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While it’s true that some people are born with a creative mind, it doesn’t mean that the skills of creative thinking can’t be developed, because they can.
In fact, there’s actually a 4-step process in order to develop creative thinking.
Sure, you may doubt this, especially if you’re someone that doesn’t think they’re creative and doesn’t have a creative bone in their body. You’ll never develop or learn the skills of creative thinking, you say.
But you’re mistaken because this simply isn’t true.
Hell, if you weren’t capable of some type of creative thinking then you’d be a robot!
This is the first of the skills of creative thinking you need to develop because if you believe you’re not creative it can set up a mental roadblock to being so.
Of course, telling you to believe that you’re creative is not really sound advice because we can’t choose to believe anything—we either believe something or we don’t.
Rather, just accept that you can develop the skill.
If you don’t accept this then then the mental roadblock will be in place and you won’t ever be able to get over the first hump.
After we accept that we can be creative, the next step is actually developing it.
For the most part, creative thinking starts when you identify an issue and prepare to tackle it.
So here is the second in the list of skills of creative thinking that you need to start fostering:
Start thinking about what you want to be creative about.
Don’t just have the broad goal of “just thinking creatively”. Have a specific goal.
Examples abound, such as discovering better solutions to common problems at the office, broadening your horizons with an artistic goal in your free time (music? Poetry? Painting?).
This, as the cliché goes, gets the creative juices flowing.
After you’ve got your specific goal that you wish to be creative towards, and no matter what type of goal it is, try applying some of the following tips to boost your creativity towards it:
When looking for ideas for a project—or solutions to a challenge—write down everything that comes to mind. Don’t hold back.
Don’t worry about logistics.
Don’t worry about staying organised.
Just let all out and your mind be free.
It also doesn’t matter how you brainstorm, from thought bubbles to free writing, just brainstorm.
The most problematic part of this is having the first thought, but the more you do it the more thoughts appear in your mind on the topic in question.
Thinking patterns change with different places, and your normal hangouts stimulate your normal thoughts and thinking. Your creativity certainly won’t be at the highest level in the places you spend the most time.
So if you find that your mind is stuck try changing your environment.
Go out for some fresh air or hang out in a coffee shop.
Many authors write in hotel rooms.
Many painters have studios separate from their homes.
A change of surroundings may be just what you need in order for you mind to spark an idea.
Along the same lines is to change your routine.
Take a new path to work.
Call an Uber.
Eat new foods.
Change your evening routine.
Shift your schedule around.
Shake things up and you’ll think new thoughts. You’ll also be surprised by how uncomfortable it is to change all these little things around.
It’s next to impossible to be creative when you’re constantly interrupted, so find a quiet, inspiring place to do your creative work.
Turn off your electronic devices because notifications just distract you, and sometimes at the worst time when things are just started to flow.
You can also try just being bored, and although this might sound like a strange one, boring activities encourage daydreaming, and there’s much creativity in dreams.
When you want to be creative towards something, start carrying some kind of note taking device with you. It doesn’t matter if it’s paper and pen or a smart device.
Creative thoughts (and thoughts in general) come out of the blue and can be gone just as suddenly, so if you don’t make a note of them immediately then they can vanish for good, no matter how hard you try and get them back at a later date.
Personally, my opportune time is when I’ve gone to bed and on my way to sleep.
The more you know about something the more thoughts you can have on it, so become an expert in your field to gain access to the most creativity in it. Study the masters.
Further, when you involve yourself in something you’ll discover that your brain goes to places it wouldn’t normally have gone.
Researching and knowing more about something will nearly always provide you with new angles of thought on it.
Everyone has different opinions on things, even if only slightly, so when you spend some time thinking about it from others’ perspective you can think different ideas.
Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. See if you can figure out how they view something. Think about how they feel.
How would a man see this? A woman?
How would a child see this? A middle aged? An older person?
How would someone who’s ignorant of it see it?
Someone who’s not from your country? Or speak the same language?
Most ideas are relatively worthless. But that’s okay. It just means you have to generate a lot of ideas to find a good one.
Some comics have stated they have to write a hundred jokes to get one keeper.
Songwriters make similar claims.
Whether you’re looking for a solution to a problem, creating a new gadget, or writing a symphony, be willing to wade through a lot of bad ideas until you find a good one.
There’s a case to be made for calling it a day before you run out of ideas. It leaves something for your mind to ponder the following day.
For example, author’s sometimes claim (and I’m one of them) that they like to quit for the day after they’ve gotten some work done, but still know what they’re going to write next.
This gives a springboard kind of feel and you’re not trying to find the initial thread to get you going—you’ve already begun the thread and know exactly where you’re going.
Know how you’re going to proceed and then sleep on it.
Avoid exhausting your ideas before you’ve had time to come up with more.
It might seem logical that you’d be most creative when your brain is most active, but the opposite is actually true.
For example, if you’re a morning person your best ideas will often come at night. That also means you should make good use of the time immediately before falling asleep and after waking.
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The third skill of creative thinking is a powerful technique called incubating creativity. So powerful in fact that’s it’s quite remarkable that it’s just passive.
Incubating creativity is a planned period of rest where you allow a creative spark to come.
It works like this:
At some point, you’ll get stuck in your creativity and hit an impasse.
At this point you should decide to take a break.
Then, you get a spark of creativity while doing something unrelated, like taking a shower, exercising, or taking a nap.
This is considered a planned and productive rest period, aka, incubation, where you allow the so called “Eureka moment” to come.
This is the time to do your research and engage in critical thought. Figure out the challenge you want to solve and state it precisely.
Research was No.6 in the creative thinking tips above, but now we’re talking about incubating creativity, which is a time period after you’ve been creative for a period of time already.
Although I have no evidence for it, I’m of the opinion that research is the reason why napping is so good for the Eureka moments of incubating creativity, since during REM sleep we get an increase to the efficacy of relational memory.
That is, the connectivity of distant and seemingly disparate knowledge gets integrated into a coherent whole leading to unforeseen associations, and thus, enhanced creativity.
Incubation is more effective when you remind yourself that you’ll be returning to your dilemma later.
Don’t just put it to the side and forget about it. Put it the side but acknowledge to yourself that you’re coming back later.
In time, you may get so used to incubating creativity helping you with answers that you’ll actually start looking forward to coming back feeling refreshed with new answers and ideas.
Think about coming to a gradual stop rather than slamming on the brakes.
Allow your body and mind to quiet down.
Take a few deep breaths.
Relax your neck and shoulders.
Observe your thoughts without pursuing them.
Your break should be pretty quiet and relaxing rather than overly mentally stimulating.
If you spend your break studying calculus or the Peloponnesian War it’ll be difficult to get anything else done.
Devote your downtime to the routine tasks that we all have to do that require little thought.
There are times to focus and rein in the monkey mind, then there’s times when it’s beneficial to let the mind wander. This is one of those times.
Relax and let your thoughts flow. Free yourself from any expectations and see what happens.
Clowning around can stimulate your imagination because you’re not enforcing anything on it or applying outside pressure.
Lighten up and have a good laugh. Don’t be an adult bore—there’s too many of them already.
You may find that the results you want are already close at hand. Short breaks often work better than taking a whole day off.
Take it easy for half an hour or so.
As mentioned already, REM sleep can unleash creativity in amazing ways.
When you dream you form associations and consolidate memories. You’re able to see things differently and spot new opportunities.
So don’t neglect your sleep—amazing for our health as well as an assistance in our creativity.
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With these guiding principles in mind we’re going to use them to develop actions.
Get new and unforeseen connections established while you sleep. It’s almost as if you’re getting work done while taking a break.
You’re also likely to perform better after you lie down for 15 or 20 minutes as well.
The idea of creativity coming to you while taking a nap was mentioned above, and I have random flashes of inspiration when just nodding off.
To take advantage of this, have something that you can take notes in by your bed so it’s easy to jot your thoughts down when they come to you.
Such as with kids. Kids are at the pinnacle of creativity, and spending time with them can help yours too.
Cut back on weekend appointments so you can spend time goofing around with your kids. Toss a Frisbee or throw a tea party.
Forgetting to play is easy to do, and sometimes we think we’re just too busy, but getting a pet, such as a dog, will help you get back on track. Most of them want you to play with them and their toys.
Especially outdoors. Getting out and connecting with nature can also help wonders. Whether it’s the fresh air, the greenery, the smells, or something else, who knows. But it helps.
Break out your ice skates or bathing suit depending on the season. Or simply go for a walk.
Lots of great artists and scientists have engaged in pastimes that created an atmosphere conducive to their accomplishments. Emily Dickinson, for example, baked cakes. You may get inspired doing needlework or repairing clocks.
Find chores at work and home that keep your hands busy and your mind free.
Just doing the laundry or vacuuming the living room carpet may reveal your inner talents.
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Creativity can seem elusive. After all, it’s easy to understand what it takes to become more skilled at hitting a golf ball. It’s not quite as clear how someone should go about developing their creative thinking and increasing their skill at creating things.
Indeed, after the previous skills of creative thinking are known (and their pretty simple and easy), the last of the skills of creative thinking we need to learn is in identifying any of the barriers to creative thinking that we’ve set up.
Barriers to creativity are just obstacles that we’ve put in our way, and they prevent and hinder our creativity.
Identifying the obstacles to our creativity allows us to find ways to work around them, which will allow our creativity to come out and not be stifled.
Have you ever noticed that your best ideas come when you’re alone? You’re either being quiet or doing something very routine, like driving on a low-traffic road or taking a walk.
It’s hard to get the creative juices flowing when you have too much going on.
Decluttering and organizing can also assist with quieting and mellowing the mind.
Try doing a different creative activity for a while. If you’re trying to write a book, try creating and humming a new song for a few minutes.
Legos, Lincoln Logs, tinker toys, modelling clay, crayons and brain teasers are other options.
You might have plenty of time to yourself but yet are still be too distracted to be creative.
When your adrenaline is flowing, and you’re dealing with the stresses of life, creativity can be hard if not impossible to find.
Keep an open mind and consider many possibilities. Avoid assuming you know where the general location of the answer to your challenge is.
The best solution might be something you’ve never considered—so allow yourself to consider anything.
You’ve used your creativity countless times in the past. From dealing with an unpleasant boss to keeping a moody child occupied.
The fact of the matter is that you are creative, you just don’t use it and practice. And the negative thoughts around the issue is stifling you.
Creative endeavours can be intimidating. Procrastination is certainly one of the primary enemies to creativity and removing it is one of its biggest allies.
Set aside time on a regular basis to be creative, even if you’re convinced you’re wasting you because you never know when your creative genius will strike.
As an aside, you’re not wasting your time if being more creative is something you want to nurture and be.
Start purposefully trying to be creative.
The possibility of failure can stop anyone in their tracks, but think of all the times you failed in the past and came through unscathed… fear of failure is really nothing to worry about.
Creativity feels risky, but it’s all in your head.
As we’ve mentioned already, it’s not easy to come up with ideas in the same old space.
Get outdoors or at least move yourself into a space you don’t normally use, like a spare bedroom or a conference room.
Fresh minds bring fresh ideas. Ask others for their input.
You’re likely to find that the ideas of others trigger your own new ideas. So get some help!
Who is the most creative person you know? They should be your first call.
You may have been a very creative child, but if you’re not flexing your creative muscles on a regular basis you might be out of practice.
Spend a few minutes being creative each day and you’ll enhance your creative skills.
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In order, here are the skills of creative thinking:
1. Accept that you can be creative.
2. Identify an issue and start thinking about it. Use one of the creativity boosting tips to assist:
Consider other perspectives
Leave a thread
Do it when least alert
3. When you hit a block, Incubate Creativity
Remember to remove the obstacles as if you’re struggling to be creative then it’s likely that some obstacle to creativity is standing in your way. Identify it, or them, then remove or minimise the obstacle.
In large part, one of the biggest and most notable skills of creative thinking that you can ever adopt is to get involved. Start. Put in work and effort. You will never be creative towards something if you don’t involve yourself in it.
And the more you involve yourself the more creative you’ll find that you’ll be towards it.
Don’t involve yourself in something and you’ll never be creative towards it.
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Using your creativity will inspire you to do more with your life—a lack of ideas won’t hold you back and you’ll want to see those ideas a reality.
And so, the moral of this story is that you must act on what you discover. Actually doing is the most important thing, so remember to do.
Not only are creative solutions worthless unless they’re acted upon, but actually acting on them solidifies and nurtures the creativity itself, which makes being creative in the future come more easily.
Further, putting your creative ideas into practice is rewarding—it feels really good seeing your ideas take shape and become a real thing.
It can also do wonders, such as help you find better solutions to challenges in life.
As you go forward, instead of mindlessly staring out the window and daydreaming, direct your imagination to address specific issues.
And even though they say creativity can fade with age, that’s only because we fail to use it regularly.
So put on your thinking cap and start creating!
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