Think about that moment when an idea strikes you. It’s inspiring. Whether you write, paint, sing, compose, or take photos, there are moments when it just flows. In that perfect moment it all comes together beautifully and you remember why you love being a creative. But more often than not, the creative process does not feel like floating on clouds. It involves a lot of discipline, routine, structure, habit, persistence, and self-control. These aspects of the process are not fun to implement, nor do they feel very inspirational, but they are what give creativity its backbone.
The following tips are four principles of creativity that every serious creative needs to put in place. They will help you position yourself and be ready when inspiration strikes.
1. Build a resource pool of inspiration
Forcing creativity is like scraping nails on a chalkboard—the thought of it makes you cringe. So it’s pretty much impossible to will any form of creativity into being. But what you can do is give it optimal opportunity to flourish.
Think of creativity like you would any good old-fashioned wor out. No one day of pushups is ever fun, or easy, nor does it immediately get you ready for competition. It’s the collective process of day-to-day discipline that produces noticeable results. If you assemble a repertoire of creative insight that has been built up over time, your brain power, creative juices, and inspired strength gain consistent stability slowly every day. When you sit down to create, your muscle memory has already been gaining strength, so that when the time calls for activation, your creativity is ready to compete at full capacity. Your only job is a mild warm-up.
2. Implement boundaries
Most creatives would say they could sit in a room and think every day, all day. The free flow of thought is usually how they stumble upon genius. Most creatives would also say that doing the same thing over and over, day in and day out, is boring and a major creative buzzkill. The best ideas are discovered when the brain is released into imaginative territory, and who would want to miss this potential for greatness? The problem is that creatives are typically really good at daydreaming and terrible at follow-through. They’re really good at thinking up the new and improved, but terrible at implementing them. At some point you have to stop thinking and start doing. Which is why one of the most important principles of creativity is to set limits, establish boundaries and implement schedules.
If you are a true creative, your genius ideas will never go away. What makes you genius is the way you think, not just the ideas you produce. By giving structure to this thought process, you allow the truly great ideas to come to completion. The time crunch forces your brain to let go of ideas you know won’t have legs to stand on, and you’ll have more time to give legs to the ideas that do. Eventually, over time, your brain will weed out the good ideas from the great.
3. Set aside time for constructive feedback
It’s fun when people agree with you. It’s even more fun when they rave about how wonderful your work is. Who wouldn’t want this kind of feedback? The problem is that it leaves very little room for growth. If the only people you surround yourself with are the ones who constantly praise you, you never see your work beyond its comfort zone. Sure, it may feel like left-brain thinkers “don’t get it,” but what they do offer is constructive insight into the way the other half of the world thinks. The more well-rounded approach you take to your work, the better chance you have of standing back from it to see its genius ability, and not just your personal attachment. No creative creates a masterpiece so their art can impress the busted-up walls of a worn-out basement. But the trick is to find someone whom you trust completely, someone who will actually be constructive in their approach, rather than confrontational.
4. Stay teachable
You may be the world’s greatest singer, but I’m guessing changing a tire stumps you. You may be the Picasso of this generation, but I’m guessing boiling an egg stresses you out. You may speak four different languages, but marriage is the hardest language you’ve ever had to decipher. The point is, you will never know 100% of everything. To grow, understand, and evolve, in all areas of our lives, is what feeds our inspiration. The very act of learning stimulates our mind and fuels our hope to believe in what could be—and the unlikely is often the very thing to spark the deepest creativity. But you’ve got to approach life with humility and eagerness, and choose to see everything and everyone as a potential teacher. Besides, I’ve never heard of any creative dying after they’ve said, “I don’t know. How about you teach me?”
“A student of life considers the world a classroom.”
Featured photo credit: Cuba Gallery via flickr.com