Do you think it’s possible to become more creative? Is creativity natural, or developed? Is it a limited commodity, and you’re just stuck with however much of it you have? Is it even possible for a small-church pastor to be creative with limited budgets, no staff, and few options?
I think you can become more creative.
Here’s my definition of creativity: The skill or ability to view problems and possibilities in new ways, and find solutions that are novel and courageous.
So how do we develop the skill of creativity? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Read broadly.
Take some time and check out authors that break boxes, think fresh thoughts, and have an “upside down” way of viewing things. This will mean reading people who disagree with you politically and synthesize differently than you are used to.
Try some of these:
- Shel Silverstein (poetry for children)
- Dr. Seuss
- Sherlock Holmes
- Malcolm Gladwell
- CS Lewis
- JRR Tolkien
- Roger Van Oech
2. Strategically break your routine.
Seeing the same things the same ways will eventually result in stifled creativity because it doesn’t give you new experiences or information to process and synthesize.
- Eat somewhere new.
- Take a new road to work.
- Learn a new skill.
- Read a book about something different or weird
- Do a new kind of recreation (If you’re an inside guy, go out. Or vice versa!)
- Talk with someone outside your normal circle – ask them questions
Identify what is unique and different about these experiences. You may not like them – you might even decide not to do it again.
3. Think childish.
Kids see ways to solve problems creatively because they haven’t been discouraged yet by how many wrong answers there are. What if you recaptured that mindset by deciding to ignore the voice that says there’s only one right answer?
- Shut down the inner voice that says “that’s stupid.”
- Deliberately suspend your disbelief.
- Force yourself to come up with ten different ways to do something, even if four of them are completely ludicrous.
The person who rolls their eyes at an over-the-top suggestion may be right, but they are not creative. So don’t be that guy.
4. Involve others.
Some people are “Yes, and…” people. Some are “yes, but…” people. You know who I’m talking about. When you want to get creative, it is important who you choose to be around you. The right people will help you break through a creative block.
As Sherlock Holmes said, “It may be that you are not yourself luminous, but that you are a conductor of light. Some people without possessing genius have a remarkable power of stimulating it” (Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir A. Conan Doyle).
5. Be ready to capture ideas.
Brainstorming is a huge part of the art of creativity. But you have to have a way to capture those creative ideas.
Don’t let a flash of insight slip by! Write them down in Evernote, or put them in your Todoist list. Sketch it on a napkin. Take pictures with your smartphone.
6. Plan ahead.
Don’t wait until the last minute. Creativity is useless if you don’t have time to execute the idea.
Time pressure only creates the base layer of creativity. Going to the next level of great creative ideas requires margin. So start early.
7. Get enough sleep.
There is abundant research saying that if you don’t sleep, your life will suffer. You’ll make less effective decisions, your productivity will drop, and your creativity will suffer. So make yourself go to sleep. Check out Michael Hyatt’s post on evening routines for help.
8. Ask “What if…?” and “Why not?”
The more you ask these two questions, the more you unleash your creativity. Even if the answer is “obvious,” go ahead and ask the question. What you gain from the question is more than the answer – it is perspective.
9. Use metaphor and simile often.
If creativity really is the synthesis of ideas, metaphor is a great laboratory. To practice this, ask yourself, How is this problem like other problems? If this situation was a [car, storm, war, family, factory], what would each piece be called?”
This forces your brain into a synthesis mode of completely different sets of ideas, which is the essence of creativity.
10. Laugh at yourself.
Creativity = Ridiculous.
Ridiculous = funny.
Funny = people laugh.
People laughing at you = bad.
Therefore, Creativity = bad.
If that’s your logic, you’ll never grow your creative skill.
So if you decide that you’re okay with being a little ridiculous, and can develop the ability to laugh at yourself, you’ll be further down the road toward being truly creative.