Modern culture often labels creativity as natural gift. Artists get showered with praise and proclamations of “you’re so talented,” but truthfully, talent has little to do with it.
Creativity is a skill to be learned, practiced, and developed, just like any other. Juggling takes practice, as does surfing, coding, and driving a car. Creativity is no different. The more you make creativity part of your daily life, the more it will grow.
So how do you make creativity part of your daily life? Here are nine suggestions—and guess what? You can get started on them all in the next 10 minutes.
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 stay present and 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).
This is why Google goes to great lengths to provide employees with fun perks such as beach volleyball courts and free beer, a setup almost resembling an adult playground. The goal is to create an environment that lets employees feel relaxed and comfortable with vocalizing creative, even wacky, ideas. Businesses that value creativity need to do their best to foster a creative, safe space where unusual ideas are celebrated and where creativity is nurtured.
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 affect 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–draw the salt and pepper shaker on your table while waiting for your coffee, or the crumpled pile of newspaper on the subway.
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. Keep Toys on Your Desk
Many creative design companies encourage employees to keep toys on their desks–from Legos and Lincoln Logs to Play-Doh and origami paper. Building something physically with your hands, as opposed to typing on a keyboard, can be just the creative jolt you need.
7. Engage in Flash Fiction
Flash fiction is a form of writing consisting of extremely short pieces. There are many flash fiction writing groups online in which members write 100-word stories based on a provided prompt. That’s right, just 100 words. No one can say that’s out of their league.
Have your own try at flash fiction writing. Join a community online, or start your own at work. No pressure, no need to share; it’s just a chance to get those creative juices flowing!
8. 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.
9. Role-play Away
Role-playing isn’t just for the geeks at Comic-Con (no judgment; we love you guys). Role-playing can help you develop new solutions to existing problems by putting yourself in the shoes of a client or customer.
Even if you’ve already made efforts to enter the client’s mindset, physically role-playing situations with co-workers can generate powerful revelations and project solutions. As children, role-playing is how our imaginations thrived, from baking mud pies and playing house to fighting off baddies and exploring the jungles in our own backyards. It’s time to bring back the power of play.