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The Secret to Finding Creative Inspiration

I recently came across a quote from spoken word poet Phil Kaye’s Repetition. In it, he says:

My mother taught me this trick, If you repeat something over and over again, it loses its meaning…Our existence, she said, is the same way. You watch the sunset too often, and it just becomes 6pm. You make the same mistake over and over; you’ll stop calling it a mistake. If you just wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up one day you’ll forget why.

Repetition voids meaning. But what does this have to do with being creative? The thought here is to remove being repetitive. Finding inspiration means to be creative, and doing that in this age of information is hard.

1. Doodle Something

Although we may have been reprimanded in school to “stop doodling and pay attention,” it’s time to bring back the doodle. Doodling, contrary to popular opinion, does not demonstrate a lack of focus. In fact, doodling can help you engaged during an activity in which you might otherwise find your mind drifting.

Suni Brown, author of The Doodle Revolution, notes that some of the greatest thinkers-from Henry Ford to Steve Jobs-used doodling to jump-start creativity. Doodling can enhance recall and activate unique neurological pathways, leading to new insights and cognitive breakthroughs. Some companies even encourage doodling during meetings!

2. Sign Up for a Class in Something You’ve Never Done Before

Creativity flourishes when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and learn something new. Many communities offer evening adult education classes. These classes are often very casual, with plenty of beginner offerings. Try painting, pottery, or woodworking. How about learning a new language, picking up a new instrument, or taking a cooking class?

3. Create the Right Environment

The truth is that every single individual (yes, even you) can be creative. You simply require the right environment, stimulus, and support. Kids are awash with creative energy in part because they have not yet learned to fear the criticism of their peers or experienced embarrassment from failure. This is now why failure is lauded in adults-it reflects creative, risk-taking endeavors. Though not all creative ventures will work out, ultimately some will (and be very, very successful).

4. Pause the Brainstorming and Move Your Body

Though old-school business practice dictates group brainstorming as a powerful way to generate creativity, modern research has found that the group collective isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be.

Instead, try new approaches to creative problem-solving. Go for a walk. Physically move your body and consider your project problem from different locations. Physical movement has been shown to have a positive effect on creative thinking, just as theater pros suggest practicing lines in different poses and positions to generate new character approaches.

5. Start a Sketchbook

Sketching is a great way to preserve memories and make constructive use of time that might otherwise be spent fiddling on a phone. Buy a small, lightweight sketchbook that can easily fit in your bag. Start sketching whenever you have even a few spare minutes-draws the salt and pepper shaker on your table while waiting Though you may be disappointed in your sketches at first, the more you draw, the better you’ll get. Don’t overanalyze your results-simply draw for the enjoyment of the process, not the end piece. Creativity seeps across activities, so sketching just a few minutes a day can result in a major boost of workplace creativity. 

6. Try the 30 Circles Test

This great creative exercise comes from researcher Bob McKim and is featured in Tim Brown’s TED talk Creativity and Play.

Take a piece of paper and draw 30 circles on the paper. Now, in one minute, adapt as many circles as you can into objects. For example, one circle could become a sun. Another could become a globe. How many can you do in a minute? (Take quantity over quality into consideration.)

The result: Most people have a hard time getting to 30, largely because we have a tendency as adults to self-edit. Kids are great at simply exploring possibilities without being self-critical, whereas adults have a harder time. Sometimes, even the desire to be original can be a form of self-editing. Don’t forget-good artists copy, great artists steal.

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