – can occur only after “considerable effort and time has been put into a project,” no matter who you are. So if you’re willing to dedicate the time, what else do you need to find your own creative experiences?
Create an environment to foster creativity
One of the most important aspects of developing creative ideas is surrounding yourself with the right people and the right environment. Although creatives are generally self-starters and independent workers, finding supportive and open-minded friends, peers, or mentors can help you find the new ideas, solutions, and projects you’ve been searching for. So don’t be afraid to bounce new ideas off of friends. Let yourselves joke about it. When you’re using humor in brainstorming solutions, nothing is off the table – after all, it’s just a joke. (But sometimes your most absurd ideas are things that could actually work with a few tweaks!)
So you’ve got a good environment where you won’t be judged for all of your wild ideas and daydreams. While allowing yourself to have these crazy ideas without shutting down for fear of rejection is important, you’re also going to have to actually find a “creative idea.”
How to get your next big idea
You need to actively begin searching for solutions—and more importantly, problems—that interest you. Carry around a notepad and pen, or take advantage of the blank notes section in your iPhone. It’s cliché for a reason – you really never know when or where an idea will hit you.
When you’re in a slump, you need to find new surroundings in order to get you thinking again. Getting stuck in routine is comfortable, but not a great way to expand your creative skill set. New surroundings can be something like art museums, getting lost in the city, or just scheduling dinners with interesting friends and seeing what they’ve been up to. One of my favorite classes in college so far was a textile entrepreneurship course, and every week, my professor would leave us with the task of doing something fun over the weekend – and he meant it. New surroundings = new experiences = new ideas. So get out there and explore.
Another important step in finding a new idea?
Daydreaming (and real dreaming) is a great way to explore the ideas of your subconscious. Think about it – probably some of the craziest things you’ve ever imagined were in dreams or nightmares. Not to mention that every idea needs an incubation period, allowing you to take a step back from your project to really get the whole picture. So get your eight hours!
If you’re still really in a slump, consider this exercise:
Grab a piece of paper. Now think of the absolute weirdest, most impossible thing that you can imagine. Maybe it’s having a two-sided conversation with your dog, or making little vacuum shoes to wear while you’re walking around your carpet so you never have to intentionally clean again. Really, it doesn’t matter what it is, or if you think it’s possible for it to have a solution – just find your idea and write it down.
Now take this problem, and solve it. Write down 3 different solutions to your weird, impossible things, even if they’re such a stretch that you become POSITIVE they could never work.
And look at you, you little creative genius. You’ve still got it.
You have your idea. Now what?
Once you have your idea or problem or solution or whatever it is you’re day dreaming of, it’s important to put your idea into action. Being a daydreamer is cool, but that’s all you’ll be if you don’t put the hard work and time (and yes, sometimes money) into the projects you want to do.
Now is the time to practice self-discipline.
Sure, sometimes you’d much rather eat store-bought cookies and watch 20 episodes of Bojack Horseman – but you need to set deadlines for yourself and your projects if you want to improve your creative skills and actually get things done.
Find fixed times and places that you can set aside for your creative endeavors. This doesn’t have to be hours upon hours of work – your idea should be something you are passionate about, and usually enjoy. It’s fun to break down the normal barriers and mundane routines of your life to make something new, so you should let yourself enjoy it, but don’t let that take away from the fact that it does take work and practice to become truly creative.
Use your resources – libraries, the internet, whatever you can get your hands on – and expand your knowledge of your topic. You may find something that will surprise you (or they could renew Cash Cab and you could find yourself in the car thinking, WOW if only I had researched XYZ thought I had back in October of 2017).
Share your project.
Many of the studies I read on creativity shared just how important it was to get the validation or reward necessary to continue your creative endeavors. It’s difficult to stay motivated when you get no reward!
So why not share your project on social media? Create your own blog? Make something that you (or someone you care about) can use? Use your idea to start a business?
Knowing you have a small audience, even if that audience is just your ultra supportive family or friends, can help you maintain the motivation you need to continue improving yourself through your creative endeavors.
So get out there! Surround yourself with a positive environment, new experiences, and an open mind. When your next idea hits you, run with it! (And come share it with us here, Raleigh!)