Out of great hardship and despair, creativity burrows its way through the rubble to reach the fresh air and bring the light of hope. Did you know that you can train your brain to be creative? It’s true, and we’ll explore that concept in more detail here.
As I write this, the country of Ukraine is under siege. I cannot be there in person, so I dream for the people’s future from afar. The stories that are taking shape offer the future of humanity creative ways to make sense of our world.
Avi Schiffmann is a 19-year-old college student from California, currently studying at Harvard University. His story is a meaningful one…
“I know how to make all these websites and apps and, you know, I felt that nobody was going to do it,” said Schiffmann, a Harvard University student. “So why don’t I just do it? So, I made this website.”
Schiffmann excels at coding. Two years ago, he developed a website to help track the spread of the coronavirus. So he didn’t think twice before using his skills to help this time.
“That night, I started working on designing the user interface and the basic site structure, went to sleep, woke up in the morning, and called my friend Marco from college, who’s an amazing web developer,” said Schiffmann.
The pair worked almost non-stop to create a website that would be easy enough to navigate for people offering help and those seeking it.
Then on March 3, just four days after, they launched Ukraine Take Shelter. The website is in 12 languages and it is a place where Ukrainian refugees can find hosts with spare rooms.
Creativity in action, saving lives and bringing hope to those who have every reason to be hopeless. I love Avi’s words “So why don’t I just do it?” I have written them in my journal to review and expand upon in the coming days.
You might be surprised to hear that you can actually train your brain to be creative, or at least more creative than it is right now. . Oftentimes, people think that creativity is some mystical, innate skill, and you either have it, or you don’t. But research has shown that there are some strategies you can use to stimulate creativity in your everyday life and benefit from new ways of thinking and problem solving.
Switch Up Your Regular Routine
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of doing things the same way every day. But the more you stimulate your brain with change and novelty, the more flexible and creative your brain gets. The idea here is to train your brain to be creative, and switching up your regular routine is a great way to start.
Keep your creative mind on its toes by reading new books, trying different foods and places to eat, even trying different routes through your neighborhood. Switching up your usual routines will stimulate your mind and get you thinking about new possibilities and approaches to life.
Relax the Rules to …
So much of what you do is bounded by shoulds and oughts. From those eight glasses of water you’re supposed to drink, the right foods to eat, and how much and when, to whether or not it’s okay to talk in the elevator, much of your life is probably restricted by how you think you should behave.
Try breaking some of the rules today. Smile and say hi to the waiter or the bus driver. Crack a joke in that silent elevator. Open up a bit and allow your creative, maybe even slightly anarchic brain to flourish.
Look around you
Another good way of relaxing your mind and allowing your creativity to grow is to simply sit in the present and observe what’s going on around you. Work your way through each of your senses and really notice your environment. What can you hear, see, smell, feel, even taste? Notice everything and then write down what comes into your head.
When you walk down the street, look up and around. Chances are you will be the only person not looking at their phone or frowning into the idle distance. Don’t miss out on noticing the signs of spring or autumn. Look up and around and see how many colors and textures are right there in front of you.
Really talk to people
How much of your conversation is either you talking or being talked at? Step back a little and really engage with other people. Don’t just talk or think of what you’re going to say next. Practice active listening and give the other person space to speak.
Real conversation can open up all sorts of possibilities and creative solutions you might never have thought of, as you train your brain to be creative.
Getting into Creative Flow
You know the feeling. There’s a deadline looming, and your mind has gone completely blank. Nothing, nada, zip. It’s like your brain has frozen. Luckily the latest research shows us the most common roadblocks to creativity, and how to move past them and get on with the job. Here’s what to know…
Fear of Failure
Most people are afraid of failing because they see it as a one-way street to disaster, rejection, and a stain on their reputation forever. Perversely, fear of failure is the mirror image of perfectionism. The idea that nothing you can do will be good enough, and that this failure defines your identity.
Fear of failure means you’re less likely to take risks, and you put off even starting. And those are two things that can kill creativity stone dead. Redefine creativity as a series of experiments, with failure as a kind of course-correction and an inevitable part of the process.
There’s Not Enough Time
The ticking clock is another creativity killer. If you’re like most people, your schedule is probably crammed, and you feel like you’ll never catch up. If your checklist just keeps growing, you won’t be able to relax in the creative process and let the ideas flow.
A surprising way to find more time is to quarantine some chillout time in your diary. Priorities some downtime to listen to music, meditate, or just sit quietly. You’ll feel much less stressed and open to the creative flow.
You’re Still Staring at the Screen
Sitting at your desk, staring at the computer or the blank page is not a good way to get creative. If you’ve been trying to write or problem-solve and it’s just not happening, the best thing you can do is go for a walk or make a coffee. Get out of the environment that’s keeping you stuck, get moving, and your mental gears can disengage and relax enough to be ready when inspiration strikes.
You’re Feeling Negative
Negative thinking can stop creativity in its track. If you’re sitting there frowning, and thinking you can’t do it, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that you won’t be able to do it.
Pessimism and negative self-talk set up a vicious cycle of gloom and low energy. Reject that self-defeating attitude and give yourself a pep talk. Reframe your task and just promise yourself you’ll write down whatever comes into your head, just to get the process started.
Remember, first drafts are invariably not your best product, because that’s what a first draft is for! You’ve done good work before, you’ll do it again. Tell the muse you’re ready and get writing!
Reasons to Develop Your Creativity in Daily Life
You might think that creativity is something you can’t do, … So many people say, ‘Oh I’m just not the creative type.’ But it is within everyone to be creative. And it’s not just good for the soul to sketch or play with clay or embroider. Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes, and it has some unexpected benefits for the rest of your life.
Creativity helps you solve problems
Fostering your creativity trains your brain to be more adaptable and flexible in dealing with all sorts of problems. Not just how to get that pot completely balanced and smooth, but how to solve that problem with a work project or a relationship or a career issue.
Your goal is to train your brain to be creative, which takes you out of the linear thinking mode and the confines of regular logic. Options stop being only black and white. Your mind can look at your problem from many different angles and sees potential nuances that you otherwise might miss.
Creativity can help you live longer
Surprising but true. Studies have shown that being creative can actually reduce your mortality risk and add years to your life. Making, drawing, woodwork, knitting, or painting all fire different neural pathways in your brain and help to reduce stress and anxiety. Creativity slows cognitive aging and enables you to lead a happier, more fulfilling life.
Creativity grows your confidence
Learning a creative skill takes application and lots of practice. You’ll make a lot of mud pies and lopsided pots before you can create beautiful and functional tableware. Mastering your chosen art form helps you develop confidence in your abilities that will overflow into other areas of your life. As you overcome failure and succeed in making beautiful things, you will see that persistence and optimism is the way to success.
Creativity is immensely satisfying
There is nothing like starting with raw materials and being able to make something unique from them. Whether you start with a lump of clay or you make your summer wardrobe from scratch, you know you have the skills and creative spark to make whatever you want. You aren’t dependent on stores and other people’s work. You know you can start with zero skills and learn a completely new skill.
Creativity helps you express yourself
Making an artwork or a piece of writing or an item of clothing allows you to make something that is completely yours. No one else can make or create or produce the exact same thing that you can. I had wanted to become a writer since I was in elementary school, but believed I wasn’t creative and didn’t have the talent to write. At the age of 50 I began writing – for my business and stories about my life – and learned that everyone is creative and can use that creativity to change our lives.
Think of yourself as an artist, and then make art to change the world around you! Living a creative life can help you see that whatever you bring to the world is unique and special.
I’m Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, independent publisher, and serial entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and would love to connect with you. If you’re new to the world of online entrepreneurship please check out my training on how to sell yourself at Sell Yourself and Your Stuff and learn how to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to building a lucrative online business.