We all have times where we need to be creative. Creativity helps us solve problems at work or home, come up with new uses for old products, and entertain ourselves. Many people don’t believe that they are creative, that it’s something you either have or you don’t. But that’s not true. Creativity is a skill that can be learned with practice.
When you spend time being creative without a goal in mind, eventually your mind learns how to generate great ideas when you really need them. The trick is that you have to practice being creative even when you don’t have a problem to solve. It’s like working out any other muscle in your body. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.
Many people equate creativity with expensive hobbies like photography, scrapbooking, or jewelry making. Those are creative, sure, but you don’t have to invest that much money to exercise your creativity. There are plenty of free and low cost ways to trigger your creative muscles. Here are some ideas.
Many museums are free or have a nominal charge. Art museums, history museums, science museums, or even local interest museums can relax you and get you thinking in different ways. Seeing how other people express themselves and tackle problems can give you inspiration.
Read fiction, non-fiction, art books, travel books, magazines, comic books, manga, graphic novels, or anything else that captures your fancy. The more widely your read, the more new ideas you’re exposed to. Almost anything can get you thinking creatively. Pick something that interests you and read it or look at the pictures. You can get free or cheap books and magazines from the library, used book stores, and thrift stores, or you can just look through them in the bookstore.
Drawing / Sketching
All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. Or, if you have a digital drawing tool, you can use that, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re any good or not or whether your landscape looks natural. This isn’t to sell; it’s only for you. Just moving your hand across the page or creating something colorful can trigger your creative muscles.
Freewriting / Journaling
You can make up stories, blog, write about your feelings, or the problem you’re trying to solve. Whether you keep an official journal or just scribble when the urge strikes, the act of putting words on the page can get you thinking in different ways.
Modeling Clay/ Play-Doh
You don’t have to be a kid to mold things out of clay. Part of what makes this activity fun and creative is that it uses your fingers in addition to your brain. It’s relaxing and fun and the tactile sensation of the clay in your fingers can be satisfying. So what if your horse looks more like a chair? Just mold something.
Coloring Books/ Finger Paints/ Watercolors
Coloring books, crayons, and paints for kids are cheap. If you have kids, chances are you already have some lying around. As with drawing, the point isn’t to be great, the point is just to play and experiment with color and patterns.
Play with Your Kids’ Toys
Legos, Lincoln Logs, blocks, and Erector Sets are all great at letting your mind run wild and building things just for fun. You can build fantastical houses or cars, or try for something truer to life. If you have kids, chances are you already have some of these around the house so dig them out and play.
A great movie can immerse you in a different world and give you great ideas for everything from stories to vacation planning. Watching bonus features can give you insight into how directors and actors made the movie come alive. You get to see the creative processes of others. You can rent DVD’s, watch ones you already own, or borrow them from the library or friends.
Listening to music or playing music is both relaxing and can be used to create a mood. If you’re trying to relax, pick something lighter. If you’re trying to solve a tough problem, maybe you opt for something more aggressive. Even if you’re just listening for fun, hearing how the artist put the lyrics and melody together can give you some inspiration.
Spend some time looking around Pinterest and you can’t help but be inspired by the creativity of others. Everything form cooking to crafts and more is represented.
Your brain benefits from the extra oxygen, endorphins, and other health benefits of exercise just as much as the rest of your body. Exercise can relax you and allow a tough solution to emerge from your subconscious.
Go Shopping (but not buying)
Looking around craft stores or book stores can expose you to new ideas or ways of doing things. To keep this on budget, you want to look but not buy. Flip through some magazines or books on a subject of interest. Look at the craft supplies and get some fresh ideas about how things could be put together or see all the different media that you never knew existed. You’re not there to buy anything, merely to see some new things and expose yourself to new ideas.
Do Something Different
Just doing something different can inspire creativity. Drive a different way to work. Visit a local attraction you’ve never seen before. Try to write with your opposite hand. Anything that takes you out of your daily rut can spark creativity.
Write down ideas as they come to you. Keep a small notebook handy, or use your smartphone to record ideas as soon as you get them. I even keep a notebook by the bed because I often get good ideas right before I drift off to sleep. You always say you’ll remember, but how often do you forget that great idea you had? Write it down, then follow up on it later.
Tune into Your Senses
Really pay attention to what you see, smell, hear and taste. Most of the time we’re too busy to notice, but experiencing things through our senses is a great way to get creative. Getting out in nature is a great way to do this, and get some exercise. Take a walk, garden, or bird watch. When you’re outside, your senses have a lot more to take in than when you’re sitting inside.
Make a Collage
Take some old magazines and cut out pictures related to the problem you’re trying to solve or something fun you want to represent. The act of putting the collage together can reveal new thought patterns or things you hadn’t thought of.
Learn Something New
Your brain loves to learn and everything you learn becomes fodder for future creative efforts. Even if you don’t think what you’re learning is related to creativity, you never know when that class you took will come in handy for solving a problem at work or home.
Sometimes our creativity is drowned out by all the electronic noise we surround ourselves with. Turn off the TV, computer, iPad, and game station and enjoy the silence. Go outside and enjoy nature, or really concentrate on your projects. You might be surprised at what emerges from your brain if you give it a chance to think.
Meditation doesn’t have to be a formal affair or last for hours to be effective. Simply quieting your mind and focusing on your breathing can relax you and allow your creative juices to flow. You can also meditate while walking if you don’t want to sit still.
Play a Game
Work a jigsaw puzzle, play a board game, go outside and play tag with your kids, or get out the Twister mat. Playing, either alone or with others, is a big key to creativity because it is relaxing, sometimes involves physical activity or learning something new, and uses parts of your brain that don’t get used during your daily grind.
Creativity is in all of us. We just have to practice it and learn which triggers work for us. The more often you work on your creativity, the more available it will be to you when you really need it.
(Photo courtesy of mrsdkrebs)