This post was originally published on The Spare Room Project.
Creativity has ‘muscles’ and needs exercise to improve, just like regular muscles. It isn’t hard to get started, though! You can start small, and you don’t have to buy a creative ‘home gym’ in order to be more creative.
How to Be More Creative
There are a few things to keep in mind. A lot of principles from other areas of life can carry over into your creative pursuits. And we’re going to bust some myths here! If you think that you need a muse to be creative, it’s not true. If you think that there needs to be a big investment up from, that’s not true either! Creativity can be built up over time, and it’s easier than you think.
Creativity Doesn’t Need a Muse
If you wait for your muse to come hang out, you may find yourself waiting a while. That elusive creature doesn’t like discipline, and often flees when asked to work. So why should you let your muse decide when you create?
Waiting until you ‘feel’ like working out at the gym rarely works. After all, how often do you feel like working out? Yeah, that’s what I thought! Try this strategy to work your creative muscles instead:
Alternating Creative Reps
- Set a timer for 30 minutes. This time is going to be given to the creative task you don’t ‘feel’ like doing. Start the timer and DON’T GET DISTRACTED. Once you finish this rep, you get a reward! Don’t look at the timer, either – that makes time go slower.
- When the timer goes off, set it again, this time for 10 or 15 minutes (your choice). Go do something you ‘feel’ like. Maybe if you’re writing a blog post, you ‘feel’ like writing a fun fiction piece or working on a craft project. Whatever it is, you have a set amount of time to do it. Note that the muse-less task gets allotted more time. That’s intentional: you’re more motivated to finish that whole time when you get a small reward. You could give yourself more reward time, but you want to exercise your creative muscles, right? Right.
- Repeat these two steps for as many reps as desired!
Using alternating creative reps will allow you to get more done in short spurts. It will also give you a reason to work, even without a muse!
A Little Goes a Long Way
Physical trainers will sometimes tell you to ‘start low and go slow.’ This means that you shouldn’t push yourself too hard or else you might strain your muscles. The same goes for exercising creativity! Can you imagine going from creating nothing for a year to trying to produce a masterpiece in one day? I didn’t think so.
Start with a smaller version of whatever you want to accomplish in the future. If you want to write a novel, start with 50 words per day for 3 days. Amp that up to 100 words per day for another three days. Keep slowly revving up your creativity every 3-7 days. Do it at whatever speed is most comfortable for you. The goal is to be more creative, regardless of how slow the process is!
Variety is the Salt of Creativity
If you ate the same. Exact. Thing. Every meal… you’d get tired of it pretty fast, wouldn’t you? I mean, I love pizza and all, but I do NOT want to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. The same goes for creativity!
You can also think of it this way: if you only ever did crunches, your arms would never get any better, would they? If you only ever exercise one type of creativity, you’ll be letting other aspects of your creativity atrophy. Plus, it’s much easier to get into a rut if you only ever do one thing. If you want to be more creative, give yourself some variety.
Don’t Buy the Home Gym
You don’t have to ‘buy the home gym’ to be more creative. It’s tempting to go whole hog into a new creative pursuit. You want to be successful, and everything you’ve read says that you MUST have X. Or you read that you HAVE to try Y method, which requires W, X and Z items – which happen to be expensive!
Don’t fall for all the gimmicks. While those things are nice, and later on, you may benefit from them, it isn’t a good idea yet. You may find that you don’t like this creative pursuit after all, but if you’ve sunk money into it, you’ll have to either sell it or feel obligated to continue. If you want to try silver smithing, for example, don’t go out and buy an expensive blow torch and all the other doohickies. First, see if there are classes nearby, so that you can try it without heavy expenditures. If you do like it, your instructor can probably also point you to places to find the materials at a decent price.
The same goes for any other creative pursuit! There are classes for just about everything these days, and if you can’t find one, put the word out in your community and see if you can drum something up. This will help you keep costs down, probably help out a local artisan, and you may even find some new friends in the process!
Try New Things!
Along the same vein of keeping variety in your creativity, you should try new things sometimes! By not buying the home gym of your creative pursuit, you’ll open up a lot of new opportunities for creative growth. You can find more ways to be more creative than you thought existed!
Don’t let yourself get stuck in a box, either. While you may think of creativity as being hands-on, like painting or jewelry-making, there are other avenues of creativity. Dance, for example, is a great creative outlet (plus it’s great exercise!). Sports may not seem creative, but they can be. Freestyle skating (think ice skating or roller skating, with Salchows and axle jumps), for example, requires a LOT of creativity. Even playing with your dog can be creative! Canine agility requires a lot of mental dexterity on the part of the handler.
If you think outside of the box, you can find a lot of ways to be more creative! Creativity doesn’t have to come and go. By exercising it regularly, you can tone your creative muscles! Don’t let you muse dictate when you create – take charge of your creativity and see where it can take you.
Great tips! I love how creativity is one of those things that gets easier and easier the more we “exercise” it 🙂
Also so important that we embrace our own individual styles of creativity!
That’s a great point about embracing your own individual creativity, Sagan! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Awesome list of ideas! I’ve almost gotten to the point where I don’t even like the word “muse” anymore because creatives use this as an excuse to not create. You are your own muse. I guarantee if you sit down and do the work every day at the same time, the work will come. The words will show up. That landscape you’re painting will appear. The song you’re trying to learn on the piano will come to you. But please don’t wait for an ah-ha moment to hit you over the head; odds are that isn’t going to happen, at least not very often.
“You are your own muse.” Love it, Emily! It’s so true. I love the picture your words painted, even just in your comment! It goes to show that exercising your creativity just makes it better. =)