Troubleshoot Your Creativity Blocks- Tricks and Exercises

Here’s a believe it or not fact – Everyone is creative! Maybe in various capacities, across a spectrum – We are all creative. You don’t need a career in a creative field such as advertising or film making or writing to vouch for your creativity. 

what is creativity

You were creative when you wrote your school essays, or drew graffiti on the class blackboard, or simply cooked up stories when faced in an awkward situation. In fact even the different novel ways of posing on social media and Instagram is creativity! 

So what exactly is creativity? The American Psychological Association has defined creativity as the ability to produce or develop original work, theories, techniques, or thoughts. A creative individual typically displays originality, imagination, and expressiveness. 

So, creativity and innovation are the most sought after qualities in any professional space. No wonder this is what makes us different from machines and is one faculty which will take a long time to be mastered by Artificial Intelligence. 

IMPORTANCE OF CREATIVITY

importance of creativity

So what purpose does creativity serve us unless we are from a creative profession. Creativity may not be the oxygen for the body but is definitely important for our well being.

  • Problem solving – The number one benefit of creative thinking is that it channelises one’s energy into an active pursuit of solving a problem. Take any creative task, it begins by chalking out the task at hand and finding out the solutions to get to the solution. Having a problem solving attitude gives up an upper hand in your profession, as a family member and in life in general. Problem solving is an important by-product of critical thinking. Critical thinking involves analysing a particular problem and analyse facts and come up with plausible solutions. Where critical thinking ends, creative thinking begins.
  • Stress Reliever – we all have our problems what we are dealing with. But you and your mind breaking from these problems is of utmost importance to maintain sanity. Taking up a hobby or some creative pursuit keeps your mind from overthinking and lends a fresh perspective to your problems when you come back to it. 
  • Freedom of expression: Creative pursuits gives you a voice like no other. You may not be the best of speakers but you can write pages and pages about the topic close to your heart. Similarly, you may not be the greatest of dancers but if you get a hang of rhythm then maybe you may pick up a musical instrument. During the act of pursuing a creative task, all your emotions get focussed and used up thereby lending an outlet for your thought processes.
  • Community feeling – Man is a social being indeed. Connecting with like-minded people who have similar interests could lead to fireworks in the brain as the brain finds it very stimulating. In the age of social media and online posts, finding a community following similar creative pursuits is not very difficult. The biggest advantage of being part of a group connected with a creative pursuit is the flow of ideas and also holding one accountable. 
  • Added hours during the day – Taking up a creative activity slows down our chaotic thought processes and our sense of time. No one would complain about having  extra hours added to their day. 
  • Overall feeling of well-being – The feeling of having created something of your own is a joy unmatched. It brings about a sense of pride, achievement and happiness at having overcome obstacles and come out winning on top. It can shut down the negavitty, and past mediocrity and bad experiences and literally give you a new lease of life. 

So although we are all creative beings, a lot of us differ in our creativity or rather our display of creativity. SnapChat co-founder Evan Spiegel believes all of us are creative, but it is fear that suppresses our creativity. In India, our educational system and schooling are often blamed for bursting the creativity bubble. Lets see, what are the other things that differentiate our creativity? 

Genes – Let’s face it. Some of them are gifted. The way they talk or write or make things reeks of novelty. According to this study, published in the Journal of Personality, although genes and our environment play a big role, genetics does seem to have a larger impact on our creativity.

Life situations – As much as nature plays an important role in creativity, nurture is an equally important component. Some are born into an environment where creative juices are flowing all the time. For instance, an artist’s house. It is difficult to escape the onslaught of creativity in such a situation where the mind is trained to think creatively from a tender age. 

Tapping into our interests – While each of us may be creative, whether we chose to chase our interests and pursue them determines how efficiently we exercise our creative muscle. American poet and writer Maya Angelou has famously said, “You cant use up creativity. The more you use, the more you get.”

TIPS TO BOOST CREATIVITY

how to improve creativity

So what are the tips and tricks to get creative? Is creativity something that can be developed? Apparently yes. 

  1. High interest levels – This is the prerequisite for developing any creativity. Unless you are interested or passionate enough, creative pursuits are likely to be short lived. Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest artists to ever walk the earth felt that action was the foundational key to success. “To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing,” Picasso when asked about the prerequisites of creativity. 
  1. Do something completely different – It was only when Archimedes was enjoying himself inside a bathtub could be crack the buoyancy principle leading to his famous “Eureka” moment. Diverting your attention to something completely different often leads to a spurt of creativity. Maybe exercise or simply listen to music or call a friend. However, not just diverting attention physically, but it’s also important to divert mental thoughts away from interest matters for a while. Infact Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has taken this to another level altogether when he scrapped off limited paid leaves and opted for unlimited vacation time. “I try to set a great example by taking a lot of vacation…And some of the time you come up with your greatest ideas when you’re on vacation,” Reed has been often quoted as saying..
  1. A Power Walk – Walking is said to be an important tool to give you a breakthrough when it comes to creativity and innovation. The late Apple founder Steve Jobs, who is known to have pushed the limits when it came to innovation with Apple products, mostly preferred to walk around the Apple campus for brainstorming ideas.
  1. Writing – Writing down your pursuits can often lead to amazing results. Writing helps you slow down your thought process and deal with a particular problem from a detached view thus leading to better solutions. It’s not surprising that a number of creative people maintain a written account or dairy to record their thought processes. Mozart, the great musician, was one such creative personality who “wrote until it was 1 am in the night.”
  1. Mind map – This has helped me on numerous occasions to come up with a creative solution. This involved simply writing down a word and randomly writing more words or concepts associated with that word. The results are surprising as it could lead to thoughts and answers you didn’t know existed. Also a visual representation of the problem tends to have a better effect on problem solving. This could work for any field really and not just writing. American writer, comedian, rapper, actor, producer Don Harmon relies on an algorithm such as this to thrash out a series, plot or storyline.
Mind map
  1. Feedback or Discussions – Feedback is vital when it comes to creative thinking. OK so you have the next best idea but to know how well it can be implemented in the real world, you need to talk and discuss it with real people. At the end of the day our creative pursuits are adding value to someone or somebody out there. Discussing it with peer groups or colleagues or simply inviting feedback from friends or customers not only vets your ideas but leads to further idea generation from their end. This opens doors for your creativity. 

Retail behemoth Amazon Inc’s Jeff Bezos known to be constantly a step ahead when it comes to innovation has said, “If you are competitor focussed, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focussed allows you to be more pioneering.”

  1. Start afresh – It’s very easy to get attached to our ideas even though it may not all that great. However, you have to take the hard decision of detaching yourself from the idea and starting afresh, from a different perspective. Have more than one options for an idea. That way its easier to pick the best of many rather than reworking on one mediocre idea. The great scientist Albert Einstein’s words of wisdom ring true when he said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
  1. The Right Mood – The right setting plays an important role in letting the creative juices flow. Some people prefer a particular time when they are at their creative best. Renowned music director A. R. Rahman is known to create music in the dead of the night. Some prefer music to get into the mood while some want silence. Most importantly the mind has to feel peaceful and happy for ideas to get generated. A chaotic scenario is never going to give birth to ideas. As much as Google Inc is famous for its search engine and its innovative product line-up, it is equally well-known for its innovative workspaces and there is a close-knit connection between the two. Until 2017, Google made it to the top company to work for six years in a row. Although it may have slipped lower in the list today, it continues to remain among the favourites. 
  1. Seeking Inspiration – Inspiration is all around us, all we need to do is open our senses and minds to it. Most of the modern scientific inventions have been inspired from the animal kingdom. A US-based start-up aims to work on a self – filling water bottle inspired by the Namib desert beetle. This beetle collects moisture from the air, which gets condensed on its back and get stored as water. Similar inspirations can be found from other people and different businesses, one just has to keep our sense organs and perceptions open.
  1. Sleep and Eat healthy – You may prefer to work off hours like Rahman but he could be one of the genius exception to the rule. A good night’s sleep goes a long way in churning out ideas. Similarly eating healthy food also is equally important. Food has a direct connection with our state of well being. Eating a heavy meal definitely makes you sluggish. A balanced meal with fruits and vegetables and nuts and antioxidants will give the burst of energy need for your brain to churn out ideas. 
  1. Social Media Detox –  Social media is like a rabbit hole which once you fall into can get difficult to get out of. It can end up consuming a chunk of your time even before you can realise. The nature and the ergonomics of social media be it the unlimited scroll feature or the images that go along with it is meant to addict the user to it. Although there could be a few ideas that may be inspiring on social media, a detox now and then helps you use time more effectively. As preachy as this sounds, you can use the time to instead do something more useful and creative instead of watching someone else’s profiles and videos. Ed Sheeran, the famous English songwriter-singer, quit Twitter in 2017 exasperated with the negative comments on social media and has said that the decision improved his life “massively”.

CREATIVITY EXERCISES

If you’ve not had enough of your CAT and GMAT examination problems, there are a number of creative exercises out there where you can put your creativity to test. These exercises can be solved using pen and paper, building materials, or using the multi-modal approach that can expand our creative thinking faculties. Some of the common exercises are 

creative exercises
  • 30 circles (You will be given a sheet of 30 circles. Within a set time, you have to draw different things out of the 30 circles)
  • Paper clip test (Try to use the paper clip in different ways other than a paper clip)
  • Dictionary Story (Pick a word randomly from the dictionary and create a story out of it)
  • Freewrite (Let your thoughts run amok along with your pen)
  • Draw again (Pick an object and draw it in different ways every day or week)

There is never a start or stop button to creativity. Creativity simply flows. So take charge of it and get going. Let me know if these tips helped you tap into your creative zone.

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