Chad Grayson

5 Ways to Get in Touch with your Creativity

A lot of people consider those of us who are labeled as ‘creatives’ a mystery. They don’t get it. ‘I could never do what you do,’ they say, and I am here to tell you that is patently untrue. All of us are born creative. We are usually in touch with it as children, and then somewhere along the way, it gets programmed out of us. We learn not to trust it. To think it’s silly. Especially if we judge that we’re not good enough at whatever creative endeavor to pursue it as a career. A life of creativity is considered the purview of a privileged few. But I’m here to tell you, it’s not. Even if you’re not employed in a so-called ‘creative career,’ your vocation calls for creative thinking. Creativity solves problems and creates opportunities (It can also create problems but that’s a whole other topic). In addition, creativity is part of our heritage as humans. It may be part of what makes us human. We cannot be fully fulfilled unless we find some way to express that innate creativity, in whatever way it feels natural to do so.

               So, here are some ways to get in touch with your creative side, even, or especially, if you don’t feel that you are a ‘creative person.’ Creativity is a muscle. It grows when it is used, and it can be developed.

1. Get in touch with your ‘inner child.’

               I don’t mean this is a ‘touchy-feely’ or pop psychology way. Or at least I don’t JUST mean that. Think back to when you were a kid. I’m thinking between the ages of 8-12 or so, before we start getting society’s messages that our creativity could be somehow embarrassing. When your time was your own, what could you be found doing (when not engaging with media like television and video games). Were you out exploring the neighborhood? Were you drawing, or painting, or coloring, or building with Legos, or making elaborate architectural designs for the house you were one day going to live in? Maybe you were enlisting your siblings/friends in elaborate games of pretend? Did you create complex storylines for your action figures? I would be willing to bet that you were doing something creative.

               As for myself, I was usually reading, writing stories, or drawing. Those are still things I love to do today (though I gave up drawing for decades because I didn’t think I was good enough) and are in fact the things I’ve built my present life around. If you can take yourself back to that time, and talk to that younger version of you, you will find the part of yourself that is most in touch with your creativity. It’s not that you must do those things again (though that helps), but that it will help you remember who you were before other people started telling you who you had to be. That is a vital part of the process.

2. Give Yourself an Assignment

               Nothing will activate your creativity like having a problem to solve. This does not have to be a high-stakes, life-or-death problem. It’s probably best if it’s not. But give yourself an assignment to carry out. Or have an assignment given to you. Take a class, either in-person or online (many of these are free). Or use a prompt generator for whatever area you wish to apply our creativity within. There are idea engines for design problems and writing prompts and all other sorts of creative endeavors. And it is best if the assignment has some sort of structure or limits. ‘Write me a story about anything you want’ will not be as inspiring as someone saying, ‘Write me a story about two people having a disagreement on the moon.’ I mean, that’s just an example I’m sure you can find a better prompt than that.

               This is what classes are good for. The assignments have parameters. And parameters do not limit creativity, they unleash it. It would probably help also if the area you worked with was not one you already have mastery of. Learning something new opens up parts of the brain that have long lain dormant. It can make you feel like an entirely new person. Despite what a lot of people think, your brain remains plastic throughout your life. You can learn new things at any age. You are not too old, and it is not too late. Nor are you ever too young.

3. Surround Yourself with Inspiration

               This could be a lot of things. I could be papering your workspace with beautiful works of art, or reading books that move you. Listening to stirring music. Going to new places and absorbing what you find there. Many people find they are inspired by natural locations, and that is true for me as well. But I also tend to get really inspired in the middle of big cities. Something about the energy of life going on around me, of humanity in close proximity, really gets to me and I end up having a thousand ideas. This could also be listening to online or in-person lectures with people who you find inspiring, or who have accomplished the things that you want to accomplish. Podcasts can also be a source of this.

               There is no one thing I can suggest. Everyone finds different things inspiring. I am moved by a lot of different types of art and nature. And what works for you can depend on the day. Also, while it is great to be comforted by things that are familiar, seeking out new experiences will activate your creativity like nothing else can. See a movie you’d never have considered before. Go to a play you’ve never heard of. Listen to a band outside your usual genre. Talk to someone interesting you’d usually never approach and listen to their life story (they would probably love to tell you). Figure out what really charges you up and take that creative energy into your everyday life.

4.   Get out of your head and into your body

               If you’re struggling with a creative problem, or just wanting to be inspired, and it’s not happening, the worst thing you can do is dwell on that situation. You will not have ideas by sitting down and trying to have ideas. Ideas usually sneak up on you when you’re doing something else. So, it can be good to get out of your own head and do something physical, leaving your brain to work on whatever it needs to work on in the backburner. This can be big things like running or hiking or exercise. But that is not an option for a lot of people, especially the chronically ill or physically disabled. But it can be anything that you do with your body, even things like knitting or crocheting, playing a board game, or building Lego sets (my fiancé swears by this). And while it’s not as physical as some other things, if you’re a gamer video games can serve that purpose here. Anything that distracts you and engages you while your brain works on the problem in the background.

5. Meditate

               Guys, I resisted this one for a long time. I didn’t think I had the executive function to meditate. But I found some guided meditations that worked for me free on YouTube and they’ve been a godsend. And by meditate, I do not mean to meditate on a specific problem, though that can sometimes help you break through. I mean develop a meditation practice, something that attaches you to your awareness and what you’re actually thinking and feeling. It’s a way to check in with yourself and understand what is really going on inside your head. You’d be surprised at how many of us have no idea about things like that. We just move from one stormy impulse to another and never seek clarity. Mediation is a way of seeking clarity and connecting with your inmost self. I’m definitely a believer these days. Before every writing session, I do a ten-minute guided mediation and it really clears out the distractions as well as the cobwebs.

               These are five ways to get in touch with your creativity. I won’t describe them as foolproof, but they are a place to start. Like I said, creativity is a muscle. It gets stronger when you use it.    

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