According to Wikipedia, creativity is the “phenomenon whereby something new and valuable is created.” It therefore stands to reason that you should want to be creative all of the time. Whilst some might find it easy just “to be creative,” for others a few strategies might be needed. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote about “connecting the unconnected” to get creative inspiration in his notes, and we are going to take a leaf out of his book. For you to start becoming more creative, like Da Vinci you need to start looking at the world with fresh eyes and try some of the techniques described below to get your creative juices flowing.
1. Contemplate the mess
Da Vinci was known to throw paint filled sponges onto the wall and contemplate what he sees. Years before Jackson Pollock, Da Vinci was looking at how the paint was opening his eyes to something new. It might be these very splats that inspired early bicycles and helicopters. And whilst they weren’t practical to make at the time, they were possible to imagine.
Fortunately we do not all need to splat paint on the walls to be creative. Instead we can make ink splats. To do this take some cartridge paper, blob some ink or paint onto one half of the page, and then fold in two. Unfold and examine. What do you see?
2. Take a shower
Whilst having a shower you are likely to have some of your best ideas. Here’s why: to be creative you need a mix of dopamine and distraction. Having a warm shower helps with the production of dopamine in the brain and whilst you are washing, you are distracted by activity. By putting your brain into neutral and doing something mundane whilst your brain is producing dopamine provides the best conditions for being creative. Take advantage of this by keeping a pad and pencil in the bathroom (or just outside). If you are interested in the science, then have a look at this blog post on the subject.
3. Do something normal in a different way
By taking a normal activity and then doing it differently, you encourage your brain to make connections and to be creative. These neural pathways are then open to be used when you need to do some lateral thinking. So, for instance, if you are making a cheese and ham sandwich, butter the cheese and ham — not the bread. Pull the components of the sandwich together and you will still have something enjoyable to eat — AND you will have started to encourage your brain to not solely rely on one way to get things done.
This is backed up by scientific research being carried out by Psychologist Dr Simone Ritter from Radboud University Nijmegen. She told the BBC, “People should seek out unexpected experiences if they wish to think differently and so approach problems with a fresh perspective.”
4. Get unstuck by taking a walk
If you have a particular problem to solve, the more you look at it, the stronger the obvious patterns become. This means that you are less likely to be creative stuck at your desk. Instead of getting stuck in a rut, take a break. Have a walk and take your mind off the issue. In a similar way to taking a shower, the distraction and activity will combine with your subconscious ability to solve things in a novel way.
When we improvise we let our brain do the work. We don’t think too hard about things and just do it. This can be both good and bad. Things can go wrong. However, things can go right and open up a new level of creativity that you hadn’t thought possible. It’s best not to improvise too much in high stakes situations (such as job interviews). But otherwise it can be cool to riff to see what happens.
6. Take notes
Da Vinci filled notebook after notebook with ideas, inventions, sketches, and more. Observe, doodle, contemplate — whatever you do make sure that you are taking notes. This is because the note taking process helps us to formalize ethereal thoughts. By doing this, things become a little more tangible, are more likely to be creative, and are able to reason a connection between the unconnected.
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