10 Great Ways to Jumpstart Your Creativity

By Ali Luke

November 25, 2008   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Sometimes, we might feel as though we’re “just not very creative”. Other people seem to have better ideas and bigger projects. The truth is that there are plenty of ways to help yourself become more creative. Here are ten of my favorites:

    1. Read Widely and Deeply
      Whatever field you’re in, reading can only help. Go to the library and check out some good books – and don’t make all of them ones in your area of expertise. Why not get a novel you’d never normally read, or a book about a topic you have no knowledge on? This can jump-start your brain into working more creatively as you try to assimilate the new information based on what you already know from your own field. 
  • Try New Activities
    Another way to get your brain in gear is to try something totally new. Whether it’s salsa dancing, pottery or a medieval reenactment, taking up a new hobby can help shake things up and encourage you to think laterally. For example, you might be inspired to write an article using your new interest as a metaphor for something in your main field of work. 
  • Talk To Strangers
    Children are warned about “stranger danger”, but as adults, we shouldn’t be too afraid of talking to new people. We naturally associate with people who are like ourselves – the same income bracket, the same dress sense, the same career or industry – and this can stifle our creativity by making us feel that “everyone’s just the same”. Branch out. Chat to someone you don’t know in the cafeteria. Say “hi” to the person next to you in line at the coffee shop. 
  • Reject Your First Ten Ideas
    One great way to generate ideas, if you’re stuck for inspiration, is to sit down with a blank piece of paper (or a blank document on your computer) and list at least twenty ideas. Reject the first ten: they’ll almost always be too “normal” and bland. You have to get through these easy ideas in order to be really creative. If you’re writing a short story for a competition on “murder” for instance, the first ten ideas you have will be the ones that judges see time and time again. 
  • Experiment: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
    We’re often wary of trying new ways of working or new activities because we’re afraid we’ll fail. But there’s no shame in failure – after all, as a baby, you failed countless times at walking, talking and potty training… but you’re an expert in all of those areas now! The path to success often requires trying out a lot of ways which don’t work.

    If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not
    discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” –Thomas Edison 

  • Make Connections: Link Two Projects
    Do you have a stack of half-finished sketches or half-written short stories languishing in a drawer? One very effective way to reignite your enthusiasm is to combine two different projects. Take a character from one of your short stories and insert him into the plot of a different one. Mix that fantasy dreamscape sketch with the steampunk idea. Take an idea from that zany game you were designing and put it with the brainteaser series that you had planned. 
  • Take An Unusual Perspective
    If you’re working on a long-term creative piece, like a blog or a novel, it’s easy to get stale. Try adopting an unusual perspective. You might write a scene in your novel from the point of view of an inanimate object, or through the eyes of a character whose state of mind has been altered by alcohol or drugs. You could try writing a post on your blog from someone else’s perspective. For me, one of the most memorable posts on Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger is “5 Things You Should Know About My Dad the ProBlogger”, purportedly from the viewpoint of his (at the time) one-year-old son:

    You see my Dad reads more than he writes. I think he does this because his writing gets better after reading what others say and because it means he’s
    learning more about his topics.

  • Do Your Chores
    This might sound like odd advice – after all, chores aren’t exactly creative. But physical activities like vacuuming, washing the dishes or scrubbing the floors leave your mind free to wander – and it’s surprising how many ideas can occur to you when you’re not sitting staring at your desk. 
  • Use A Different Medium
    If you’re a writer, try drawing for a change. It doesn’t matter if you can’t draw – use stick figures – but this can help jolt you out of your comfort zone, allowing you to approach a problem in a new way. If you’re a painter, try making up a tune and words for a song. If you’re a graphic designer, use modeling clay or create a collage. Don’t limit your creativity to just one medium. 
  • Daydream: Keep Asking “What If…?”
    The final, and most important tip for enhancing your creativity, is to daydream. Stare into space. Let your thoughts drift. Think about your project when you’re going to sleep at night – unusual thoughts often crop up in that half-awake, half-asleep state. Don’t try to force or rush creativity; give yourself time to let your ideas simmer away in the back of your mind.

Which of those ideas work for you? What tips would you add to the above list?

Written on 11/25/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: ecphaff
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