creative activities

Here’s an exercise for thinking creatively

How do you get better at thinking creatively?

The answer is how you get better at anything: practice.

But what does creative practice look like?

If creativity is your ability to come up with unique and valuable ideas, practicing creativity is doing that without the context of what makes them unique or valuable. Anything goes.

It can be doodling for 10 minutes or free writing for 5, it can be sitting in a crowded area and making up stories for the people you see, or closing your eyes for 15 minutes to imagine yourself in another country.

To become better at thinking creatively, you simply need to exercise your imagination.

Some of my favorite creative practices involve imagining things in completely different context. For example: while driving to work, I’ll wonder what similarities the cars on the freeway have to toy cars in a child’s play room. I imagine giant hands sweeping across the road and moving cars one way or the other. Or while walking around the office and looking at the tiles on the floor, I’ll think about what would happen if the rules of chess applied to navigating the office, how would that change our interactions here?

To become better at creatively is to make new thinking patterns in your mind. And to do that you simply need to adjust what you see or think about on a regular basis.

Your homework assignment for today is to find one thing and change the context of it. What if it were 100 times bigger? What if the rules that apply to a game applied to that thing? What if there were 1,000 more of that thing?

Blog or otherwise write about how the practice goes for you today and what you learned.

And remember:

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

Read this next: Seven steps to creative breakthroughs

How do you spark creativity?

Creativity is like fire: it can be difficult to start if you don’t know how.

Creativity is also like fire in the sense that one little spark has the potential to turn into something extremely enormous and powerful. All it takes is a little know-how to spark your creativity, and before you know it you will be overwhelmed with creativity. At least, that’s what we all hope for (it doesn’t happen like that all of the time).

Here are a few techniques you can use to help spark your creativity right now. For best results: try more than one technique, at the same time.

Open your mind and start believing just about anything. Creativity is all about new, unexplored ideas; and you can’t explore new ideas if your mind is closed to impossibilities. If you’re anything like me: you are often set on a specific belief or way of doing things, and that’s not good for creativity. Simply opening your mind to new ideas and beliefs, forgetting what you thought you knew, will help get a little spark going for your creativity.

Get active and create. Rather than procrastinating, jump right into getting creative. Don’t worry about the results right now, what you think about now and what your creativity will help you create are not going to be the same thing. A lot of the time creativity is not sparked because we stress about it or subconsciously procrastinate. Get active and your creativity will spark!

Do something that makes you feel creative, even if you wouldn’t typically consider it to be a creative activity. Play a game, draw, paint, write a poem, take pictures, anything that makes you feel creative. And don’t worry about the results, you don’t have to come up with something great or do something that will change the world. Just do anything that makes you feel creative. Your brain will get into the creative mode, and it will be easier to come up with remarkable ideas.

Take five minutes to absorb inspiration and then sit down and think about all of the inspiration. Whether you find your inspiration online, in product packaging, in books, or anywhere else, take five minutes to look at as many inspiring works or ideas as fast as you can. If what you look at is inspiring enough, your creativity will ignite almost instantly. And by setting a time limit for browsing inspiration, you force your mind to get back to creating, rather than just absorbing, ideas.

Run with one idea. All it takes to really spark your creativity is one idea. The one idea can be silly, unrealistic, world-changing, boring, exciting, pathetic, or anything in-between. Come up with an idea for something and then expand on that idea using a good old-fashioned pencil (or pen, if you prefer) and piece of paper.

Sparking your creativity is one of the hardest things to do, but with these techniques it will be a little easier to get things started.

And if you have any good techniques that you personally use to spark your creativity, feel free to share them in the comments.