7 Habits that Nurture Creativity
May 3, 2017 | makingmidwest
Cold showers help promote creativity? Yes. I recently challenged myself to take only cold showers for 40 days straight.
At first, it was pretty difficult to even stand in the water without yelling obscenities. Early on I was tempted to quit because it was uncomfortable. As the days went on, my body began to adjust to the temperature, and the cold became less and less harsh. After 40 days, to my great surprise, I have decided to continue taking cold showers because they have had several benefits for me. I feel more awake and aware in the morning. The cold water forces me to practice deep breathing, much like someone who practices meditation. Most of all, cold showers have gotten me out of my comfort zone. This mindset has helped me combat fear in my own creative endeavors.
Let’s face it, creativity is hard because it is uncomfortable! I am now more disciplined and ready to submerge myself into difficult situations and projects. When you can overcome desires for small comforts and gratifications (like wanting a nice, warm, toasty shower), you’re strengthening your willpower. I know that even if something is difficult for a while, if I stay with it, it will get better over time. And, hey, if cold showers aren’t your thing, find something else that disrupts your comfort level. Fast from a favorite food or activity, wake up an hour early in the morning, or anonymously do an extra chore or act of kindness.
SWEN stands for Sleep, Water, Exercise, Nutrition. Now I’m no doctor, but without S.W.E.N my mind would not be in a healthy state to foster creativity. If there is ever a time I just don’t feel right, I can usually trace it back to a lack in one or more of these areas.
Get Sleep. They say 6-8 hours of sleep a night is ideal. I try to get at least 8 every night, because that’s what works best for me. If you can’t do it all at once naps are great, too! A well-rested mind is an active mind.
Drink Water. Yes, water gets its own category because it’s that important. I compare it to having the right amount of coolant in your car. You want your car to run properly and not break down, right? You should think of your body in the same way. Keep yourself hydrated and drink more water than you think you need. There’s nothing worse than working with a cough and itchy throat.
Get Exercise. A lot of people recommend activities like taking walks, doing yoga and working out to help boost your creativity. Personally, I enjoy running. It improves my mood and keeps my mind sharp. A lot of times during my runs or right after, new ideas will swim through my head. After a good exercise, I am usually rushing to record my ideas before I forget them.
Nutrition. Ever worked on a project and you were so locked in that you forgot to eat? It’s important to not let this happen. Take a break from your project and have a healthy meal or snack. Slamming a Monster and bag of Cheetos may help you in the short term, but you will likely regret it later. Your brain runs on vitamins and minerals. We shouldn’t forget to value the nutrients our brain needs. Eat well and you will think well.
I find that setting aside time each week to discover new things helps further my creativity. I usually try to spend about 1-2 hours per week seeking inspiration. There are many different things you can do to get inspiration. In college, my entrepreneurship teacher constantly reminded us that we should have a library of things that inspire us. Back in his day, it was a huge binder of magazine/newspaper clippings. Today, with the internet, there are so many tools you can use to do this quickly. I recommend keeping a folder or Pinterest board of all things you find interesting. At Pixel Park, my coworkers and I keep a folder on our server of videos that inspire us. Each week we watch a few videos as a team and then talk about them. Another way to get inspiration is by broadening your experiences. Watch a play, go antique shopping, or play a new sport. The opportunities are endless. Open your mind to things you don’t normally see and you will start making things you don’t normally make.
Declutter Your Brain
We live in a world of clutter! You will never be able escape the billboards, radio ads, and marketing targeted at you. All those things are using up space in your brain that you could use for creative thinking. There are a number of things you can do to minimize the stuff that surrounds you and clear out space in your brain for creativity. In our day and age, social media is a huge distraction. It isn’t intrinsically bad, but overusing it just to mindlessly scroll could damage your ability to be creative. You have to ask yourself this question: “What am I gaining from this time?” If you aren’t learning, you are likely just pacifying yourself and therefore wasting precious brain cells.
You can also minimize the stuff around you like your belongings. Do you need 35 t-shirts? Do you want to make your brain choose between all those shirts every morning? For me, the answer is no. I own only a small closet full of clothes. It’s these small steps towards decluttering your brain that can help free your mind for more important critical thinking.
I have a love-hate relationship with deadlines. They always come so quick, and I am never 100% satisfied with the outcome. But, I’m glad they are there. Deadlines force my brain to really start working. Most of us are procrastinators, which means we need that added pressure to get stuff done. I actually had to set a deadline for this blog! I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, but as soon as I put in on the calendar, my mind subconsciously started getting to work.
One art exercise I’ve tried over the last few months forces me to finish projects frequently. I start with a blank canvas, set the timer for 60 minutes, and dive right in. My brain has to get to work quickly because there is no time for procrastinating. Since I have a such a quick deadline, I know that I can’t overthink all my design choices. I create some of my most imaginative art during these exercises!
Reroute your GPS
Do you take the same way to-and-from work everyday? Try taking a different route. Just the other weekend, my wife Alli and I were traveling back to Columbus from a couple hours away. Just a few minutes into our drive our GPS stopped working. Since we didn’t have a map in the car, we decided to follow the compass in the car to find our way home. To our pleasant surprise, we ended up going through a lot of Amish towns and saw several horse and buggies on the roads. We saw beautiful hills and rivers that looked like something straight out of a travel brochure!
Changing your route helps you avoid going through the motions. Have you ever just been driving and get home, but don’t remember your drive at all? First of all, that is just scary. Secondly, who knows what you may have missed on the way back? A beautiful sunset, a bald eagle, or maybe something even more spectacular, like a 90’s Astro van that your mom used to drive. And then the memories of your childhood come flooding back!
You can apply this to the way you work, too. For me, as an animator, it can be easy to animate something the way I know will definitely work. But if I approach the animation from a different direction, I open the possibility for a more creative outcome.
Will you fail? Could you get lost? Sure thing. Actually, I guarantee you will from time to time, but those scenarios can lead to the most creative, unexpected outcomes.
Be a Maker
By now, you might have some ideas of how to nurture creativity in your usual work, tasks, and activities. Finally, I encourage you to push yourself to use other mediums. If you’re a painter, try picking up a musical instrument and make a song. If you’re a woodworker, try your hand at origami. If you’re an animator, try writing a blog (hey, that’s me!). These small challenges in unfamiliar territory can bring small victories. When you don’t know a lick about oil painting but you jump in and make something, it garners confidence. Being a maker of many different trades pushes your mind to be flexible and creative. A runner who trains to run a marathon competitively might run, lift, bike and do ab exercises. Even though it might seem like running and working out legs is enough, the best runners don’t avoid all these other workouts. And you shouldn’t limit yourself to only one form of creating. Flexing those different creative muscles will help train yourself to become an innovative person.