Uh-oooooga. Uh-oooooga. Dive. Dive.
Has your creativity sunk faster than a submarine carrying Kayne West’s ego? You’re not alone. Thousands of people across the globe take a trip to Ivegotnothingville every day to visit the world famous Creative Block. Quite often people can’t come up with ideas because they’ve either become set in a mindless routine or they just don’t exercise their mind enough to keep it sharp.
Let’s get this out of the way now, EVERYONE is creative. Yes, even Joe in accounting despite his bizarre love for Tax Code Monthly and 1120 Illustrated. We hear it all the time from people — how they aren’t creative or aren’t good at coming up with ideas. That’s a cop-out. Like anything else in life, you have to work at it. It takes practice to develop and become proficient with your creativity. People are usually surprised at what they can come up with when they actually apply themselves. Say it with me, I am creative.
Are some individuals naturally better creative thinkers than others? Absolutely. But they also work at it. You don’t see their numerous re-writes and unending scratch-outs, only the finished project. You can rely on natural talent only so much — even pro athletes have to practice.
You’re not going to be able to run two miles right off the bat if you haven’t exercised in two years. Once you start working at it and believing you can be creative, you’ll find the ideas flow more readily. So, how do you overcome creative block and keep your mind’s motor running? Here are 10 exercises to help keep your creativity from slipping into idle:
1) Change The Past
Walk through your local bookstore and hit up the Alternative History section. There you’ll find some pretty gnarly/weird “What ifs” scenarios spanning just about every topic. WHAT IF 4.5 billion years ago the moon hadn’t formed? WHAT IF the Cuban Missile Crisis blew up? WHAT IF Janet Jackson didn’t have a wardrobe malfunction? WHAT IF I hadn’t eaten that second burrito?
2) Now See Here
Go somewhere (preferably with a friend) that has a decent amount of casual foot traffic, like a mall, sit on a bench or at a table and start observing all the people. Who are they? What are they doing there? What do they see when they look into a mirror? Make up who they are based on what you see. The answers don’t have to be right. But you get creeper points if they are.
3) Throw a Changeup
Like a quarter breaking into two dimes and a nickel, make some change. Rearrange everything you do for one whole day so it’s no longer routine — your furniture placement, your driving habits, how you get ready in the morning, how you greet people, what clothes you wear. Hell, try eating with your other hand. If it’s how you usually do something, don’t do it. Unless it’s those pills you have to take. Do that.
4) Don’t Be Yourself
Ditch whoever you are. In fact, ghosting is totally appropriate and recommended in this situation. Then take a short trip to somewhere no one will know you, be it for a few hours, a few days, or a two-week vacation, and make up a whole new identity (Hello, Lt. Max Turbo Thunderoll). Do the whole shebang. Create a backstory: where you were born, which college you went to, what you do for a living, how you got that Halloween-makeup scar. But if you start getting calls or texts from yourself while you’re away, you may have gone too far, Mr. Durden.
Join a group, club or team that seems an odd fit for you. Sign up for one that’s predominately made up of the opposite sex or is a social hobby you’d never have dreamed of doing before this. (Competitive ironing anyone?) Will it be awkward? Probably for a little bit, but it’ll keep you on your toes, get you thinking outside your comfort zone, and learning new things.
6) To The Top
Enter your name into an election, any kind of election — PTA, city council, Oprah fan club — and get it on the ballot. As a candidate, you’re going to be shaking a lot of hands and kissing plenty of babies. The more people you meet the more personalities and viewpoints you’re exposed to and the more you’ll learn. Besides, it’d be pretty cool to see your name on there…just be prepared if you do happen to win, Mr./Mme. President.
7) Done and Done
What kind of challenging activities do you enjoy most? Think about them for a moment and how they drive you to succeed. Now forget them. Completely. They’re gone. They left and didn’t even leave a note. What remains are ones you consider “the impossible.” I don’t mean dangerous challenges like machete juggling (unless that’s your thing), but activities you look at and think “I could never do that” or “I’m not skilled enough.” Go ahead and give it a shot. Try juggling (without the machetes), tying a cherry stem with your tongue, learning the alphabet backward, spinning a basketball on your finger — whatever you ordinarily wouldn’t even think to try. Even if you don’t beat the odds, you’ll already have done more than most people ever attempt. Now, how about giving a shot to plates spinning on sticks?
8) Strap Yourself In
And launch a small business. Pshh… like you have time for that. Well, in reality, you probably do and can often do it right from home. Now, I’m not talking about those “I made 25 grand a week by sitting at my computer eating Oreos” opportunities you see in comment sections. I’m talking about utilizing your talents or hobbies during your spare time. Do you make great desserts? Offer them for sale. Does tidying up relax you? Parlay that into a weekend cleaning service. Nowadays you can easily set up a small business and website in a matter of hours. Though, if you happen to strike it big with your new venture, just remember who put you on the path to that fame and fortune… cough-cough, wink-wink, nudge-nudge, wave-wave.
9) War of Words
Get into a fight. No, not swinging fists. Like your mom said when you were little, use your words. One of the best ways to learn and expand your thinking is to get into a debate with someone. Not only do you have to do research on your topic but you also have to prepare for what your opponent might say. Debating has become our the world’s favorite pastime thanks to social media. (Uncle Mike, you’re still wrong). Not sure where to start? How about debate.org and idebate.org. See how easy that was? Or wasn’t? Which side are you on?
10) In a World…
Have a friend, co-worker, or indentured servant find 10 random yet interesting images online and email them to you. Now, imagine they are all covers of a book or posts for a movie. Your job is to choose 4-5 of those 10 and come up with a title and synopsis for each one. The genre, topic, story — everything is up to you. What you come up with must connect the image somehow to the overall story. Then send them back to your friend and see which ones they’d read/see if they were real. It’s a great exercise for developing creativity and for showing Hollywood it is still possible to come up with new ideas.
At The Homestretch
There are many, many other ways to boost your creativity, but the bottom line is you’ll have to continually experience things you aren’t used to doing. When you learn something new your brain literally changes. If you keep doing the same old things day in and day out, how do you expect to come up with new ideas? Expose yourself to new people, places, and things. Feed your mind to free your mind.