There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve got a social media post to write, but you’re coming up blank. The more you think about it, the more pressure you feel under, the fewer ideas you have. “Haven’t I written about everything ever?!” you lament. Yep, I’ve totally been there.
But, to be honest, it doesn’t happen so much any more because now I have quite a few different routines built into my day to help inspire creativity.
Creativity is something I’ve been deeply interested in for a few years. I’ve always worked in creative roles, but a few years ago I was an editor to an online magazine, where I needed to level up my creativity to the max. We needed to create hundreds of articles a month, which meant literally thousands of angles a year. That required massive creativity on my part.
So, as part of my personal development, I started learning about the human brain, and what makes us creative, and how we can be more creative. Yep, it’s a skill, and it can be fostered.
Now, I’d like to take a minute to dispel the myth that “some people aren’t creative”. In my opinion, creativity is just using your brain to come up with a solution to something. You might be creative at baking. You might be creative with your accounts. You might be a painter. Everyone is creative. We solve creative challenges every day. Just some people spend more time thinking that way so it comes to them more easily.
Let’s talk about how you can become more creative, so you don’t feel creatively sapped as often.
Practice makes perfect
There’s a saying that “cells that fire together, wire together”. The idea is that the more often you let your brain enter a creative space, the more easily being creative will come to you. A really simple way to do this is just to daydream more. Let your brain get used to wandering and connecting ideas. I want you to set aside time to daydream.
Now I’ve seen a lot of different articles talk about this concept in a few different ways. Some easy ways you can do this are:
- Switch off your phone and pause your inbox for five minutes and daydream.
- Have a shower or bath and daydream. (Shower thoughts are the best.)
- When commuting, turn off your digital devices and daydream instead.
- Do some chores. Simple, repetitive tasks where you’re on autopilot are great for daydreaming.
As a semi-related note, Neil Gaiman has a great spiel on how boredom is essential to creativity.
“I think it’s about where ideas come from, they come from day dreaming, from drifting, that moment when you’re just sitting there… The trouble with these days is that it’s really hard to get bored. I have 2.4 million people on Twitter who will entertain me at any moment… it’s really hard to get bored.” — Neil Gaiman
Your Turn: Spend five minutes a day, just daydreaming.
Work in a new environment
You might not realise your brain is getting stimulated by a new environment — but it totally is. Work from a cafe. Work from a park. Heck, work from under your desk. Give your brain some new stimulus to give it some new ideas. Just working from a new location can boost creativity.
And, if you just can’t work without being in a coffee shop (guilty, right here!) — it might be because the ambient noise is at 70 decibels and perfect for fostering creative thinking.
The study states that noise to the tune of about 70 decibels, similar to what is found in a coffee shop, aids creativity. The study reasoned that, “such moderate distraction, which induces processing difficulty, enhances creativity by prompting abstract thinking”.
Your turn: Find somewhere new to work from for a few hours. A cafe. A bar. A car wash. See what happens.
Practise divergent thinking
Divergent thinking is the ability to connect really different ideas and combining them together. I’m pretty sure that’s where pickle-flavoured popcorn came from. (That’s legitimately a flavour in Montreal.)
But to connect different ideas, we need a bank of totally different kinds of thinking to draw from.
So, learn different stuff. Wildly different stuff. Those ideas can change your perspective and help you draw in new ideas. So start cooking. Or programming. Or kayaking. Or learning Latin. Or learning woodworking. Or cosplay. Or knitting. Or salsa dancing. Or public speaking. Or how solar power works.
Then, when you need to solve problems, you can draw on a variety of different types of thinking and combine them to solve new challenges.
Practising divergent thinking regularly also helps. Taking improv classes is shown to help you be more creative because you’re practising divergent thinking on the fly.
Your turn: Do a divergent thinking exercise. Set a timer for two minutes. Come up with as many alternative uses for a shoe as you can (i.e. a pot plant).
(This is also a really fun way to start a team meeting to warm up the brain.)
Go for walk
I used to have a 15-minute walk home from my office to the train. It was a beautiful walk in the evening across the Pyrmont bridge in Sydney. And I always had the most brilliant ideas. In fact, if I ever needed to work on a strategy, I would purposely leave it till the evening because I knew it was a great time for me to create ideas.
Walking is proven to help you be more creative, in a whole bunch of studies. There’s also research showing that being in nature helps too (one reason might be that trees release a chemical to help you relax!). Obviously, if you walk in a park, you’re nailing both angles here.
Your turn: Go for a walk when you do your next creative brainstorm. Or, why not take the whole team for a walk in the park instead of sitting in an office?
Okay, this one is pretty intuitive. We know that when we’re more relaxed, we are more creative. Whenever we take a holiday, or a break from a project, that’s when all the great ideas happen. This one is a little bit harder to do on a regular basis, but it’s yet another reminder that self-care is so important to our lives.
Some ideas to get more relaxed include:
- Regularly take holidays. Even just a long weekend. Just take time off when you’re not working. Book a long weekend every quarter.
- Go to a spa for a few hours. Throw in a massage if you can. Do it every month.
- Mediation is shown to reduce stress, but it can be also used to boost creativity. Do it every day.
But, if you’re looking for a quick fix, alcohol also does the job! Not too much, mind, just a glass or two. It helps you get relaxed and enter a more creative state of mind. Team brainstorm at the bar? It’s a fun way to get some new ideas.
Your turn: Book a day off in your calendar to unwind. No digital devices allowed.
Write on paper by hand
In our age of efficiently, it seems crazy to write things by hand, only to type it up again. But going straight to the computer actually skips a valuable part in the creative process. When we use pen and paper, we can write concepts, connect ideas, make mistakes, erase things and experiment. We give ourselves permission to just be creative and spend time with ideas.
Your Turn: Next time you’re brainstorming, only take pen and paper. Ditch the laptop.
Take a nap
You’re more creative after a nap. You just are. Now, I know that if you’re in an office job, this one is hard to pull off unless you’ve got a handy storage closet. But if you work from home, get into the habit of a 20-minute nap in the afternoon. There are actually loads of health benefits to naps, too.
For those who work in an office, can you negotiate working from home once a week, or once a month? Or, when you’re working on a big project? Scheduling in some nap time during this time is a solid strategy for creative thinking.
Your Turn: Schedule in an afternoon nap.
The combo attack
Now, these might all seem like a lot of things to keep in mind. But switching your routine one step at a time means you can set habits where these creative-boosting activities are just part of your daily life.
I find it really helps to be organised about your day. If you know what work you need to do, you can plan time to be creative, and help create those conditions for creativity.
If you need to be creative in the morning, don’t even check your email for the first few hours of your day.
If you need to be creative in the afternoon, schedule in a shower and a nap before your creative session.
If you’re working from a cafe, don’t choose the one across the road. Choose the one a twenty-minute walk away. Don’t take your laptop.
So… how does this help me with social media?
I started out this post talking about that awkward moment when you’re staring blankly at Facebook, having no idea what to write.
Well, I encourage you to spend an afternoon creating your content, in a big batch at once. Create twenty pieces of content, and use them throughout the month.
Sure, you might still have some timely news or articles you want to share, but creating the bulk of your social media content in batches means you can truly sink into your creative process to come up with brilliant ideas.
In the end, it helps you get to know you, when you’re most creative. Know your creative peaks. Know your lows. And work with those.
Build in habits to your day which help foster creativity. Start with one habit and go from there. It could simply be that on your morning commute, you daydream instead of listening to a podcast.
How are you fostering your creativity? I’d love to hear in the comments what you do!
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