Today’s world would have you believe that hype, that pushing for more, always on, always bigger applies to creativity but it doesn’t. Creativity fluctuates.
Creativity has an ebb and flow. It cycles. There isn’t a constant stream of ideas or inspiration.
Creativity comes in fits and starts. It’s not something you can force. In fact, forcing it will make it elusive.
How to capture creative ideas
Allowing creativity to flow, to arise, is when it’s at its best.
But having a process for catching your creative ideas can help. Instead of reaching the bottom of the barrel, you have a reservoir to draw from when things aren’t feeling creative.
Then, when creativity ebbs, you have a reservoir to draw from and you can keep moving forward.
You can’t 10X creativity but you can cultivate it.
Capturing and Keeping Ideas: Your Idea Reservoir
Tried and true:
paper notebooks, like a small Moleskine tucked in your pocket or bag. Jotting down a sentence or two when an idea occurs is easy, low friction. (assuming you don’t misplace your notebook)
Apps like Evernote, Drafts, Notes, OneNote, etc. make it easy to capture an idea. And since it’s on your phone, you have it handy and nearby. A couple of taps and you can even speak your thought directly into text. Nearly frictionless.
this one is a little tongue in cheek, but any random piece of paper will do. A receipt, a napkin, old envelope, a paper plate, anything you can write on. Of course you have to make sure you hold on to it, that it doesn’t get cleared away to the trash.
More ways to cultivate creativity
Creativity isn’t about arts and crafts and if you think so, you’ve forgotten something important.
Creativity is a thread that runs through our daily lives, even in the most mundane situations.
Our creativity comes from three systems or networks in the brain:
Executive Attention, Imagination, Salience. These networks connect and combine our focus and attention with our imagination so we can weigh the importance and relevance of our knowledge to come up with new ideas.
If you’ve forgotten, here are 3 ways to activate and cultivate your creative networks
Try something new, or outside your comfort zone. Watch a video about a topic or place you don’t know much about. Write a poem, even if you don’t write poetry. Paint or sketch, even if you’re bad at it, you don’t even need supplies, you can download an app on your phone to doodle. If that’s not your thing, try collaging from old magazines, starting from a word or concept to create your image.
Go for a walk. Yep, getting outside for a little while works to engage all three networks. Add upbeat music for a boost to get your creativity flowing. Let yourself daydream as you walk, allowing surprising solutions to problems appear out of thin air.
Try James Altucher’s idea machine practice. It’s simple, every day, you set aside some time and write down 10 or so ideas. It doesn’t matter what they are, if they’re crazy or if they’re even good. This exercises your creativity muscle and engages all three networks.
With all three, approach them with a playful sense of curiosity, bringing the questions “what if?” and “why?” with you. Ask the questions and see what you notice. I think you’ll find creativity.