HOW TO BE CREATIVE: 25 Easy Ways To Unlock Your Greatest Ideas
Whether you’re a high school student, college student, or even an accomplished TV and film producer, we all experience moments of struggle with how to be creative. Here are 25 ways to obliterate the creative block and draft your next screenplay, write a pitch, or produce the next reality TV show ratings phenomena.
If you’ve ever wondered why the light bulb has become synonymous with a brilliant idea, it’s because your brain produces enough energy to illuminate an actual bulb. That’s a lot of brainpower, but sometimes you need a brain-break so you don’t burn out. Stop thinking (or better yet “over-thinking”) and instead, start jotting down all those random thoughts and seemingly crazy ideas. Unleashing your inner thought process with the stream of consciousness technique is designed to make you lose your creative inhibitions. The less structured and the more sporadic in style, the better. You may even belt out “eureka” when you see it all start to make sense.
- Use Paper: No matter where you turn, everyone’s face is nose down, pecking on a keyboard. The proof is in your own handwriting, which is probably getting harder to read as you rely more and more on tap-tap-tapping away. In creative writing, many grit their teeth at the ever-dreaded curse of the cursor: the need for every word to be perfect. This is essentially self-editing in your head because you fear lacking originality, cleverness, humor or just the general feeling that you’re not talented enough. When words are put on paper, they won’t just magically disappear. You may cross them out or even crumble up an entire missive, but what looks like garbage now could be the golden nugget that triggers an avalanche of new ideas.
- Record Yourself: We don’t filter our thoughts in the same way when we write. Do you remember the last time you had difficulty engaging in a casual conversation or discussing a passion project? Chances are, more often than not, the words flowed effortlessly. So instead of procrastinating the creative commitment of setting the first word to page, pull out a pocket recorder or smart phone and record those racing, fleeting, jumbled thoughts. If you stop and listen to yourself, it may be enough to talk you out of procrastination when you start typing your own words, verbatim.
- Listen To Music:
Cue up your favorite playlist with absolute no objective in mind, but to enjoy someone else’s creative triumphs. A certain lyric, rhythm, vocal harmony, or chorus may be the anthem that serves as your creative template.
- Sweat It Out: Maybe it’s the endorphins pumping up the right side of your brain or the kinetics revving up your body for a serious challenge, but studies have shown increased cognitive performance simply by exercising. Plus, it’s a great way to vent any frustrations instead of internalizing them.
- Create Deadlines: Even if it’s just writing one paragraph, give yourself a deadline for executing a small task, and sometimes that means leaving your comfort zone. Get out of the house! Your house—starting with your own personal safety zone, your room—is riddled with dangerous creative distractions. Denying yourself from favorite pastimes is a great reward for achieving hard, self-imposed deadlines.
- Sit In Silence: In other words unplug. Leave everything behind: your computer, phone, tablet, and yappy dog. This is your happy hour not yappy hour. A mind free of outside stimulation is one primed for the ideas to start trickling in. Meditating first thing in the morning, or giving yourself a “morning breather” for 5-15 minutes has proven effective in staying “centered” for a good chunk of your day.
- List Your Likes: We all have a favorite TV show, film, book, musician, etc. So make a list of these “likes” and see if any similar themes pop up such as, character traits, plot devices, visual imagery, tone of author’s voice, or other nuances you naturally gravitate toward. Now that you know what you like and better yet, perhaps why you like them, keep this list handy as a “how to be creative cheat sheet” next time you can’t find anything to like about your own ideas.
- Follow Trends: If it’s trending, millions of eyes are watching and all you need is your own signature spin on a familiar formula to create something “new”. So compile what’s trending in TV, film, digital, etc., and see if any of your ideas could be tailored to these breakout concepts.
- Keep an Open Ear:
If you’re “not-doing”, you’re waiting for blind luck to change your life. And often, lady luck will rob you blind and stunt your creative progress. Here’s a tip that doesn’t require you to lift a finger: become an active listener even in the most random of places. There’s no better skill than concentrating on others’ dialogue and understanding what makes it sound entertaining, engaging and ‘real’. We’re not saying eavesdrop (okay, maybe just a tad), but whether it’s casual conversation or a single word somebody utters, that’s all it could take to inspire your next train-of-thought.
- Surround Yourself with Creative People: It’s been said that our personality is a composite of our five closest friends. If you don’t feel the creative fires burning within, then siphon how to be creative from the energy of a roomful of creative kindred spirits.
- Go with Your Gut: Intuition is a powerful tool and we all underestimate its detrimental value. Your creative intuition functions just like a compass and sometimes it’s telling you what way is the right way, even if your mind tells you to play it safe or stick with familiar territory. Intuitive judgment in the fast-paced world of entertainment is a must-have skill that separates rooky from expert.
13: Pin it, Draw it, or Hang it Up: Buy a good-sized cork or white board and pin inspirational articles, photos, quotes, or whatever piques your interests. They captured your imagination for a reason, so use them as a mirror to start seeing your own creative self.
14: Don’t Look Back:
Baring your creative soul is a painstaking process. Maybe you’ve messed up once or monumentally misstepped but with the best of honorable intentions. Well, it’s time to get over it and forgive you. We all make mistakes, and mistakes are an integral part of any process. They help refine an idea and require you to think through every step, page, and frame with laser-like-precision, producing a better end-result. Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times before he produced the first successful light bulb. James Dyson designed over 5,000 prototypes before he mastered the world’s first bag-free vacuum cleaner. And before Steven Spielberg was a household name, the iconic director’s first big-box-office-draw Jaws could’ve proved deadly to his then fledgling career. Spielberg didn’t let technology, massive overages in shoot days and budget or the real shark-infested waters of brassy studio heads sway him from finishing his jaw-dropper of a film. The director states that even though he may have lost his confidence in how to be creative, he never lost his drive or focus.
- Sleep On It: But here’s the trick, don’t dream for inspiration, rather block out everything and enjoy a good night’s rest. There’s no point in fighting sleep in the hopes that you’ll have a creative breakthrough, because chances are you’re more apt to have a nervous breakdown. Staying awake when the neurons are failing to fire up only means more time wasted. So get some rest, and wake up creatively recharged.
- Listen To Podcasts: There are endless amounts of podcasts available online, and if you haven’t checked out at least one by now, you’re sorely missing out on free information, unrestricted thinking and unbridled creativity.
- Encourage A Humorous Habitat: Whether at work or crashed out at home, most of us hold back on our creative thoughts when we’re around others for fear of being judged, but a playful culture let’s you bounce such ideas off one another without a single care in the world. The more unpolished, unfiltered and raw (cous) ideas, the better.
- Contact Old Friends:
Sometimes it’s easier to work with what you have and this includes utilizing your connections. How many times can you recall making a “good contact” but failing to follow up or do the occasional “check in” or just inbox them and say “hi”? Chances are, you have friends who know someone, who know someone, who know Kevin Bacon. So scroll through your phone and social media contact lists and make time to meet up in person.
- Stop Working With What Isn’t Working: If it’s a program or skill you’re failing to master or lack a genuine interest in, then find someone else who will do the work for you so your entire project doesn’t grind to a halt. It’s impossible to master everything and spreading yourself too thin is the number one reason new businesses fail.
- Confront Personal Problems: Your personal problems can have a devastating effect on your ability (or inability) to create. Take the time to acknowledge these challenges, ask yourself where you potentially went wrong, and confide to at least one person so you can once again propel forward.
- Cut Your Commitments:
It’s time to end some things and finish others. Simply put, the first part of this statement means that it’s time to sever ties with those projects, people or things that are holding you back and causing you to compromise your artistic and business beliefs. While the latter means finish and complete what’s worthwhile: only those projects that can lead to real, tangible success and equally successful partnerships. Only you know your limits, so don’t make too many commitments, otherwise you’ll stay stuck.
22: Find Your Niche: Ask yourself, what’s the one thing people constantly seek you out for? Your talents are unique and probably profitable, so start thinking about parlaying your skills into a side-business. You may start off small, but with consistency, it could pay off.
23: Realize You Can’t Please Everybody: Like they say, everyone’s a critic but that doesn’t mean internalize their feedback. It’s impossible to please everyone and when you do, your vision becomes compromised, diluted and tangled in a web of bland fantasticalness. The Amazing Spiderman’s Andrew Garfield recently went public to stress this very point.
24: Get Out of Your Own Way: Blame others all you want for the lack of forward-movement with your personal project or even entire life, but it’s really your own shadow feeding into the darkness and blocking the owning of your story. Re-define your problem areas, look for patterns, and map out the necessary steps to start actually achieving a series of small goals. When you look back a few weeks or months from now, you’ll discover that reaching small goals is actually the fulfillment of ambitions and priorities that comprise the proverbial dream.
- Start Living Your Legacy:
Life is full of painful lessons: physically, mentally, emotionally, and it goes without saying, creatively. No matter how you decide to live your life, you’ll inevitably leave behind a legacy and one that is hopefully born out of a realized purpose. The gifts you nurture, the risks you take, and the willingness to embrace your flaws and not be ashamed of who you are, are the experiences that could make at least one other person’s life better.