3 big tips to develop your creativity

The habits, language and behaviour that make creativity work.

It’s more than just having a craft, whether that be writing, cooking, making art or any other worthwhile creative pursuit.

It’s definitely more than raw talent.

Creativity is an approach to life, a way of being.

And – whilst some folks are seemingly born with this kind of attitude – it can also be cultivated.

By studying creativity in those who are really making it work in their lives, it’s possible to follow the breadcrumbs towards creative flow.

The thing about truly creative people is that, whilst they make creativity look effortless, they are actually doing the work.

They know the slog. And the satisfaction and sense of meaning they have did not spring up out of nowhere.

It takes guts, self-discipline and trust to be truly creative. The habits, language and behaviour of those who are living it give valuable clues about creative living.

So if you want to live a more creatively fulfilled life, here are a few ideas…

1. Be generous in your judgements of other peoples’ creative work.

There’s plenty of mediocre, even awful, creative work out there to laugh at.

But a genuinely creative person won’t be the one pointing and laughing when they come across a ‘bad’ painting or a clumsy piece of prose. They will be capable of discerning what constitutes decent work, and won’t waste their time consuming anything less.

But they don’t need to make a mockery of anyone else’s efforts either.

Doing creative work is humbling.

So the person who’s really been down in the mud of creativity knows just what it takes.

They know that there are thousands of failed attempts on the road to mastery, and they know that the only way out of bad art is through.

The only people poking fun at the art that someone else has made, are those who haven’t had the confidence to consistently make their own.

Those who are doing the work day in and day out are aware just how easy it is to clip someone’s wings. They know how tender those first creative offerings really are.

They will offer thoughtful critical input if requested, but will otherwise leave each person to their own creative devices.

2. Stay open to those ‘stupid’ creative ideas.

Just as there is much bad art to be made on the journey towards quality, so it is with ideas.

The creative person lets their ideas flow free. They don’t come down with censorship too soon. They don’t allow practical considerations to stymie their imagination. They don’t judge new ideas as childish, ridiculous or cliché (even if they kind of are).

The creative person realises that it’s not the content of those nascent ideas that matters. It’s the very fact that ideas are flowing.

By letting the floodgates stay open, early ideas can develop into their more mature, plausible counterparts.

Sadly, most of us learn at some point in our lives to censor our ideas heavily.

Someone mocks us or shames us (probably without even realising) and it hits like a dagger in the chest. We learn to hold back, to avoid exposing ourselves to that kind of ridicule again.

We learn to play it cool, to think ahead to all the reasons that someone might laugh at our idea or shoot us down.

This self-preservation eventually gets internalised. The sensible censorship begins to happen, even if there’s nobody else there.

It becomes an ingrained habit, where the potential objections slip in and kill the idea before it’s even been fully expressed or acknowledged.

The most creative people have retained (or regained) the resilience to speak their ideas out regardless.

To allow themselves to have off-the-wall thoughts and unusual ways of working. To try things out even if they’re ridiculous.

To give it a go just because.

And that’s where the surprises are. Where the innovation and genius are hiding. Where the creative person gets their strength.

Through the seemingly haphazard, reckless, unabashed indulgence of ridiculous ideas.

3. Prioritise creative practice, even when it seems impossible.

“One day I’ll have cleared the decks enough to do my creative project. When I’ve made enough money, I’ll get around to it. I’ll just do the washing-up and get my admin sorted first.”

The admin is never done.

Creativity will never shout the loudest.

Creative practice will always incite procrastination and there will always be more stuff to do first in the name of procrastination.

The secret of the creative person is that they have figured out these illusions and realised that it’s an inside job.

They’ve consistently taken the brave step of putting creativity first, regardless of the seeming urgency of ‘all the things’.

The tenacity it takes to do this cannot be underestimated.

This person has seen the mess around them. The unanswered emails and those tasks that might more immediately generate income.

They’ve heard the voice in their heads telling them to be sensible and get all that squared away. They have the background soundtrack too, the barely conscious hum of “your creative work isn’t that good anyway and you won’t make any money from it”.

But they’ve done it anyway, and this is immense.

The feeling of control that comes from getting lots of predictable tasks done is great. It feels good to tick a bunch of things off a list and get to the end of the day feeling efficient.

It’s nice to stay on everyone’s good side, do an honest day’s work and have some downtime in the evening.

But this pattern of prioritising the humdrum can keep rolling for years and decades, and the creative dream gathers dust in the corner.

It’s counterintuitive to shove ordinary life to the side on a regular basis and do your creative work.

It is double scary because it involves losing a sense of control and jumping off the creative precipice into the unknown.

Creative work isn’t obedient, predictable or certain.

It might not turn out how you wanted it to, it might bring up the worst of your inner demons. It might only be good for the rubbish bin even though you spent all day pouring your heart into it. Ouch. You don’t get that kind of rollercoaster from a day of admin.

But then again…

By prioritising creativity again and again, through thick and thin, the creative person learns to ride these waves.

They learn that the clumsy, painful truth of their creative life is infinitely better than the neglected, resentful, ‘what-ifs’ of avoidance.

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