If there’s one thing you can do to help ensure your business’ vitality, it’s giving some thought to how to increase creativity.
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Certainly beats brushing up on bookkeeping. (Although we got you there, too, with a juicy post about the best accounting software for freelancers.)
But actually, being a creative machine isn’t easy. In fact, it can be torturous at times.
Picture this, if you will: you’re sitting down to write another post, design another landing page, or whatever it is you do best. But the blinking cursor seems to be the only thing you can focus on. You could swear it’s mocking you.
You begin to type, draw, create — then promptly stop. Something isn’t right. It’s not the amount of sleep you got the night before, nor is it the work you’re doing. But you can’t seem to put your finger on why your inspiration is lacking.
If you’re nodding in solidarity, you’re likely in a good old-fashioned creative rut.
It happens to us all; even the most inventive people hit a wall at some point. It’s inevitable, and quite frankly, it’s part of the process.
Constantly channeling your imagination is hard work, so those of us in creative industries need to take care of ourselves accordingly. Better yet, if we don’t take steps to stimulate creativity, our businesses will take a hit.
Let’s take a look at 12 surefire strategies for boosting creativity for the sake of both you and your business.
Shall we begin?
1. Take a Class about Something You’re Interested In
There’s no better way to build creativity skills than to dive into another topic that piques your interest outside of your daily work.
Stepping outside of the industry you work in every once in a while can be one of the best things you can do for yourself when you’re trying to figure out how to increase creativity.
Do you have a hidden passion for painting? Have you always wanted to learn a foreign language? Sign up for a class on Skillshare or Udemy and explore a new topic that you find interesting and exciting. Don’t be afraid to really dig in, either.
If you find yourself feeling guilty about spending time on something that isn’t necessarily work-related, remember: you’re actively developing creativity, which supports greater productivity.
Who knows? You may learn something that you can use in your next project or post, or it could help you out while setting business goals.
2. Block Out Time to Write
An idea can pop into the mind at any given time; there’s no telling when your Next Great Idea will find its way into your psyche. That’s why making time to write each day is a great way to increase creativity.
Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, this exercise is great for getting ideas out of your head and onto the page. Plus, once you have them in front of you, you may be able to make better sense of them.
And you might even find some guest blogging inspiration while you’re at it.
The beauty of writing practice is that there’s no right or wrong way to approach it. You can pick a prompt and start writing, or you can brain-dump the ideas you have floating around in your head onto the page. Either way, you’re making space for your ideas to develop.
Wondering how to stimulate creativity through writing? Here are a few prompts to get you started:
- Write about a time when you felt vulnerable.
- When was the last time you tried something new?
- The year is 2121. You just woke up, and everything is dark. There is, however, one small light at the end of the hallway.
As you can probably tell, these prompts will spark a variety of ideas, from personal reflection to creative storytelling. Go add one to your Personal Kanban board, and write!
3. Mix Up Your Daily Routine
Monotony is the killer of creativity, right? Or so they say. So let’s look into a tried-and-true method for how to practice creativity.
Now, I’m not suggesting you cast aside your beloved routine or distraction-free environment and forget about either altogether. That would be counterproductive. The secret is to tweak your regimen enough to feel different but not so foreign that you slip into overwhelm.
Start small. Instead of rolling out of bed, turning on the coffee pot, and sitting down at your desk, try going for a short walk before you start work for the day. Or you could work more breaks into your schedule.
No matter how you decide to mix up your daily routine, give it an honest try. It may feel different at first, but you never know what you might come up with on your mid-morning walk or as you dive into that book you just downloaded on your Kindle.
4. Make Time for Exercise
We know regular exercise helps minimize stress and anxiety, but how else can it be helpful when you’re wondering how to increase creativity?
Wendy Suzuki, a neuroscientist and psychology professor at New York University, claims there’s a powerful correlation between exercise and creativity. What’s more, a study from Stanford University found that walking makes room for more creative thinking and better ideas.
Integrating exercise into your daily life is one of the best things you can do for yourself — not only mentally and physically, but from a business perspective, too. If you’re in a healthy space mentally and physically, you are set up to create better work for your clients.
Sign up for a workout class with a friend (bonus points if it’s a fellow Unemployable pal), go for a long walk through your neighborhood while listening to a podcast, or clip on your helmet and bike around town.
If you don’t have a ton of time, fitness apps like Aaptiv and Nike+ Training Club are great resources for squeezing in a quick yet impactful workout.
However you fit exercise into your life, the benefits will prove to be worth it every time.
5. Step Away from Your Desk
We’ve all been there before. As you try to organize your thoughts for a new post or get a jumpstart on an upcoming freelance content marketing project, you feel like you’re trudging through mud instead of making any real progress.
Stop. Breathe. Step away from the keyboard. What you do apart from your desk is up to you (perhaps, something mentioned above), but make sure you take time away from your office.
That trudging-through-the-mud feeling is a sure sign your brain needs a break, so permit yourself to do just that.
You’ll know when it’s time to get back to the keyboard.
6. Increase Creativity with “Morning Pages”
Julia Cameron, the author of the iconic book on boosting creativity, The Artist’s Way, has a simple daily practice – morning pages. Some of the most productive and creative people of all time, including Patricia Cornwell, Elizabeth Gilbert, Pete Townshend, Alicia Keys, Tim Ferriss, and Helmut Newton swear by it for increasing their creativity.
All you need to do is grab a comfortable writing pen and notebook (two must-have home office supplies you should already have on hand) and write a full three pages, in longhand, about whatever comes to mind. It’s called “morning pages” because the idea is to practice creativity first thing in the morning with an unbridled, stream-of-conscious flow.
As Cameron says in the book, “Three pages of whatever crosses your mind — that’s all there is to it. If you can’t think of anything to write, then write, ‘I can’t think of anything to write…’”
The point of the exercise is simple: get your thoughts and emotions out on paper before you start your day. It’s a great way to release fear, stress, and negativity. And if you wake up in a bad mood, you have a safe space to let your angst out.
And the best part? No editing allowed. If you’re wondering how to increase creativity, the action of muzzling your inner self-critic first thing in the morning is invaluable. That way, you’ll feel much freer letting your creative juices flow the rest of the day.
7. Go on an Artist Date
Another excellent idea from The Artist’s Way to spark creativity is an Artist Date, where you go on a solo mission to explore something intriguing and exciting to you.
As Julia Cameron says, “Artist Dates are assigned play.”
Once a week, you’ll pick an outing that feels festive and fun. It’s not about art per se, although going to a museum you’ve always meant to check out or a gallery opening qualifies. Cameron says, “Think mischief more than mastery.”
The goal is to get you feeling playful, daring, invigorated, and engaged. So bungee jumping, hang gliding, or hopping on a scooter and checking out a new neighborhood count.
In other words, it’s using fun to improve creativity.
And making space to enjoy yourself is a big part of going freelance, right? Feels good knowing that it helps build creativity skills, too.
8. Try Meditation for Enhancing Creativity
I know; it seems counterintuitive. After all, meditation is about clearing your mind, so how can it also usher in more creative thoughts?
One word: space.
Meditation is scientifically proven to help you access inner calm while opening your mind to new ideas and potential. It’s a surefire way to dissolve creative blocks — the things that stress you out and shut you down.
According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation helps you:
- Gain a new perspective on stressful situations
- Develop skills to manage your stress
- Boost self-awareness
- Focus on the present
- Lessen negative emotions
- Bolster patience and tolerance
- Increase creativity and imagination
But don’t take the Mayo Clinic’s word for it — take mine.
I’m a meditation teacher and a content creator. In the few years since I started meditating, I’ve grown my business four-fold. So, I recommend a daily practice of even a few minutes a day. Here’s how to choose the best meditation practice for you.
9. Shake Up Your Space to Improve Creativity
Tired of looking at the same stuff, day in and day out? It’s not just your imagination.
As Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research told Fast Company:
“New ideas arise from an interconnection of old ideas. So that means, at the very least, you have to be exposed to a novel stimulus.”
In other words, make some changes to where you work. This can be as simple as hanging new pictures, rearranging your workspace, or going to a coffee shop for a change of pace.
The trick is to take into consideration two main environmental factors: physical and social. A change to either or both can help enhance creativity.
Adding a little freshness into your day-to-day life, as noted by Epstein, is a simple, actionable answer to the question of how to increase creativity.
Be sure to check out our home office tips for some ideas about how you can make your workspace more conducive to innovation and productivity.
10. Use Music for Increasing Creativity
Music is the ultimate elixir for so many things. It soothes your soul, moves your body, and, of course, is a great solution to the question of how to stimulate creativity.
Scientifically speaking, music boosts neuroplasticity, supporting your brain in making new connections. Whether you’re listening to music or playing an instrument, your prefrontal cortex, which is the seat of creativity (along with other critical productive attributes like willpower, logic, decision-making, among others), is activated.
Additionally, research shows that listening to upbeat, happy music promotes divergent thinking, which is a key to creativity. In other words, it helps support the kind of thinking that empowers you to easily switch between concepts and perspectives so you can more easily innovate ideas and solutions.
From classical music (i.e., Einstein attributed his success to Mozart) to creativity-enhancing binaural beats (i.e., found in ambient music — Brian Eno is a personal favorite), and music you love in general, you can get a quick shot of creative juice when you need it most just by cranking the tunes.
When’s the last time you kicked back? If you’re thinking you can’t afford to, creativity experts say you can’t afford not to.
So, it’s worth listening to Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s classic advice for how to improve creativity.
If you want some proof, look no further than the amazing ideas you come up with in the shower, the jolt of inspiration that hits you during a long drive, or the colorful thoughts you have while taking a stroll.
From a neurological standpoint, when you engage in leisurely activities, your brain releases the bliss chemical dopamine. Not only do you feel good, the dopamine also triggers the parts of your brain connected to enhancing creativity.
Like meditation, relaxation makes space for more insightful and innovative thinking. Chillaxing, then, can be the key to how to get more done in a day.
12. Keep the Creativity Alive at All Costs
Falling into a creative rut here and there is normal. Knowing how to practice creativity is your key to hitting the restart button and moving forward with a restored sense of ingenuity.
Your job can involve lots of tedious, time-consuming tasks that drain your creativity. Set up the right freelancer tools that automate mundane tasks and save hours of manual labor each day, so you have more time for creative activities.
The bottom line: don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself struggling to figure out how to increase creativity. Make room for new experiments and activities — both your mental health and business depend on it.
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