8 Ways to Spark Your Creativity

by Henrik Edberg

Note: I’m pretty sick and have been so for the last few days so I’ve decided to share an older article that you may have missed.

Creativity is a strange, elusive creature. Sometimes is flowing like a river. Sometimes it’s all dried up and nowhere to be found.

Here are some thoughts and ideas that I like and have found useful to spark or improve my own creativity.

Most of them are pretty obvious, like so much advice, but I have found that if I actually use them they can be quite helpful.

Also, I find it useful to – as much as possible – have a notepad and a pen around to quickly jot down the new ideas before they disappear.

1. Generate a boatload of ideas – If you haven´t had any it may because you haven´t had enough ideas yet. Have a look at One Simple Way to Get a Good Idea for some thoughts on that.

2. Take a trip outside your personal bubble – If you just have the same input every day it may be hard to come up with many new ideas.

Take some input from outside own your little bubble. Meet new people, read book about something you don´t anything about, take up a new hobby, listen to music you normally never listen to. Do something different and get some new input into your mind. This can set off a creative spark and generate fresh ideas you hadn’t thought about before.

3. Get rid of all the distractions – Shut of your phone. Close the door. Close your IM-programs. As best you can create a space where you can be creative and focus without having disturbances or having to worry about them.

Consider decluttering this space so your mind don´t have to focus on unnecessary things. And decorating the space in a way that makes you feel relaxed, centred or however you want to feel to improve your creativity. You may also want to experiment with music and silence. I have found that music sometimes boosts my creativity – wordless music seems to work best – but that more often silence is the way to go for me.

4. Criticize later – Or some part of your mind may feel threatened and shut up and withdraw. Just let ideas flow out, don´t try to censor yourself or worry about how silly the ideas may be. It’s important to keep an atmosphere of openness when trying to generate ideas and being creative, either if you do it alone or in a group at work/in school. You can sort the ideas later and determine which ones may be of best use.

5. See yourself as a creative person – Everyone is creative. Not everyone think they are. If you do not see yourself as a creative person this can seriously limit your creativity, stop the flow of ideas and make you not believe in the ideas that do surface. Even though the ideas might be good or just what you need.

Allow yourself to be a creative person. And think back to instances when you were creative and let those memories be proof that you really are a creative person. Don´t focus on the memories of when you had troubles being creative.

6. Build it – Like so many things in life creativity is bit like lifting weights (or doing your sport/exercise/game of choice). You can´t go into the gym and lift the heavy weights when you´re there for the first time. You have to start with smaller ones. Then consistently and progressively work your way up. Over time you´ll, if you train and work at it, build your creative muscles.

7. Sleep less – Here´s something that works pretty good for me once in a while. When I feel a little groggy and sleepy because I´ve slept too few hours it´s like words start flowing out of my fingers when I sit down to write.

I think it´s because when you’re a bit groggily tired you don´t think too much. Your mind doesn’t have the energy to criticise and halt your creative outflow. It´s like more doors than usual are open in the corridors of your brain and thoughts can run around more freely.

However, what is poured out when you´re in this state isn´t always pure gold. So you may want to go back and edit on a day when you are more well-rested to cut down and rewrite the sometimes non-sensical ramblings of your sleep-deprived mind.

8. Relax and play – This is very useful and a great use of your time. Go out and do something with your friends or family and just relax and have a lot of fun. Doing this for a day or an evening can recharge not only your creativity but also your motivation and general sense of well-being for days or weeks to come. Working non-stop and never playing will not.




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{ 14 comments }

Loving Annie March 20, 2007 at 6:02 pm

Good Tuesday morning Henrik ! Good suggestions for getting your creative juices flowing ! Normally I need my sleep, but if I have a really good idea, then I’ll have to get up and write it down !

SavvySatyr March 20, 2007 at 7:46 pm

These are great ideas. I personally am a fan of “Take a Trip Outside Your Own Bubble” as that is a surefire way for me to get new ideas and get energized. It can really be as simple as taking a different way home from work in order to see buildings and streets I’m not used to seeing. More often I have to do something more drastic – day trips to nearby cities help. Forcing myself to have conversations with people I don’t normally talk to also help a lot.

Henrik Edberg March 20, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Loving Annie: Thank you and I hope you´ve had a good day.

SavvySatyr: Thank you for sharing and yep, taking in some new scenery and talking to new people can really get perspectives to shift and the ideas to start flowing.

Dave March 22, 2007 at 7:52 am

Great ideas. I have trouble with my creativity and my problem is distractions. I try to avoid them, but somehow they have some way to reach me. It’s like I have a backdoor in my mind open for distractions. When I think of ideas, some of them just lead to nowhere and causes me to think of that for a moment. I probably need to do meditation.

Henrik Edberg March 22, 2007 at 1:11 pm

Dave: I have found that guided meditation works for me to clear the mind of distractions. And I guess that the same effect is common with a more “normal” meditation. You can read about one free guided mediation here.

Ellen March 23, 2007 at 3:52 am

I think “sleep less” will not work for me. It’s because everytime I go to bed, it usually takes me sometime before I actually sleep. Even though I am sleepy, I tend to think of things which keeps me awake.

Dave March 24, 2007 at 3:14 am

Thanks Henrik. Using head phones is a good idea. I’ll just need to find some confortable ones because mine is a bit itchy and I seldom use it.

Pass the Torch March 27, 2007 at 3:21 pm

I find that going for a bike ride or walk does wonders!

mr. besilly April 5, 2007 at 6:07 pm

I find sleeping less while sailing on a boatload of ideas works really well for me. Great stuff!

Michael April 15, 2007 at 2:23 pm

As I’m in a creative field, I often look to magazines for inspiration – this isn’t anything revolutionary… except that I often tend to prefer magazines that aren’t in any way obviously related to my work. I’m a Flash developer and yet I often look at magazines about interior design, science, movies, sport etc… just looking for that one elusive spark.

I find that inspiration is generally a collaboration between old ideas and new influences… I already know the old ideas… it’s the novel influences that are valuable.

Claus September 30, 2007 at 8:45 pm

Yep, I can vouch for all 8 of those from personal experience. It’s interesting to me that you don’t add “Seek inspiration in the ideas of others” or some other formulation of getting cultural input from the museum, books, movies or whatever works for you.

Scott Dannemiller November 9, 2007 at 4:58 pm

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing your insights.

I would also add a couple of things. First, get together with a group of people whose minds do not think like yours. Combining different perspectives is a sure-fire way to generate innovative ideas. This is especially true if the group follows your advice to “criticize later.”

Second, combine unrelated elements. For instance, if you are trying to think of new ways to organize your workspace, ask youself, “How would a doctor organize my workspace? How would a bee colony organize my workspace? What about a supermarket manager?” I know, it sounds a bit wacky, and you might end up with a lot of wild ideas, but these often lead to breakthrough thinking.

Again, I enjoyed the post. I hope you get to feeling better!

Michael Woo November 10, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Great tips.. very inspiring :) appreciate you sharing these info..

Henrik Edberg November 12, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Thanks for adding your new tips and comments, guys. I appreciate it and I’m sure the other readers do too.

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