I will refer to the definition of creativity as written by the once brilliant designer slash writer George Lois, as quoted in the first page of my book The Creativity Challenge:
“[Creativity is] the defeat of habit by originality.”
There are, undoubtedly, a few large obstacles in life that dilute our ability to feel creative and from which our most concrete habits are formed.
This includes the conditioning of what was once creative and new to us into the norm. Like moving to a new city, starting a new relationship, or the feeling of your tongue in your mouth: each risks becoming stale or routine, even expected, over time.
Lois nailed this one on the head: it’s easy to slip into a pattern of routine, even when it comes to creative endeavors. What once made us feel excited or challenged can easily become mundane and routine if we don’t pay attention.
Responsibilities take hold. This is particularly true for the creative who has taken his or her craft and turned it into a business or moderately-important side project. It’s one thing to explore ideas, to take photographs or write books for the sheer enjoyment of those things, or in an effort to fulfill one’s curiosities, it’s an entirely different thing to do those same acts in an effort to pay the bills or maintain one’s standard of living.
If you’ve fallen in to a creative rut or simply want to push yourself out of habit, the first place to start looking is at what habits are and how we can influence them.
For this task, I point to habit expert and writer Buster Benson who once summarized the process of changing habits by stating:
“Behavior change is identity/belief change.”
Or, as Aristotle put it: “we are what we repeatedly do.” So how do we become more creative every day? How do we change our identify or beliefs about ourselves in order to be even a little more creative?
Here Buster points us to human behavior researcher Dr. BJ Fogg, who says creating new habits in life is about either having an epiphany, taking small steps, or changing our environment.
We can’t do much about encountering epiphanies, and small steps can certainly do us good but it all feels like more work than many of us have time or energy to deal with.
The last point though, changing our environments to impact our sense of identity, is something I use often in my own life. It’s undoubtedly the easiest thing you can do to push yourself to become more creative every day.
For example: when I recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay area late last year, I realized my work area in the new apartment was meticulously clean and laid out. I didn’t have any outlets (apart from my laptop) for me to explore ideas or express myself. This clean workspace made me feel professional and in control, but I noticed that it was hindering my ability to really think creatively as a result.
I ordered a few Moleskine brand notebooks, some big markers and pens, a ruler, a sketchpad, some sticky notes, watercolor paper, and a few must-have reference books, and threw them all across my desk.
The desk is now messier than I typically like my living space to be, but I’ve found that having immediate access to these resources has greatly influenced my creativity.
Now if I find myself procrastinating on a task (like writing this article) I’ll take a minute or two to doodle a portrait on a sheet of paper (despite the fact I don’t consider myself to be an artist). Or I’ll repeatedly write a quick blurb of inspiration to myself in cursive writing, trying to capture the essence of the quote while also fine-tuning my illustration lettering skills (I am not a typographer or illustrator either). In some cases I’ll simply pick up one of the nearby books (It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be is my go-to desk book), flip to a random page, and find myself drawn to a concept I read.
These small acts might not seem like much, but they’ve done some pretty impactful things for my own creativity. Everything from sparking ideas for blog posts to inspiring me to squirt BBQ sauce all over a canvas just to emphasize a message.
My point is this: if you want to push yourself to be more creative every day – to escape routine or to get the feeling activity back into your head ” make it easier on yourself. Carry a notebook with you wherever you go (they sell pocket sized notebooks and equally small space pens on Amazon), put a big sketchpad and a magnum-sized marker near your desk, or set your morning alarm for just 10 minutes earlier so you can get up and journal whatever thoughts sporadically pop into your mind first thing in the morning.
Here are a few more ideas for what you could try to encounter more creativity in your day.
These things sound trivial, I know, but the impact they have on your behavior can be tremendous.
You don’t have to necessarily push yourself into being more creative every day, you simply need to allow yourself to fall into being it.