Creativity is an aloof street cat. It slinks around the back of your mind and only comes out to play when it wants to. Unless you give it treats. Then it starts to come out more frequently, and sometimes even comes when you call it! Okay maybe not the last one yet, but we’re getting there. My point is, creativity isn’t really something that’s very easy to control, but it’s definitely something that can be nurtured and exercised until you can call upon it anytime you want.
I’m of the opinion that creativity is an inherent trait many humans have that can be honed and improved upon with time, dedication, practice, inspiration, and a lot of crumpled pieces of paper, rejected thoughts, and deleted lines. It’s a process you’ll never truly perfect as long as you live.
Creativity’s many different forms – art, humor, wordsmithery, film, etc. – can be applied to a lot more than you may think if you haven’t yet mastered your creative mind-powers. If you’re lucky enough to possess that cat scratching around in your brain, but don’t see it as often as you’d like, you can actually do a lot to bring it out from under the proverbial sofa.
I’m pretty well convinced I’ve gotten more creative as an artist and as a marketer because of the following practices. Curious creatives, read on.
Immerse yourself in a feedback loop
Surround yourself with other creative people and things. Creativity feeds on itself, so the more frequently you make efforts to be creative, the more creative you become. Make a point of feeding your mind every day. Consume as much content that resonates with you as you can, and let your mind absorb what it’s able to. The more you put in, the more you output. The more you expose yourself to, the broader your perspective will be
Alternatively, if you don’t do so, your creativity will stagnate, and you won’t produce anything worthwhile. It’s like language. You must be steeped in it and constantly practicing to become fluent. And, like language, you will lose some of your skill if you neglect it. If you practice every day, you will not only stay sharp, but you will also develop and improve your skill and the quality of your concepts.
Don’t ignore the itch
Explore new ideas as soon as they come up; they might slip through the cracks otherwise. Write it down, make a quick sketch, or try to hold onto your idea until you can put it down on paper or digitally somewhere. Many of my ideas have been lost to wherever forgotten ideas go (conceptual purgatory?
Pro tip: keep a little sketchbook on you or keep a running note document on your cell phone for the fleeting thoughts. You might come back to them later and scratch 90% of them out, but the 10% left over could be incredibly important. You never know.
Develop your own style, but don’t get married to it
Whatever your creative outlet is, your personal style will make your work recognizable. Your style is what sets you apart from the millions of other people doing pretty much the same thing you’re doing. It’s one of the most important things you can develop as any kind of creative.
However, in the professional world, you are often required to follow the style guidelines of your clients. In this case, your originality should shine from the larger concepts you develop on behalf of your client. It’s not all about you all the time, so be ready to drop your style and adopt another when necessary. The most successful professional creatives are very flexible and versatile. It also helps to have a degree of humility, know how to take critiques, and to be teachable – lessons often learned the hard way.
Not All Ideas Are Good Ideas!
This is super important. Really, I can’t stress this enough. If you’re experienced, you’ll be able to determine on your own which ideas you come up with are good and which ones are SUPER TERRIBLE. You have both, even (especially) if you don’t think you do. Even the most genius creatives have come up with countless bad ideas throughout their careers. The line that divides the discerning and not-so-discerning creative is how many bad ideas end up being brought to life and shown around. That discernment can be tricky to learn (I certainly don’t have it down yet), but taking a step back from your work and forgetting about it for a while before you bring it out in the open can help a lot. It also helps to have some discerning acquaintances look at it first; the people whose tastes and opinions you trust and whose work you admire are the best for this, or representatives of whatever demographic you’re trying to communicate with through your work.
That being said, if you have an idea that you truly believe in, and it’s been dismissed as a bad idea by others, you might still want to try it out, because you never know what the next big thing is going to be. There’s truly no accounting for humanity’s many fickle tastes.
Who knows? Sometimes really dumb, pointless stuff gets really popular. This video has more than 100 million views. Humans are weird. Creativity isn’t science, it’s art!