Sometimes people ask me where I come up with my ideas— as a writer, as a blogger, as a content marketing specialist. If I am in a playful mood, I tell them about my ‘special fairy.’ But most times, I say that I practice thinking like a child.
And, know what? There is no creativity gene.
I taught first graders for several years. One thing I learned is that we all have it, this creativity thing. These kids came to school ready to explore, to try new things. And they were not afraid to fail.
Why? Because they didn’t know what failure looked like.
What is creativity, anyway?
Creativity is an ability. It’s the ability to try something new. If you are not a first grader anymore, the creative abilities you once had have slowly dissolved over the years. Sometimes school, the very institution that should nurture and grow our creativity, beats it out of us instead.
Creativity is an attitude. It’s being willing to accept change, to play with ideas. And it’s being willing to fail. Thomas Edison, in his search for the perfect filament for the incandescent lamp, tried 1,800 experiments, even down to whiskers from a friend’s beard, before he found a solution. After 1,000 failed attempts, someone asked, “Don’t you get frustrated?” He said, “No, because I am learning so much. I now know 1,000 things that don’t work.”
Creativity is a habit. Creativity is a muscle. When I started teaching intellectually gifted students, it became crystal clear. By third grade, those open, spontaneous first graders were gone. Their creativity muscles had gotten lazy. But, just like stopping yoga, bicycling or walking, as soon as they started using it again, it came back—even stronger than it was.
5 Habits That Make Me a More Creative Blogger
1. I play.
“To stimulate creativity, one must develop a childlike inclination for play…” – Albert Einstein
“If you want creative workers, give them time to play.” – John Cleese
Funny how two brilliant people—Einstein and Cleese—are saying the same thing. Doing things just for the fun of it is the best way to free up your mind for all those percolating ideas. A creative guy I met on twitter, who calls himself a Business Awesomizer, believes so much in the value of play that he offers a full day of it to give people open highway momentum for their key projects.
And if you are budget-challenged, just picking up Julia Cameron’s excellent book, The Artist’s Way, with its ‘artist’s play dates’ will jump start your creativity in amazing ways.
2. I pretend.
The best blog posts have a way of getting into the reader’s head. If you can understand multiple perspectives, you can get creative with the stories you write or tell on your blog. Not only will you have an original blogging voice, but the people in your stories will have something unique to say, too.
Bob and I play a game where we turn the sound off a movie and voice new lines for the characters. He takes one character in a scene and I take the other. It’s a little like those contests where scenes are passed from one writer to another and the plot changes constantly. In addition to being good for laughing yourself sick in a short period of time, this game helps you build on an existing idea and change/add to it quickly. Again, good practice for the brain when it comes to generating ideas for your posts.
3. I compare.
This creative thinking skill may be summed up with, “This thing is like this other thing.” When asked to define infinity, a student said, “It’s like the man on the Quaker Oats box.” If you recall (and maybe you don’t), the Quaker Oats box used to show a picture of a man holding a Quaker Oats box, and on that box is a box of a man holding a Quaker Oats box. It appeared that it would go on forever and so this student compared it to infinity.
Analogies and metaphors can be very useful to compare one thing to another in a fresh, new way. For instance, comparing your blog’s readers to players and spectators in a game. Or using the metaphor of house for your blog.
4. I invent.
The best bloggers I know have an incredible ability to put a new spin on an old idea. But did you know that you can train your mind to get better at doing this? When my daughter was acting in L.A., she was a member of The Red-Headed Stepchild, an improv troupe. It was make-it-up-as-you-go-along fast, funny and smart. And they got very good at inventing.
The TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? was based on the same idea. For example, in the timed exercise called Props, the actors passed one prop back and forth and each time they had to invent a new use for it. Bob and I play this game at garage sales (okay, sometimes we get some strange looks). It works especially well when there are a lot of automotive tools and parts because I know nothing about them, so I don’t have any pre-conceived ideas. This exercise will help you get good at looking at things from a different angle and finding the new in the old. And those skills will transfer to your writing.
5. I copy.
Okay, before you tell me it’s not nice to steal, hear me out. If in work or school, you ever practiced brainstorming (Remember? There are no good or bad ideas—just ideas.), then you might be familiar with a term called ‘piggybacking.’ It’s one of the best ways to take an existing idea and make something new from it. We know that in brainstorming, usually the first idea is not the best. But with a little thought, an article or blog post you read can be added to, changed, and spinned into a post or piece of writing with your thoughts, your unique voice.
Because no one can write it in precisely the same way you can.
So don’t be afraid to be a ‘copycat blogger.’
Does play bring out your creativity?
What do you do for fun?