Creativity is not just for artists and poets. Everybody has the potential to exercise their creative mind – to innovate new ways of accomplishing things that will ultimately make life easier and more gratifying. Creativity magnifies the effectiveness of our natural talents, generating elevated levels of success and happiness by helping us discover more efficient ways to do what we love to do.
Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
Acts of creativity can be found in every facet of life. We are surrounded by the byproducts of creative ideas both big and small. And the small acts of creativity are no less important than the big ones. In fact, the more creative you are with the small things in your life, the more creative you will likely be with the big things.
Now, it’s to be expected that there will be ups and downs in our levels of creativity. Some days we’ll be full of new ideas, and other days our brains will feel a bit dull. Although this phenomenon is natural, oftentimes our poor personal choices perpetuate our inability to think creatively, and we end up having more dull days than creative ones. The vast majority of these poor choices fall into one of seven categories. I call them the seven deadly sins of creativity.
1. Lack of knowledge and attention.
Knowledge and attention are absolute necessities. Creative thinking cannot be productively applied until a certain level of knowledge is gathered about the current situation or problem at hand. Thus, creativity actually relies on both sides of the brain, the creative right side and the logical left side.
The first steps the brain takes when tackling a creative venture are actually governed by logic, not creativity. This is because most creative breakthroughs rest on the shoulders of everything that came before it. The logical left side of your brain analyzes the situation and all the known facts, defines the problem that must be solved and then hands the data over to the creative right side of your brain. In other words, once a creative challenge has been realized, you must first rely on your logic and absorb yourself in what is already known. Without this logical review process, creativity will drown in misdirection.
2. Lack of passion and enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is the lifeblood of creativity. Creativity blossoms when you are passionate and enthusiastic about what you are doing. It’s extremely difficult to pioneer creative solutions for things you have absolutely no interest in. When your mind is stimulated by curiosity and a fundamental interest in the subject matter, your creativity and motivation will automatically accelerate. (Read The War of Art.)
3. Doing exactly what you’ve always done.
There’s a saying that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. Sure, this will minimize surprises and mistakes, but it will also crush your creative edge.
We are all a product of our past experience, but we must step outside of our comfort zone and attempt unfamiliar activities if we hope to achieve breakthroughs in our future. The foundation of practical creativity is simply trying new things to see what works and what doesn’t.
4. Fear of failure.
Most creative ventures step into the unknown, slowly taking you in a direction you haven’t gone before. Any journey into uncharted territory holds a certain level of inherent risk. Many people are scared to accept this risk, which in effect squashes all their creative ideas before they have a chance to develop them.
If you hope to exercise your creativity, you must get over your fear of failure. Confidence and passion together provide the solution. If you have confidence in yourself and passion for your ideas, you will be far more willing to accept calculated risks, take creative chances and thwart off the other stress factors attempting to restrain your creative edge. Because at the end of the day, you know that every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success.
5. Never pausing for a break.
Where are you when your most creative ideas come to you? I’m guessing it’s not when you’re sitting at your desk working, or consciously trying to think creatively. Rather, it’s when you’ve given the logical side of your brain a rest and you’re doing something else, like taking a stroll outside.
The biggest bursts of creativity often come when you walk away from the problem for awhile. This gives your mind a chance to mull over the information, often subconsciously, and look at things from a renewed perspective. Exercise can be a great way to shift away from your logical thought process and into the creative depths of your mind in order to access new ideas and solutions. After working for a couple hours straight, usually the best way to jog your creativity is to literally take a jog. (Read The Power of Your Subconscious Mind.)
6. Never testing the impact of your creative output.
As silly as it sounds, some of the most creative ideas and inventions never make it into the public eye simply because their creator doesn’t realize the significance and impact of what he or she has produced. This is another perfect example of how creativity actually relies on both sides of the brain, the creative right and the logical left. Once your creative mind drives you to create something, your logical mind must test, verify and validate it.
In other words, there’s more to the creative process than simply having an idea and executing it once behind closed doors. Most creative ideas that leave an impact on the world are relentlessly tested, reviewed by third parties, and sometimes modified and tested again. Scientists do this in a laboratory with other scientists. Painters do it by painting and then displaying their art in a gallery. Bloggers do it by translating their thoughts into stories and articles, and publishing them online.
7. Confining yourself to boundaries others set up.
No matter how creative you are or much progress you make with your ideas, there will always be negative people who insist that whatever you’re trying to do is impossible. Or they may suggest that your creative ideas are impractical and ridiculous because nobody really cares, even though they have no basis for these claims. When you come across these people, don’t try to reason with them. Instead, forget that they exist. They will only drain you of your creativity and waste your time.
And unfortunately, sometimes the people who care for you most might also interfere with your creativity. They’ll see you venturing into uncharted territory and they’ll try to quickly steer you back to familiar ground. They’re doing this to protect you – to shield you from the possibility of failure. But in effect what they’re also doing is shielding you from the possibility of bringing your big ideas to life.
When it comes to exercising your creativity, you must try what you want to try, go where you want to go, and follow your own intuition. Don’t accept false choices. Don’t let others put a cage around your ideas. (Read The Artist’s Way.)