“Creativity isn’t a talent. It’s a way of operating,” said John Cleese.

We’re all creative beings at heart. It just so happens that some people are better at expressing that side than others.

So here are 7 common traits found in highly creative people – and some advice on how you can be more creative yourself.

1. They make creativity a ritual

“Waiting for inspiration is like waiting for a train at an airport,” said the author Leigh Michaels. Creative people push through inspiration droughts and do something creative anyway.

Jerry Seinfeld made a point of writing a new joke every single day. Some of them were hilariously funny. Others were just terrible. But he understood the power of frequency.

Creativity is a bit like a muscle. When you make it a habit, your mind gets used to entering the creative state.

2. They don’t take themselves too seriously

As they climb the ladder of life, it’s natural for people to start getting serious. They start to feel terribly important.

Creative people don’t. They have fun with their work and other people. They’re playful – almost childlike, because they understand good ideas don’t come when you’re overly serious.

The advertising genius David Ogilvy would often approach a creative problem by “thinking funny”. Even if the subject matter was very serious, he knew that thinking funny would lay the path to a big idea.

3. They’re curious about everything

Your average creative genius might be a gardener, a historian, a scientist, an expert in American literature and dabble with astronomy on the side.

They’re almost always voracious readers. That’s because an idea is nothing more than a combination of old elements that already exist.

Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is generally considered the greatest painting of the 20th Century. But this would never have appeared on canvas had the artist not spent hours studying African and Iberian sculptures at the Louvre.

Ideas need fuel. Creative people keep the tank topped up.

4. They can live with discomfort for longer

When a problem’s left unsolved, it’s uncomfortable – a bit like an itch you can’t scratch. During this time, it’s very tempting to settle for a second-rate solution.

Creative people, however, can live with this discomfort for longer. They wait for the big idea, when they shout “EUREKA!”

Although he didn’t consider himself the most talented of the Monty Python gang, John Cleese realised he often came up with the funniest sketches. He says the reason was he could sit on an idea for longer. He had a high threshold for mental discomfort.

5. They’re good at switching off from work

One of the most important creative techniques is to relax and let your subconscious do the work.

When Thomas Edison was stumped, he didn’t fret over the problem. He’d leave his desk and take a nap. It sounds easy, but this is actually one of the most difficult jobs for a creative mind.

However, if you can master relaxation – if you can switch off from the problem – you often find your big idea slaps you in the face without warning.

6. They’re interested in people

If an idea is to have any impact, it needs to appeal to people.

Creative people are compassionate. They’re interested in others, because they have to appeal to raw emotion.

Ernest Hemingway, one of the 20th Century’s great people watchers said “I have learned a great deal from listening to people. Most people never listen.”

Some say he was also the 20th Century’s greatest writer.

7. They can get excited about anything

Creative people understand ideas are locked in the most mundane things. Their job is to weed them out.

The adman David Ogilvy, who I’ve mentioned, would have writers complain that the product was too dull. There simply wasn’t an exciting way to sell it.

“I’ve got news for you,” Ogilvy replied. “There are no boring products, only boring writers.”

Featured photo credit: Kristian Karlsson via media.lifehack.org

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