Ever have those days when you want to create something, but you do not know where to start? You realize you are at the cusp of it but seemed stuck. There are a hundred ways to fuel one’s creativity. As a maker, I have dwindled mine down to these actionable methods I usually apply. This article talks about five effective ways to fuel creativity. 

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Creativity is not just for artists. 

By definition, according to the dictionary, “it refers to the use of the imagination or original ideas.”  In whatever profession you are in, it is needed to solve problems. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom trying to find better organization methods for your home or a professor revising a curriculum, you’re most likely applying creativite thinking whether you realize it or not.

A couple of years ago, my family decided to go to Paris.  We had it all planned out.  My husband and I realized that it was going to be our first big trip since having a child.  Along with our then 5-year-old, we headed to SFO airport.  The Bay Area traffic on Mondays can be pretty bad.  That morning, it rained. Coming from California’s capital, with all the traffic and weather conditions, it took us well over 2 hours to arrive. We missed our flight! Yup, that’s right!


Creativity at work!

Sorely disappointed, I sat feeling defeated, griped at how we underestimated our time. Right then, I knew I needed to shake off the negativity; it was time to do some crisis management for our vacation that seemed to have already ended before it even began. After taking a quick 5-minute bathroom break, allowing the wheels to turn in my head, an idea sparked – to find another flight to a nearby European City and go from there, after all, this was going to be an adventure. Eleven hours later, we were in London with no solid plan. A trip we will never forget and lessons we have uncovered in our marriage – with teamwork and creativity, there are always solutions to a dilemma no matter how significant or not.

View of London Eye.  A trip that resulted from creativity.
During our memorable London trip.

Remember the famous Maybelline commercial tag – “maybe she is born with it”?  Well, in this case, it is not the make-up; I call it perseverance. Like any other skill in life, creativity is learnable.  While some are more natural at it than others, creativity, like a muscle, when exercised and challenged, gets better each time you use it. 


Unstuck yourself!

When I sit on my work desk and need to start on a creative project, it could be a million things running through my head; I’m fidgeting, scribbling, typing, flipping through pages of my notepad, or just staring blankly on my MacBook and I could hear crickets.  Frequently, I have found myself stuck, and when I am in this situation, I figured there is no point beating my head hoping for something to come up.  So, I turn to these five effective ways to fuel my creativity.


Take a walk

This method is the easiest of all five, and yes, it doesn’t take running for miles (whew! Thank goodness). Walking is not only good for our body; the same is true for our brain.  Studies show that a quick 10-minute walk or any light physical activity is enough to boost creative thinking.  One of my walks led me to build my website.  It was a beautiful spring morning, had my trail shoes on, and thought of the possibilities.  I had zero knowledge on how to create a website but confident enough in knowing that anyone who has access to a computer, along with the initiative to learn and figure things out, I knew it was going to be doable.  As a result, here I am, creating and sharing my work with you.  You can find my story on this journey in my first blog post entry here.

An image of me engaging in walking activity as one effective way to fuel creativity.
A self-portrait during one of my walks last fall.

According to a Stanford research report, Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking,  walking produced a significant increase in the “participants’ creative ideation” as opposed to sitting (web).  Whether you’re walking on a treadmill, facing a blank wall or out in nature, it produces the same result. So let’s put on those walking shoes and while you’re at it, count your steps using this:

Count your steps with the Fitbit Inspire. Take a walk to fuel creativity
The Fitbit Inspire


Find inspiration in images

Have you ever looked at an image, abstract or not, and you feel a strong emotional response to it?  I do, all the time! Visual information for me is exciting.  Whether you see an ensemble and you tell yourself, “that would look good on me!”; or perhaps a craft like this (hopefully! Wink wink), you get that feeling of inspiration, and you store it in your memory or perhaps your phone – pinned!  Looking at images is certainly another effective method to fuel creativity; however, note that there is a fine line between “copied” or “inspired by” so remember that when we claim to be a novel at something. 


Magazines

Let me start with this offline inspiration.  Even with our digital world, magazines still has its place.  There is beauty in unplugging the internet and browsing through an array of magazines, flipping through pages of images, colors, shapes, and words.  Even a fashion magazine can inspire you beyond clothing itself by looking at the patterns, texture, design, and style. Here is a couple of known publications to browse through or take home with you on your next visit to your local store –VogueElle,  Bazaar.


Pinterest

For a long time, my Pinterest account had been inactive.  I was too busy avoiding my need for creativity but since I started this journey; drawn to it not only for my blog but finding inspiration in beautifully crafted work by talented people.  Overall, you will see many carefully thought out, curated pieces that deserve admiration and respect.  Just keep pinning those ideas!


Instagram

Like Pinterest, it is another good source of inspiration.  Full of impressive talents, artists and content creators and I am not just talking about mainstream. Instagram has inspired me to pursue new knowledge and skills. Click on this link to find a good list of artists and designers to start.


Photography

Looking at a photograph can bring out many layers of emotions and ideas.  Subsequently, the works of great photographers and even those who aren’t well-known can draw you into their piece, allowing you to think and dream.   Check out some works of photographers below. 


Art Galleries

Another way is to step out of the four corners of your home and visit a local gallery or museum.  The things you’ll find and learn may surprise you.  In any of these major cities- New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin, and London? If so, check out this app: Seesaw – Gallery guide.


Read Books

Growing up, ever had someone of authority, be it your parents or teachers tell you that reading makes you smarter? But if you’re like me and text is not your forte, try a good fiction book! Letting your imagination take flight is another effective way to fuel creativity. It allows you to imagine the scenes and being in someone else’s shoes. So now, I routinely go to my local library with my boys to check out some books.  Whether it’s fiction or related to something I want to learn more about, it sure is another good way to spark creative thinking.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.”

-Albert Einstein


Here are some books I’ve recently picked up and recommend:

An image of a book entitled Creative Confidence. Read a book to fuel creativity
A good book to read on creative thinking.


Learn a new skill

Great news for us old...er folks! Recent discoveries show that our brains produce new neurons throughout our lifetime. One trigger is when we learn something new. Therefore, it debunks our former belief that adult’s brain could no longer generate new cells for better cognitive functions- yes! This is why I’m back in college!  So, it’s time let go of the old statement, “I am too old to learn.” Time to pick up that new skill you’ve been contemplating on!


Learning something new enhances curiosity.

Additionally, like listening to music, learning a new skill releases the “feel-good hormone,” dopamine.


Meditation

This one is surprisingly turning into a personal preference for effective ways to fuel creativity. These days, meditation has become extremely popular to help with relaxation, reduce stress and improve focus but its benefits go beyond. According to a Harvard Business Review article, Emma Seppala, the Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education points out that CEOs have adopted meditation to not only help with focus but also to build resilience, boost emotional intelligence, improve relationships, and enhance creativity.


Creative thinking – where innovative ideas are born. 

According to this article, there are different forms of mediation. Explore them and try to find what work for you. In addition, there are apps available to help you with it. These ones are worth checking out – Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, Mindfulness App.

So get unstuck! Go ahead and spark your creative thinking by trying any of these five effective ways to fuel creativity.

Citations

Seppala, Emma. “How meditation benefits CEOs.” Harvard Business Review (2015).

Oppezzo, M., & Schwartz, D. (2014). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition(4th ed., Vol. 40, 1142–1152). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xlm-a0036577.pdf.

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