Here's 25 Ways To Be More Creative (2022)

You might think of creativity as something clever marketers or copywriters whip out when they need to come up with a compelling ad, or a personal trait only certain people, such as successful serial entrepreneurs or brilliant improv actors, naturally possess. But according to Keith Sawyer, research psychologist and author of "Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity," everyone can be more creative just by taking eight incremental steps, but not necessarily in linear order. His path to creativity is more back and forth, a process in which the steps to greater imagination and originality build on and feed off each other.

The book is a gem, chock full of fascinating findings from research studies and a deep well of tactics that will get you thinking differently. In fact, Sawyer advocates what is likely a radical shift in mindset for most people. Coming up with good ideas isn't something we leave until there's a pressing need. Rather, it's is a skill that can be practiced daily to solve life's problems as well as discover its opportunities.

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Here are his steps for cultivating creativity, along with a sampling of tips that can help you along the way.

1. Ask the right question.

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Sawyer tells the stories of the beginnings of Starbucks and Instagram. Neither company would be what it is today if its founders had continued to try to solve the original questions they sought to answer. Instead of asking "How can I recreate the Italian espresso bar in the United States?" Howard Schultz eventually looked at what wasn't working with that idea to instead ask "How can I create a comfortable, relaxing environment to enjoy great coffee?" And while Kevin Systrom originally pondered how he could create a great location-sharing app, a better question turned out to be "How can we create a simple photo-sharing app?"

Sawyer offers plentiful techniques for generating lots of questions.

  • Quickly, without overthinking it, write 10 variations of the same question. For example, for the classic question "How can I build a better mousetrap," you might ask questions such as "How do I get the mice out of my house?" and "What does a mouse want?" or "How can I make my backyard more attractive to a mouse than my house?" One of your new questions will likely be a better one than your original.
  • Debug your life. Brutally criticize an imperfect product or situation you come in contact with every day. Once you have a list, think of ways to eliminate the annoyances. This can amp creativity because little problems are often symptoms of bigger ones. Steve Jobs, a genius innovator, excelled at finding bugs that distracted from a user's experience of a product.
  • Make something then reinterpret it. Sometimes before you get at the right question, you have to make something. Once you do, think of your creation being used for purposes other than your original intent. This process throws away your first assumptions, forcing you to consider new perspectives.

2. Become an expert.

The secret to exceptional success doesn't lie in natural ability, but in deliberate practice. In fact, research suggest that being world class at anything requires 10,000 hours of practice. It's not just doing the same thing over and over again, however. It should involve pushing yourself to master tasks just slightly beyond your capabilities.

You have to become an expert in an area before you can be creative in it. "Successful creators don't just like knowledge, they thirst for it. They can't stop asking questions, and they always go beyond what they've learned from teachers and books," Sawyer writes. There are a plethora of methods to do this.

  • Listen to TED talks. They're free videos of inspiring, funny, or fascinating speeches made by brilliant people. To get started, check out 6 TED Talks Every Entrepreneur Should Watch.
  • Use all your senses to thoroughly delve into a subject. Let's say you want to learn about the town of Mystras, Greece. You could learn some of the Greek language, search for photos of the Peloponnese online, cook some of its traditional food, watch videos of its traditional festivals, stream its local radio, and email an innkeeper there to get insider information about what the town is really like.
  • Get a mentor. Nearly all Nobel Prize winners have them.

3. Be open and aware.

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Creative people are always on the lookout for possible solutions. You can do this by becoming more aware and practicing mindfulness, which involves intentionally noticing things and not pegging people you meet based on your expectations or the categories you have established in your minds. Instead, try to be open and curious and resist stereotyping people.

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  • Create your own luck. Researchers have found people who describe themselves as lucky tend to notice things more than self-described unlucky people. They also act on unexpected opportunities and network well with others because they're curious. Unlucky people tend to be tense and so focused on narrow goals that they miss opportunities.
  • Don't let accidents annoy you. Plenty of inventions--such as Penicillin, The Slinky and chewing gum--came into being because someone didn't brush past an accident, but studied it instead.
  • Play with children's toys. Playing children are really good at making new connections. "I'm not the least bit self-conscious about my toy collection," Sawyer writes. "If you walk into just about any supercreative company, you'll find toys all over the place."

4. Play and pretend.

When you play, your mind can wander and your subconscious has time to work. This is why time off from work is necessary for creativity to bloom.

  • Explore the future. Imagine yourself being wildly successful five years from now. Write down as many details about what this success looks like. Then write the history of how you got there asking yourself questions such as, "What was the first step you took to move toward your goal?" or "What was one early obstacle and how did you move past it?"
  • Leave something undone. If at the end of the day you leave a task slightly unfinished it may be easier to start on the next day. That's because cognitive threads are left hanging in your mind and as you go about your non-work activities your subconscious might hook onto them and give you a sudden insight.
  • Become a beginner. Learn how to do something new, such as Hula-Hooping, juggling, carving wood, or archery.

5. Generate lots of ideas.

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This is the part where you come up with ideas, and lots of them.

  • List unusual uses for common household objects. What are lots of different ways you could use a paper clip, brick, or knife? Give yourself five minutes to come up with a long list. Don't worry about whether your ideas are stupid or not.
  • Try toppling. This is where you use free association to keep generating new words. The trick, though, is to use a different kind of connection between each one. For example, if you start with "carrot" you can't free associate another vegetable; instead, you might pick "stick," as in the phrase "carrot and a stick," then "glue" because you're thinking of a glue stick. Another example: "Rock" might lead to "Scotch" because you drink it on the rocks.
  • Set an idea time. Block out a regular time when you're sharp, relaxed, and undistracted. Julia Cameron, author of popular self-help book "The Artist's Way" suggests taking 30 minutes each morning to freewrite in a journal. As you do, you'll notice new ideas creeping in.

6. Fuse ideas.

This involves combining things that don't normally go together. In a recent study British neuroscientist Paul Howard-Jones asked people to create stories by giving them only three words. To one set of people the words were related, such as "brush," "teeth," and "shine." Another set of people received unrelated words such as "cow," "zip," and "star." The people who received the unrelated words made up more creative stories.

  • Make remote associations. Go to page 56 in two different books and find the fifth sentence on each. Now create a story that tells the connection between the two.
  • Use analogy. Find similarity between two things that on the surface seem different. Find something that's removed from your problem, then define five structural properties of it. Instead of listing "sharp" or "metal" for a knife, for example, you'd want to identify things like "requires downward pressure to cut." How can these characteristics apply to whatever you're trying solve?
  • Engage with people who are different from you. We hang out with people who are like us, and while doing so may be comforting, it's not stretching. Also try imagining yourself as someone else--such as a chef, a foreign student, a building inspector. How would such people see the world?

7. Choose the best ideas.

If you've followed the first six steps, you should have plenty of ideas. Now the trick is picking the best ones.

  • Know what you're looking for. To do that, you need to trust your intuition--the sense that an idea has beauty. Sawyer also recommends going with ideas that are simple, elegant, and robust (the latter referring to a design that will keep working under adversity or if used improperly).
  • Make ideas compete against each other. Select two of them and define how they're different, even in the most subtle ways. Or if you have more than 50 ideas write each one on a sticky note or index cards. Move ideas that seem related close together. You'll arrive at idea clusters and can look at interesting differences between ideas; perhaps they all vary along the same dimension.
  • Look past the good. Once you've decided an idea is a good one, identify its pros and cons, assign each one a number between one and 10 according to how important it is. The pro total should be significantly higher than your tally for cons. You should also think of the worst-case scenario. What terrible things might happen to foil the success of your idea?
  • Never stop editing. Everything can always be made better. Find a devil's advocate to come up with a bunch of reasons why your idea is a bad one. Or, ask people you trust will be honest with you to look critically at your idea. And even failed ideas can be repurposed. The Post It, Sawyer points out, was the result of an adhesive that didn't work very well.
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8. Make something out of your great ideas.

Sawyer holds up the Silicon Valley design firm IDEO for its use of "design thinking," which seeks to get simple versions of an idea into the world as early as possible--maybe in an hour or a day--by using simple materials such as clay or cardboard to give shape to a new concept. It's a way of thinking through making, a process that often leads to more ideas.

  • Draw a picture. Even if you think you can't draw, you can at least doodle and no one ever has to see what you put to paper. Abstract problems--such as your relationship with someone or a crushing workload--benefit most from turning them into sketches. Cartooning with exaggerated shapes or using simple symbols helps.
  • Make a collage. Grab a stack of magazines and look for photos and ads. Clip any that relate to your problem in any way and glue them to a large piece of poster board. Keep this art near your desk where you can ponder it. You may get a new perspective on your problem.
  • Build something. Legos, Tinkertoys, an Erector Set, modeling clay, Silly Putty, and Play-Doh are all good materials you can use to build your idea. Sawyer himself keeps a bag of Legos in his briefcase for times when he has nothing to do.

Check out Sawyer's book if you want to know more--he claims it offers more than 100 tips on how to be more creative.

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FAQs

How to Be creative in life? ›

  1. Change your daily routine and look at the world through fresh eyes. ...
  2. Document everything, take photographs, collect things and keep mementos. ...
  3. Be resourceful. ...
  4. Keep your phone at arm's length. ...
  5. Give yourself deadlines. ...
  6. Forget what you've done in the past. ...
  7. Say 'yes' more than 'no' ...
  8. Build your creative network.
Jul 17, 2018

How to start something creative? ›

Here are his steps for cultivating creativity, along with a sampling of tips that can help you along the way.
  1. Ask the right question. ...
  2. Become an expert. ...
  3. Be open and aware. ...
  4. Play and pretend. ...
  5. Generate lots of ideas. ...
  6. Fuse ideas. ...
  7. Choose the best ideas. ...
  8. Make something out of your great ideas.
Sep 5, 2013

How to Be More creative in Project? ›

23 creative project ideas
  1. Write a blog post. A blog post is a web article you can write on any topic that interests you. ...
  2. Write a poem. ...
  3. Write a short story. ...
  4. Create custom bookmarks. ...
  5. Create a poster. ...
  6. Create digital artwork. ...
  7. Take a photo series. ...
  8. Create a vision board.

Where do ideas come from 5 ways to get creative? ›

Five Ways to Create New Ideas and Boost Creativity
  • Get your creative juices flowing by doing something you love.
  • Collaborate with someone else to start problem solving.
  • Give yourself psychological distance.
  • Do some physical activity.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.
Jul 4, 2019

What makes a person creative? ›

Recent evidence suggests that creativity involves a complex interplay between spontaneous and controlled thinking – the ability to both spontaneously brainstorm ideas and deliberately evaluate them to determine whether they'll actually work.

Why creative is important? ›

Creativity allows us to view and solve problems more openly and with innovation. Creativity opens the mind. A society that has lost touch with its creative side is an imprisoned society, in that generations of people may be closed minded. It broadens our perspectives and can help us overcome prejudices.

How can I be creative and smart? ›

7 Powerful Habits That Can Instantly Make You Smarter and More...
  1. Start an idea journal.
  2. Unleash your inner explorer.
  3. Become a voracious reader.
  4. Step outside your creative comfort zone.
  5. Exercise.
  6. Walk away and go enjoy life.
  7. Take a break from the noise.
Jul 20, 2017

How can I be creative with words? ›

How to Generate Original Creative Ideas with Random Word...
  1. Step 1: Formulate a specific problem statement. ...
  2. Step 2: Gather random stimuli. ...
  3. Step 3: Create associations between random words, your challenge. ...
  4. Step 4: Increase your associations. ...
  5. Step 5: Make more connections.
Aug 9, 2009

How can I improve my creativity and imagination? ›

We like these 10 ways to increase imagination for better creative thinking by Operation Meditation:
  1. Open your mind to unexplored paths. ...
  2. Read more. ...
  3. Tell stories. ...
  4. Be curious. ...
  5. Don't be afraid to try something new. ...
  6. Expand your interests. ...
  7. Develop your talents. ...
  8. Spend time with creative people.

What are creative ideas? ›

A creative idea is the result of two or more notions coming together in the mind in order to create an all new notion; a creative idea, which in turn becomes a useful notion for future creative ideas.

How do you feel creative? ›

How To Be Creative When You're Feeling Drained And Uninspired
  1. Change Your Environment. The very first thing I do when I feel uninspired is to change my physical environment. ...
  2. Take A Walk. ...
  3. Make Something For Play. ...
  4. Try Something New. ...
  5. Take A Trip. ...
  6. Have A Mentor. ...
  7. Read A Book. ...
  8. Listen To A Podcast.
Nov 30, 2015

What are some examples of creative thinking? ›

Examples of creative thinking skills include: problem solving, writing, visual art, communication skills, and open-mindedness.

What are the five stages of creativity? ›

The 5-Step Creative Process
  • Stage One: Preparation. The preparation stage is the brainstorming stage. ...
  • Stage Two: Incubation. ...
  • Stage Three: Illumination. ...
  • Stage Four: Evaluation. ...
  • Stage Five: Verification.
Apr 2, 2021

What are the 8 creative types? ›

A very quick, 15-question and purposefully abstract test based in psychology research and developed by the folks at Adobe Create will lead to an outcome of one of these eight Creative Types: The Artist, The Thinker, The Adventurer, The Maker, The Producer, The Dreamer, The Innovator, and The Visionary.

What is a creative thinking? ›

At its core, creative thinking is intentionally gaining new insights and different ideas through existing information. Often, creative thought involves tapping into different styles of thinking and examining information from different viewpoints to see new patterns. Anyone can foster a creative mind with some practice!

How do I say I am a creative person? ›

Imaginative” is one of the most unambiguous ways to say “creative.” To be “imaginative” means possessing or showing signs of creativity, such as with concepts or ideas.

How is creativity a strength? ›

Research findings indicate that creativity helps in promoting divergent thinking - thinking about many ways to solve a problem. Self-confidence and greater self-knowledge are byproducts of creativity that can help you feel comfortable in a variety of situations and adapt to challenges and stressors.

What are 3 reasons why creativity is important? ›

  • #1. Creativity helps you see the big picture. ...
  • #2. Creativity helps motivate you. ...
  • #3. Creativity helps with problem-solving. ...
  • #4. Creativity can make you more productive. ...
  • #5. Creativity boosts your confidence. ...
  • #6. Creativity helps clarify your thoughts and feelings.

What is the true meaning of creativity? ›

Creativity is defined as the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.

Can creativity make you smarter? ›

Early studies investigating the relationship between intelligence and creativity showed that highly creative individuals are also of higher intelligence (Barron, 1963, 1969; Getzels & Jackson, 1962).

Can you teach yourself to be creative? ›

Yes, creativity skills can be learned. Not from sitting in a lecture, but by learning and applying creative thinking processes.

What makes good creative writing? ›

Creative writers work with ideas and imagination, with words made up on the spot. Creative writing can be just as elaborate as creating an entire world for your story — but at it's most basic level, creative writing involves creating characters and background settings to tell a simple story.

How do you exercise creativity? ›

10 Exercises to Spark Original Thinking and Increase Creativity
  1. Write a six-word story.
  2. Avoid the letter “e”
  3. Write by hand.
  4. Eliminate “I, “me,” “my” and “mine” from your vocabulary.
  5. Give your project limitations.
  6. Use a writing prompt.
  7. Look at things from a new perspective.
  8. Write down the question you're trying to answer.
May 31, 2016

How can students develop creativity skills? ›

Here are some suggestions from psychologists and educators for how to develop and nurture your students' creativity:
  1. Create a compassionate, accepting environment. ...
  2. Be present with students' ideas. ...
  3. Encourage autonomy. ...
  4. Re-word assignments to promote creative thinking. ...
  5. Give students direct feedback on their creativity.
Dec 17, 2018

Why is imagination important in life? ›

Imagination helps boost kids' social, emotional, creative, physical, linguistic and cognitive development — crucial skills children will take into adulthood. Most importantly, playing pretend is an enjoyable activity. Kids will be having too much fun to notice they're learning vital life skills.

Can you force creativity? ›

Creativity is a natural process that can be nurtured, harnessed, and cultivated. Forcing creativity rarely works. Staring at a blank page will not only stress you out, but it's highly likely that you won't be able to come up with anything useful. Nothing special comes out of forcing creativity.

How do I find my inner creativity? ›

How to Find Your Inner Creativity
  1. Create lists. “Listing” can be liberating for the mind and free up space for more creative thoughts and ideas. ...
  2. Always have a notebook close by. ...
  3. Write even when you don't have to. ...
  4. Sip coffee. ...
  5. Be open. ...
  6. Ask for feedback. ...
  7. Surround yourself with interesting people. ...
  8. Make mistakes.
Jun 19, 2020

How do you push yourself creatively? ›

Either way – win, win and, erm, win.
  1. 1) Park It. Set your completed idea/project safely to one side and challenge yourself to come up with 5 alternatives or variations. ...
  2. 2) Get Another Brain In The Mix. Pitch the concept to someone clever who isn't involved. ...
  3. 3) Be Inspired by Amazing.
Oct 5, 2015

Is everyone born with creativity? ›

Short Answer: No, Creatives aren't born, they're created over time and in the right environment.

Does everyone have creativity? ›

Everyone can be creative, where they realize it or not. A lot of people tend to think creativity is binary: Either you have it, or you don't. But in reality, we do all have it. It's just a matter of how we interpret it.

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