All you need to do in order to think creatively is to change one or more aspects of whatever it is you’re thinking about.
The size of one part of it, the colors, the uses, the context. Change anyone one element of it – big or small – and you start to change the way your brain understands the entirety of whatever “it” is.
At its most basic form, the act of thinking creatively is really that simple. What tends to happen, unfortunately, is we get so wound up about what it is we’re trying to do, or how we don’t have the right resources, or we don’t know the right questions to ask, or we aren’t exactly feeling like “being creative” in the moment, we find ourselves stuck. We put these barriers up ourselves, often consciously but occasionally unconsciously too.
It’s the same with any creative endeavor, or really any endeavor at all. We get so focused on the thought of the act that we end up barricading ourselves off from being able to do it in the first place.
I have, of course, written on this before: to be a creative, do what creatives do.
“Because what is a painter but someone who paints? Or a writer someone who writes?”
Recently I had the chance to hear from author, director, and actress, Miranda July, who echoed this point and reminded me of its importance. July stated: Don’t think of yourself as an artist, just focus on doing the work.
If you get so wound up on the thought of what it’s supposed to mean to be creative, or to be an artist, or to be a writer, you’re distracting yourself from what really matters.
What matters in all of these things isn’t the label, or whether you’re following the right system for doing the thing in order to match the label. What matters is the actual doing of the thing. Coming up with original and valuable ideas by thinking in strange or otherwise unfamiliar ways. Putting the brush to the canvas. Putting the words onto the page.
There are days when I really don’t feel like a writer (most of the time I don’t). But then I look back at the almost decade of writing I’ve done and I realize that, even though I’m not always happy with everything I’ve ever written, I’m still a writer. I put the words onto the page.
The act is what matters. So act. Even if you have to fake it at first.
Photo by Drew Coffman.