Creativity is one of those things that’s really difficult to quantify. We all know it when we see it, but we’re never sure exactly how to describe it, and it’s different from one person to the next. Creativity is the thing that keeps you motivated, innovative. It keeps you moving forwards, constantly finding new and better ways of doing things.
If you’re an entrepreneur, creativity is vitally important to your business. Whether you have a creative business or a corporate business, it doesn’t matter.
The creative spark you have, the thing that made you want to start a business in the first place, is key to keeping everything going.
But creativity can be really difficult to find. Some days, it’s gone; your muse is rebelling. Others, it’s bubbling over; there’s so much you don’t have enough time to get all your ideas down.
As a writer, I rely on creativity an awful lot. Probably quite a lot more than the majority of other business owners, because my work is inherently creative.
Everything I write requires creativity.
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How Do You Stay Consistently Creative?
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “How do you keep those creative juices flowing?” Or. “How do you to write so much?”
I do write a ridiculous amount.
I spend all my time writing, and not just in work: in my spare time I write fiction.
So, creativity is something that I interact with on a daily basis.
I know for a lot of people, that daily flow of creativity can be really difficult to create. So I wanted to give you a few tips, from my own experience, on how to spark your creativity when it’s not flowing, and how to nurture it, to ensure flows in abundance, as much as possible.
Finding The Creative Balance
I aim always aim to find a good balance. The aim is to create daily inspiration, daily creative energy, and daily outlets for that creativity, but to maintain it at a manageable level.
I’m not sure whether this is a creative person’s ‘thing’ or whether it’s more to do with my bipolar, and the nature of my brain in general, but for years I really struggled with creativity.
It was either a flash flood of wild abundance, or it was just gone.
One extreme to the other.
That’s incredibly difficult to manage when you’re trying to turn turn your creativity into a viable business. You need regular income. To do set jobs on a regular basis. And you need to work on and in your business regularly and consistently.
Creativity comes in these big, huge bursts and flashes, that allow you to get loads done. But then it’s suddenly gone and you can’t do a thing for days, weeks, sometimes even months.
That’s just not conducive to running a business at all. Since I became and entrepreneur, I’ve worked hard to manage that swinging pendulum of creativity. I’ve created a few excellent habits that keep my creativity flowing consistently and steadily. Now, it’s usually there when I need it.
I say usually, because (as previously discussed) the Muses are fickle, feckless creatures.
There are still days when it’s just gone. They are normally days when I’m not feeling well. The rest of the time I manage to keep my creativity quite consistent and regular.
Daily Habits For Developing Creativity
These are some of the habits I’ve developed, which helped me create that consistency, and which spark my creativity when it’s missing, and I need to get to back!
Deep Thought Massage
One of the main habits that I’ve developed on a daily basis is what I like to call Deep Thought Massage. That may sound like a peculiar thing, but if you stop and, erm, think about it, how often do you actually think deep thoughts?
By which I mean, how do you take the time to pause and think about normal, mundane, everyday issues, situations, things you do, things you want? How often do you stop and really think about them in a way that goes far beyond a surface level?
And how often do you dig deeper and figure out exactly why? Why are you doing something, why do you want something? Or why are other people doing things? And how it is that certain situations arise?
This is a really useful technique to use if you are working on mindfulness, either trying to improve your mindfulness or just improve your self awareness.
Deep thought massage can be very useful for a lot of things, but I find it extremely useful for sparking my creativity. Simply taking the time to relax and think, helps me to tap into whatever part of my brain considers things in a peculiar way. The way that makes my ideas different way, that makes me creative, and causes my creativity to work in the way it does.
My creativity will not be the same as yours.
So it’s no good me telling you exactly what I think about.
But think about the time you spend in a day working, and doing various other things you have to do: running errands, doing the housework, etc. and how much time you spend relaxing.
Do you try really hard to avoid thinking when you are trying to relax?
The Avoidance Of Thought
Most people, when trying to relax, like to just switch off. You stick the tele on, read a mindless book, go out with your friends and have a few drinks. You have a nice conversation but you don’t really talk about anything important.
You try to keep things light and easy, nice and relaxing, because you’re trying to relax.
Thinking often isn’t conducive to relaxation. The more you think, the more stressed you get, the more anxious you become, the more worries creep up on you, the more upset you get about various things bothering you. And that makes existing take more effort, because you’re actually think about things properly.
That’s not really conducive to relaxing.
So most of us, when we’re trying to relax, don’t really think.
We actively avoid thinking.
If we catch ourselves thinking too much, we try and distract ourselves. We try to take ourselves out of the thought process and do something that makes us feel better. Because for a lot of people, thinking too much is not good.
Certainly, in the past, it’s been very bad for me (and anybody else suffering from depression or other mental health issues).
Spending too much time dwelling on your own thoughts can be really negative.
But you can turn it to a positive advantage if you start to purposefully direct your deep thinking process at things that are going to help you get creative.
Manage Your Creativity By Thinking Deep Thought
Deep thinking can do wonders for your creativity, not only in your work but in life generally. Say you’ve been wrestling with a problem:
- A work issue.
- A new situation, task or issue (personally or professionally), that you’re unsure how to handle.
- A daily task (personally or professionally) you feel isn’t quite working right.
- A problem (personally or professionally) someone else has told you isn’t working, or you’re doing wrong.
These area all scenarios that greatly benefit from a little deep thought massage. Sit down and really thinking them through. Doing this has real advantages, especially in business.
The process of giving yourself permission to really dig deep into things in empowering. Spend quite a bit of time thinking through all the variables involved, the possible solutions, the things you’ve tried in the past, things that you might try in the future, and the things that are most likely to work. That level of thought is something we don’t often give ourselves permission to do in business, because we always have so much to do.
You have a list of things a mile long. Half of them are problems that need solutions. Really, the only thing in your head, is to find a solution for each problem as quickly as possible.
Cross it off the list and move on to the next thing.
You have to, because there’s so much to do.
You will almost certainly find it very rare that you devote some truly deep thinking to your work. You give them enough thought to solve the problem, keep yourself moving, and keep your momentum going, but you never dig deeper than is necessary.
It’s time to start.
Give Yourself A Daily Deep Thought Massage
I found that picking one thing every day and actively thinking about it in a lot more depth than usual does wonders for my creative process. It’s also a great way of training your brain to think creatively on a regular basis.
Choose something to think about. It could be a problem or issue, but it could also be something positive – a goal, something you’re trying to achieve, or want to create. When I’m relaxing, or sitting watching tele, I’ll have a notebook handy, or my laptop out. I’ll decide what I’m going to focus on, and make notes as and when things occur to me.
I don’t sit there forcing myself to concentrate (I am trying to relax!), but I let it percolate in my mind. When a thought comes to me, I write it down.
This is a process I use for business work, fiction writing, and general ‘life stuff’. Everything from stuff I want to write about a particular topic (which usually ends up on the blog), to products and services I’m thinking of creating, to character profiles and blog outlines for my stories, and even outfits I want to get, or how I’d like to redecorate a room in the house.
This is all stuff you think about daily anyway, you’re just pushing yourself to go a little deeper than normal. Even if you’re already a generally deep thinker, dive deeper!
I find myself just scribbling ideas down on a particular topic for a couple of days, even a week. At some point, I realise I’ve actually got a quite a lot of thoughts on this. I’ll then sit down and go through them all systematically, making some kind of sense out of them. Then I do spend time focusing on it, working through it all and seeing what ideas I’ve produced. Seeing what comes up.
Do this on a daily basis. Always let your mind drift and think about things a little more deeply then you would normally. Get into the habit of constantly letting your head go where it will. And make a note of where it ends up, rather than letting it drift off into the ether. Do this regularly enough, and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to do. It develops into a natural habit your brain just does that of it’s own accord.
Having that autopilot deep thought process in place makes it an awful lot easier to maintain creativity on a daily basis, because your brain is naturally doing half the work for you.
You don’t have to force yourself to think about things creatively. It’s just how you think.
It’s like getting up and brushing your teeth, or having a shower, or any of the things that you do every single day without even thinking about it. No longer a chore, just second nature.
Develop A Voracious Reading Habit
One absolutely brilliant way to spark your creativity is cultivate a voracious reading habit. This is something I did years ago, and many people do for the love of reading, rather than a need to be creative. Certainly when I first got into the habit it was for love of literature. But more than anything else, when people ask me how I came to be a writer, how I came to write the way I do, and how I know about so many subjects. There’s no trick to it, I just read a phenomenal amount.
Now, I research many different subjects for my clients. Before becoming an entrepreneur I spent a decade at uni, researching in academia. As well as all of that, I’m just generally interested in a lot of things. I’ve read an awful lot.
People will often hear me say something and they get this look on their face and I know the question is coming: “How do you know that?”
The answer I always give is quite simple: “I read.”
It makes me laugh, because a lot of people get quite offended by this. It’s not my intention to offend them, but the comment can sound like a criticism – as if I’m suggesting they’re illiterate! But it’s really not that at all. I do just read a ridiculous amount on an incredibly broad range of subjects. So, I don’t just read things that interest me. I read things that are important, but not necessarily interesting. I’ll read things related to my client work, which is extremely varied. From business coaches, to recruitment executives, jewellery makers, accountants, holistic healers, nutritionists, wooden floor specialists, bulldozer hire, digital marketers, techy types, lingerie designers, sex shops, I work with some fascinating people, all doing very different things.
And I read about all those subjects, as well as business in general. There’s also a slew of books in my house relating to the fiction that I write, including books on writing, books in the same genre, and research books I use to build my worlds.
Read What You Love, Read What You Hate
I read a lot of fiction the genres I write in (Fantasy and its various off-shoots). But I also read an awful lot of fiction in all the other genres even the genres I don’t like.
This is difficult for a lot of people. They’re like “Why are you reading a book you hate?”
Here’s the thing…In order to be a good writer, you need to know how to write. You also need to know how not to write.
It’s important to understand what other writers do that make you dislike their writing. Exactly what it is about different genres that you don’t like? It’s need to understand different styles of writing, and see different ways of doing things.
As a fiction writer, as well as a copywriter, reading a very broad spectrum was instrumental in getting me where I am today.
It helps me to stay on top of things creatively, keep the juices flowing, and keep myself trying out new techniques, or looking at things slightly differently.
And that doesn’t just apply to writers!
Cultivating a voracious reading habit. And by voracious I mean read every day.
Read a lot every day.
You’ll get through a book or two a week, if not more. I sometimes get through three of four.
Read anything. Everything. Read about things that relate to your work, your business and niche, but also read about other things that relate to business. Other industries that aren’t yours, but could perhaps help you with yours.
Read things that annoy you.
And particularly, read things that make you really angry. Things that make you think “God, that’s a terrible way of doing this.”
Don’t just read people you like. Read people you actively dislike.
You don’t have to do it a lot but make sure you do it. Read subjects that you wouldn’t normally pick up. Every now and again I’ll go into a bookshop, head straight for the fantasy section, choose something and head to the checkout when I pass Chick Lit, or True Crime, or something I normally don’t read.
I’ll think, “I should try something.” And I’ll find something that I think actually sounds as interesting as possible.
You don’t have to look for the most boring book imaginable and force yourself to read it. Find things you might actually like, but in a genre or subject area you wouldn’t normally read.
Do it in an area of business that you wouldn’t normally think about.
Read authors you would normally avoid, because you don’t like them personally, or you’ve read something of theirs before and you didn’t enjoy it. Writers are constantly evolving, changing, and growing. If you read something and absolutely love it, track down every single thing the person has written and read all of it, you will find things you hate.
Why I Read Shit Books
The best example I can give of this that I am quite famous among my friends for detesting certain books.
There are books I really hate. The Twilight saga? Don’t get me started! Fifty Shades of Grey? Don’t even mention it.
A lot of my friends like these books. They are always, to a fault, shocked to discover I’ve actually read them.
“Why have you read them when you hate them?”
But really, how could I know I hate them, if I hadn’t read them?
How can I know that I don’t like a book, or judge it to be bad, before I’ve read it and formed an opinion?
It’s not uncommon for people to really dislike certain authors, entrepreneurs, celebrities, actors, singers…for whatever reason they’re just not your cup of tea.
If you’ve never heard somebody sing, you might not like them as a person, but you can’t comment on their singing. And if you’ve never read a writer’s books, you might think you don’t like them, but you don’t actually know.
You’ve formed an opinion based on them as a person, rather than as a professional. You may find them annoying, you may disagree with their position or options, and therefore don’t want to read their stuff, but unless you’ve actually read them, you really can’t say that you don’t like their writing.
You’ve never read their writing.
Read their writing. It might make you angry, but you will learn a hell of a lot in the process. Sometimes the best way to spark your own creative genius is to get seriously pissed off about someone else’s.
Make Like A Tree
One great piece of advice for nurturing your creativity is this: make like a tree.
It’s really easy to become stagnant in your thinking, your business, and your day to day life. When you do the same things day in, day out, or you’re so focused on building one particular aspect of your business that you neglect other areas, it’s so easy to get stuck. It’s important to keep pushing yourself (personally and professionally) to grow. To constantly push the boundaries, constantly push yourself outside your comfort zone, make yourself try new things and do new things.
Even if you do them and discover you hate doing them and never want to do them again.
Just the act of doing them will teach you an awful lot, giving you a new perspective on the things you already do, and things you might want to try in the future.
Growth is so important. It’s doesn’t have to be about always pushing for the next income bracket, always trying to make more money, or always trying to bring out new products and services. You don’t have to constantly change or increase what you have in order to consistently grow.
You can take what you already have and make it better.
Consider business growth from a personal development perspective. Personal development is all about taking what you already have and improving it. I like to think of my business in that sense. It’s good to get in the habit of thinking about what is working in your business (and life in general), and how you can make that even better.
Also, how you can replicate that success in other areas that aren’t working quite so well?
Release Your Inner Rebel
Another really useful thing to do to manage your creativity and boost your creative spirit is to rebel a little.
Go against the grain.
Shake things up a bit.
Take things you have and see how you can do them differently.
How you can look at them in a new way? How you can just revolutionise them?
That might mean looking at something that you’re already doing, that you know works, and works well, and seeing if there’s a different way you can do it. Not because it’s not working, just because a different way might work even better. People have a lot of resistance to this – the whole ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ thing.
But just because something isn’t broken, doesn’t mean it’s working as well as it possibly could.
Constantly challenging yourself to think of new ways of doing things, which could work better, is a great way to not nurture your creativity, and get yourself thinking about things more creatively. It’s a great way to constantly push yourself and your business forward, and do that wonderful growth we were talking about.
Indulge Your Inner Seeker
Following on from that, you need to indulge your inner seeker.
Both this point and the last tie into the archetypes I use in my signature service, The Divine Blogging Design. If you’re not sure about what the different archetypes are and mean, check out this post and pay particular attention to the Rebel and the Seeker.
The seeker is a really important element of yourself to nurture when it comes to creativity. Because the seeker is always (as evidenced by the name), seeking new things and experiences.
Just find new things to do.
They can be small things, like changing the way you walk to your friend’s house, or huge things like skydiving or something adventurous you’ve never tried before.
The more you try new things, the bigger your mind gets, and the more scope you have to think about things and form ideas. It nurtures your creativity, because trying new things gives you new perspectives. It gives you new ideas. It breeds creativity. The more you try (even if you just try it and discover you really don’t like it) the more you’ve added to your internal world, and your understanding of the external world.
Like reading outside your favourite genres or specialist subjects, trying new stuff does wonders for creativity.
Find Your Creative Medium
One thing that I love to do to spark my creativity is listen to music. I know a lot of people don’t like listening to music when they’re working, because the find it distracting. I’m often the opposite: I can’t actually get any work done at all if I don’t have music on.
This is what I call my creative medium. For me, it’s music. I listen to and play music every day. Not a particularly proficient musician, but I do play the piano. I love singing (again, not good at it!). But I love doing it.
Music, for me, is a way to tap into my creativity. Whether I’m listening to it, playing it, or singing, it helps me to open up creatively, let in the creativity and channel it into something productive, rather that a mess of incoherent noise.
Music might not be your thing, but most people have a creative medium of some description.
Most people have something they do that, for whatever reason, helps them get those juices flowing. It puts them in that creative mindset. It might be something you can do while you’re working, like listening to music, or something that you need to do before you work, or as a break during your work, like going for a walk or run.
That’s another thing I love to do. Getting outside and just wandering about in nature is very good for creativity.
Find whatever helps you feel more creative and get in that open and creative zone. Do that thing every day, without fail.
Stream Of Consciousness
If you’re really stuck and need to get creative fast, this is a great exercise for ‘on demand’ creative spark. It just gets you in the right head space. There’s a nifty little writing exercise called Stream of Consciousness that works wonders.
Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write whatever is in your head.
Don’t think about it.
You don’t have to think at all for this one, it’s the totally opposite of a Deep Thought Massage! You literally write down whatever pops into your head. Then keep writing.
Let whatever is in your head fall out onto the page.
The goal is not to create anything during the exercise. The goal is not for this exercise to produce something. You’re not trying to write a story or a journal entry, you’re not brainstorming stuff to write late, or jotting down notes on anything specific.
You’re really not trying to write anything at all.
Just get everything that’s in your head out.
So there is something about having a totally open channel between your internal thoughts, and what you’re putting out into the real world. Something about having that complete freedom to just let it all flow, that really opens you up and gets you in that creative space. I find this particularly useful to do first thing in the morning, before I start work.
I’ve just sat down at my desk and I’m still half asleep. I’m thinking “Ugh, I really don’t have it in me to write today”, or “I don’t know where to start with this!”, or “I don’t know what to do!”.
I pull out a piece of paper and write for five, ten minutes. Just whatever is in my head. It gets me in that creative space, which lets me get on with my work.
Start An Ideas Book
Another useful trick that you can use from the writing tool bag is an ideas book, which is exactly what it sounds like.
A notebook (I tend to make them very pretty notebooks, because that helps), that you have somewhere close at hand.
You might have it in your handbag, on your desk, in the kitchen, wherever. If you’re like me, you’ll and have one in every room in the house (including the bathroom!).
Whenever something occurs to you, write it down. You don’t have to go into massive detail, or do anything with it, but just make sure you always have a means of recording the things that occur to you.
Because you will always think, “Ahh, that’s a great idea! I have to remember that.”
Then instantly forget.
Just get in the habit of keeping an ideas book. You will soon find you have a new abundance of creative ideas and inspiration just sitting there.
If you get stuck, you can just flip through and read your various ideas. Reminding yourself of your own creative ideas can energise that part of your brain.
Have A Creative Hobby
Another thing that I find to be a great habit for creativity is having a creative hobby. It sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but loads of people don’t really have a creative outlet outside of work. They get really creative when they’re working, but lack creative stimulation when they’re not.
If you’re a creativity junkie this quickly leads to burnout, because you end up doing nothing but work in order to get your creative fix.
This is very bad. If you’re a creative individual (or trying to become one) you need a creative hobby.
I write even when I’m not working, I play the piano, I draw, paint. and occasionally knit. Over the years I have amassed a vast collection of hobbies from jewellery making, to soap making, to candle making, to … I can’t even list how many things I’ve tried over the years. I’m currently in the middle of making a dream catcher.
Just indulge yourself with something that is purely recreational and yet still creative. It’s the perfect way to manage your creativity.
If you are the creative sort, you do this already. But if you don’t, you should definitely start. Even if you do, try and broaden it a little bit. Try new creative hobbies (because we’re indulging our inner Seeker, remember?).
Indulge Your Imagination
Finally, perhaps the best think you can do to help your creativity is to seriously indulge your imagination.
I have a very active inner world. So much so that I occasionally get lost in it, and prefer to spend time living in my own head then I do in the real world. It’s perhaps not the healthiest thing in the world, but it does make me a lot more creative, especially in my writing.
It’s extremely helpful because I’m at the point where I can literally put myself in my story world, or any situation in the real world, and imagine it in intricate detail. If it’s a fictional scenario, I become the character. I see the whole world, learn its sounds, smells, tastes, and appearance. Feeling what your character would feel makes you a better writer.
Picturing your business and the various elements related to it in that level of detail is similarly helpful. It’s a lot easier to create the success you want, and drive your business in the direction you want to god, when you know exactly what you’re aiming for.
It’s a great way of achieving goals. If you can imagine yourself having already achieved your goal, in as much detail as possible, it’s a done deal. It’s a lot easier to figure out exactly how to get there when you’re crystal clear on what ‘there’ looks like, and the various paths that lead to it.
I’m not a massive law of attraction fan. I know the basics of it and I do follow Denise Duffield Thomas, who is a money mindset coach. But that’s really the extent of my knowledge of it.
What I do know is that if you really want something, and you imagine yourself having already achieved it, getting there is a hell of a lot easier.