Cultivating Creativity

Science fiction author Philip K. Dick did everything he could to force himself to be more creative. He read about it, studied it, and put everything he learned into practice. To him, being a great writer meant being more creative and cleverer than everyone else. Sadly, he often took things too far, trying all sorts of substances to the point of paranoia and hallucinations. Most authors don’t need to see visions to be creative, and most of us get into writing because we have a creative itch that must be scratched. But even though many of us think of ourselves as creative, perhaps we could all benefit from reasonably following in Philip K. Dick’s footsteps and come up with ways we can awaken deeper levels of creativity in ourselves?

Many have written on the subject, and came to similar conclusions that to be creative you have to be able to draw from multiple sources and make new connections among these sources. Along with that, you have to set boundaries for yourself. These boundaries create focus, and this focus can lead to purposeful writing. You can discover what you want to say and how you want to go about saying it. In order to do this well, you need to learn as much as you can. You need to read every work of fiction and non-fiction that you possibly can. Fight Club author, Chuck Palahniuk, has often said that when he first started writing he was surprised by how much of his time was spent doing research. And this is what every writer who wants to become more creative has to do: learn as much as they possibly can on as many different topics as possible.

CreativityAnother way you can spark creativity is to avoid lazy thinking. Don’t think or speak in clichés. Force yourself to pay deep attention to things; be mindful. If you are so inclined, you could even take up meditation to help sharpen your mindfulness skills. Of course, this can also help relax you, which aids in concentration and focus.

Keeping the mind sharp is another approach to encouraging creativity. Doing brain exercises, such as those on Lumosity.com, or doing lots and lots of word games and math problems can help you be more creative. This helps by improving your focus, attention and problem solving skills. All of these things work together to improve your creativity.

One exercise that you can do that will help spark creativity is to make several lists and then match items randomly from each list. You will soon find plenty of interesting and new ideas forming as you merge items from these lists together. For example, I write a lot of speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror) so I could make a list of possible settings for such stories. Then I would make a list of various, traditional monsters or supernatural creatures. The end result might be zombies on the moon, an invasion of space werewolves, or vampires working in a robot factory. So the more interesting and diverse your lists, the more and more ideas you can start to generate.

Finally, in order to be creative you have to work at it. Sometimes it appears as though great ideas just “come to you,” but in reality, it is simply your mind making a connection that it has never made before. You’ve done all sorts of work, and thinking, and practicing, and revising to get to this point, so when it arrives, it’s not spontaneous; it’s the result of all your hard work.

The Summary:

  1. Learn, learn, learn about everything you can.
  2. Avoid lazy thinking.
  3. Don’t write about the first several things that come to mind.
  4. Do mindfulness meditation daily
  5. Do puzzles, games, and other mind bending exercises
  6. Make lists
  7. 7. Endure. Keep working at it!
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