Creativity is a principle that governs everything visible and invisible around us -Creation. Creativity is Life Energy being constantly channeled and re-channeled, formed and transformed. It’s this very energy that created the first cell of our bodies and what keeps silently generating and re-generating all our cells every single second of our lives. Still, when asked if they are creative most people timidly say, “Oh no, I’m not”.
Oh yes you are! You simply don’t know it! You simply don’t give yourself credit for your creativity! Every time you tell your child a bed-time story and you embellish it with vivid details to make it as entertaining as possible, you are being creative. Every time you cook a meal, and add your personal touch to it, some special spice not included in the recipe, you are being creative. Every time you pick wild flowers to create a bouquet, you are being creative. Every time you hang a new painting or poster on your wall, you are being creative. Every time you send a greeting card and speak from your heart, you are being creative. Every time you buy a new blouse and imagine how well it will match and combine with your other clothes, you are being creative. Every time you manage to “stretch” your budget with some skillful handling, you are being creative.
So, what if you decided to become aware of how creative you already are in your every day life? What if you allowed yourself to see what an artist, what an innovator, what an ingenious problem-solver you already are? What if you decided to consciously ignite and feed the flame of your creativity? What if you believed in your creativity and approached life with a creative attitude? Can you envision the impact this would have on the experienced quality of your life? Can you envision the expanded sense of self that might emerge?
Whether you are a “creative liver” and you just want to gain greater access to your creativity or take it to another level, or you are an artist or belong to some other profession which requires the creative use of your mind, there are five competencies and habits that you need to develop and cultivate:
Capturing. Capturing refers to preserving your ideas as they come, without judging them. Suppose you are planning your wedding and you want it to be special, unique, a memory to treasure in its every little detail. How can you go about it?
First of all, allow your ideas to take inspired form. Allow your feelings about the desired outcome to come to your aid, because those feelings are where your inspiration will come from. Ideas come at strange moments. They don’t come when you sit at your desk and say, “Well, now I am going to plan a gorgeous wedding”. Creativity opens up on its own much better when the mind is allowed to wander freely, when it is in “alpha state”, when you are daydreaming, imagining, losing yourself in your fantasy world.
Creative ideas are nebulous and fleeting and sometimes great ideas get lost just because we don’t have the habit of capturing them. So get into the habit of recording your ideas, as they come, the minute they come, if it’s at all possible. I have a little notepad and pen in each one of my purses. I definitely have a little notepad and pen in my beach bag, because that’s when my very best ideas come -sunbathing at the beach. I have a little notepad and pen on my bedside table, because sometimes ideas come in my sleep and wake me.
So be prepared, equip yourself with whatever recording device you prefer – notepads, your i-phone, audio recording devices, voicemail, electronic notepad on your computer- and record your ideas before they dissipate like clouds racing across the sky. Once you have recorded them, they have taken a more definite form. Later, when you examine them one by one, some will take an even more concrete form, some will be discarded, some will transform into a yet better idea.
Surrounding. Surrounding refers to including in your environment as many diverse stimuli as you can and changing them as often as possible. Pictures, screensavers, dream-boards, vision-boards -these are all great aids in stimulating your brain and accessing your creativity. Sometimes, we must shock our brains to generate some extra stimulation. Dr. Robert Epstein, an expert on creativity, says that if we put a Mickey Mouse hat and and pliers on our desk in the morning, our thinking will move in odd directions during the whole day. These distractions, however, are great
triggers of creativity. Once I was researching something on the Internet and I came across the phrase “something radical”. For some reason, it impressed me greatly, so I wrote it down on a piece of paper which I left on my desk, next to my computer. Several times a day, my eyes would fall on that piece of paper and I would ponder again and again the thought of “something radical”. Though I have not yet produced anything so radical I can boast about, I know that my mind was encouraged to move in radical directions for me, to try new things, to dare a little bit more.
Surrounding also refers to opening up yourselves to a diverse group of interesting people. If you are continually surrounded by people who are restrained or constricted about their creative abilities, you will not find appropriate
encouragement or role-models among them to help you spark your creativity.
Finally, surrounding refers to providing yourself with frequent breaks and changes of scenery. Most experts on creativity recommend “the twenty minute walk” as a very helpful aid in resting, refreshing and recharging our brains. Once you have begun working on your creative project, taking a break, removing yourself from your familiar environment, exposing yourself to a new set of stimuli can greatly increase the flow of your creativity. Just make sure you have your recording device with you when you take your walk, because that’s perhaps when your next great idea will come!
Challenging. Challenging refers to giving yourselves tough problems to solve and trying to stretch your problem-solving capacities. For example, it’s a good idea to make it a habit to solve puzzles or games. What happens when you do that, is that new neural interconnections are built every time you tackle something unusual or especially demanding which wakes up dormant areas of the brain. It does not matter if you manage to solve the puzzle or not. In fact, frustration can be a great motivator sometimes, and you may be surprised to find out that if you attempt to
solve the puzzle you failed at the first time around, the answer will be ready and will seem ridiculously obvious a few days later! More surprisingly, you may discover that the answer to a sticky detail of your project, also comes along with the answer to the puzzle. That’s the way the brain works!
Broadening. Broadening refers to exposing yourselves to as much information as possible on diverse subjects that may not have anything to do with your creative projects or endeavors. Experts on creativity suggest taking one college course per year on topics that do not directly relate to your profession or general interests. Once again, the process of shocking the brain by exposing it to new sorts of information, by creating new neural pathways for storing and processing this information greatly enhances your creative repertoire. Getting in touch with other cultures is also a great way of broadening your personal data base. Reading novels or poetry by foreign writers, tasting unusual foods, listening to unfamiliar music, learning ethnic dances, helps you open up to whole worlds that you were previously
unaware of and excites your subconscious by providing it with new sounds, ideas, symbols, images to play with.
Keeping a journal and recording your progress. Once you have captured your ideas and you are ready to explore or implement some of them, it’s important to break down your project into manageable pieces and record your progress. Get a notebook and devote a single page to every little piece, or sub-goal of your project. As you complete each one, don’t forget to reward and congratulate yourself on every small step you take. Put a check mark on each page every time you complete a task and write WELL DONE or WIN with big, bold letters! No matter how much support you may
have from friends, colleagues or family, your creative project is something very personal that no-one else can participate in as fully as you do. Support yourself in your effort! As you progress, as you learn how to get into “creative mode” more and more easily, more and more completely, as you learn to soar, you will also experience some “lows” – great sweeping waves of discouragement, doubt, fear “coming out of nowhere”. It’s normal. It’s part of the growth process. It’s your old self you are leaving behind creating a bit of resistance. Recording all the things you
have already done, leafing through your notebook and seeing all the steps you’ve taken, the distance you have covered since the moment of conception of your creative idea, how much you’ve grown, will help you turn those negative feelings around.
Everyone can establish these new processes and habits! The more you use them and incorporate them into your way of life, the more tuned-in you will become to your creativity, the more you will be able to nurture it and keep its flame alive.
Ismini Apostoli is a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, practicing in Greece and offering online services throughout the world. She is particularly interested in self- esteem, self-development and self-actualization and helping people uncover their special gifts and talents.