How to Be Creative

I came across this video the other day as I was surfing the internet at work during my down time. Being in a creative industry, I was immediately curious as to the advice one person would give another on how to stay creative in the fast-paced world that we live in.

I started putting down my thoughts for each of the 29 items but quickly ran out of patience and realized that I couldn’t get behind most of them, such as “drinking coffee.” How is that supposed to make you creative? Maybe the caffeine jitters help set your mind on creative overdrive …

Instead, I thought I would put my little brain to work and come up with a (much shorter) list of my own. Now keep in mind that these are what work for me. It’s up to you to be alert as to what triggers your creativity and come up with a list of your own.

  1. Read: I don’t think I can stress this enough. To the risk at sounding cheesy, there are complete other worlds trapped in books waiting for you to explore them. Huddled up in your apartment because of the raging snow storm outside your window? Grab a book and let your mind sail away to some warmer climate. (That will be me tomorrow as 8″ of snow fall on Chicago and catch me reading my book about a fictional Spanish writer.) Tired of non-eventful days at work? Try this incredible series that is sure to last you most of the fiscal year. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that by experiencing things that you normally wouldn’t, you increase your chances of being able to come up with that one brilliant, never-before-heard-of idea. (This could also be interpreted as watch TV or movies but let’s be honest, you won’t become a better writer that way)
  2. Surf the internet: Now I know that some parents lay down strict rules about computer use with their kids but truth be told, there is a lot to learn on the internet that can open up your mind. Take the popular “Sh*t Girls Say” viral sensation that has spawned an incomparable number of spin-offs (“Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls,” “Sh*t Gay Guys Say,” “Shit Nobody Says” to name a few). Without that first catalyst, we wouldn’t have hours worth of material making fun of everyone.
  3. Take a walk: The world is a big place (even in Gardner, KS, where my parents live), which means that there is a lot to see and assimilate. One of my favorite things to do is to people watch. Back in the day when my family would travel, we would look at people and try and figure out what we thought their history was. Before you knew it, you were in the presence of a Hungarian refugee who was a double agent for the CIA, running from their evil step brother that had unmasked them and put a bounty on their heads. Oh, and they loved pistachio ice cream. Just walk and let your mind wander. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at what you come up with.
  4. Write things down: I’m not always good with this one but it’s something that I’m trying to rectify. Some people will tell you to always carry a notebook but, for most guys, that’s pretty difficult since we only have so many pockets to use. However, with the fancy new smartphones that I know most of you own, you really have no excuse to not write down a few ideas that pop into your head. I have a running list of thoughts on my own phone that usually result in blog posts. Success!

I wanted to think of one last nugget of wisdom to give you, since a list is most well rounded when it’s an even number, but I couldn’t come up with anything else. Maybe it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is and practice some of the above.

What would you include in your own list? Do you agree with mine?

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4 thoughts on “How to Be Creative

  1. Dennis Hickey says:

    I cannot agree more with your first point. They say all great writers were great readers. And I would add to your watching people, learn their stories. Everyone you meet will have some unique experience, trait, or heritage you never would have thought possible.

    • Adam says:

      You make a good point. It’s not just what you make up about a person based on their appearance that can trigger creativity, it’s the story of their life that might give you a new perspective.

  2. akcomputer says:

    Frankly, I believe your short list was much more insightful than that vague animated infographic that actually reiterated a lot of the same points such as #2.”Always carry a notebook” and #27. “write down ideas.”

    Their 29 tips were completely unfounded – a lot of them had merit, but several of them were akin to your drinking coffee point – singing in the shower, clearing your office space etc. This reminds me of that list of 50 traits that characterize PR professionals – such as drinking coffee and using post-it notes, which is also indicative of the most mundane professions.

    Anyway, your point about reading was probably my favorite one. I feel like movies and tv shows can stimulate the fantasy storytelling/imaginative portion of the brain, but I think it limits the imagination too. It’s one thing to read Harry Potter and illustrate the characters and the spells and the magical settings in your mind; it’s quite another to have the story told to you with actors who can’t do magic in real life and with settings and backdrops limited by gravity, budgets and what humans are capable of creating. Keep thinking and keep writing! And reading and sharing your books with me!

    • Adam says:

      You’re right, the act of being able to make up a scene in your head from writing on a page is much more challenging than watching a story unfold on a screen, which is why most of us who read, never find the movies quite as appealing.

      For anyone wondering what list Alison is referring to, I direct you here.

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