If you aren’t coming up with ideas — for yourself, for your job, for the world — you are behind the curve.”
The world is through with button pushers. It was true whenever I stood in the middle of the newspaper industry in 2009, and it’s true now when software is being built to replace entire departments of people.
Here’s one thing machines cannot do: come up with ideas. They cannot innovate and they do not have the spark we find in our right brain,
As of right now, it is the Creative who owns the future.
Here are 6 ways to get better at stretching that creative muscle:
1. Tell more jokes
The whole premise of humor is revealing the unexpected.
The whole premise of art is creating the unexpected.
Learn to tell a good joke. Study what makes great comedians great. Absorb their way of looking at the world.
Everything is a joke. Everything is art. Everything is an idea.
2. Draw — even (especially) if you can’t.
I’m probably the worst with a pen and paper.
Like ever. You can’t even tell my stick people from my stick animals.
But even horribly sketching improves my spatial intelligence. It allows me to visualize things in a way I couldn’t otherwise.
Remember, drawing is just like learning another language — you have to do it poorly because you can do it well.
Start with Mind Mapping — a cool way to rethink note taking and get your (horrible-looking) thoughts on paper.
3. Learn everything
Not “learn every way to create.” Learn everything.
Dilbert is not one of the most successful comic strips because Scott Adams learned how to draw.
It is successful because he learned the ins and outs of business, the jokes only accountants would tell, how a transistor radio worked, and what is funny about tax law. He learned everything remotely attached to his area of interest.
Creativity at the highest level is nothing more than connecting the dots. Learning everything allows you to mix sheep with colored dye, or neon colors with Campbell soup cans, or a the founding fathers with hip hop.
What does ice cream have to do with WWII? I don’t know.
But you might.
4. Get some space
All Creatives cling to the idea we’ll get a chance to hole up in an idyllic cabin, left alone to forge through out fits of genius while all humanity leaves us alone.
For most of us, this is a fantasy.
Bills have to be paid, family games have to be played, food has to be made. That’s just the way it is.
The frustrated artists I know are all starving for silence.
There’s a reason our best ideas hit us in the shower — it’s quiet. It’s peaceful. We have to push pause on our obligations.
Dream time is paramount to improving your creativity. But it doesn’t just happen.
Find some time to dream uninterrupted. The Muse will honor you for it.
5. Start making lists
I’m obsessed with list-making. I personally like James Altucher’s suggestion of making lists of 10, and have incorporated it into my daily Microjournaling practice.
Here’s the secret — go further than you think you can. Once you have reached the end of your ideas for “blog posts I should write,” write 5 more ideas. Some of them will be terrible, but THEN some of them will be pretty good.
Lists help you push the edges of your own box.
6. Get outside your comfort zone
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the front of a cab in NYC. I’ve never been here before. The flight was stressful. We’ve almost been in 5 wrecks in the last 10 minutes.
I am tired, I am hungry, and I have no idea where I am relative to where the hotel is. I probably could be in this taxi several days. Or years. Who knows?
But weeks from now, I will be talking about my time here. I’ll be digesting the culture shock and the sights and smells and sounds of the city. I’ll use that inspiration to write a few blog posts, or a paragraph in a book. I add another stamp to my metaphorical passport.
Remember, comfort rarely breeds creativity.
How Long Should You Work on Your Creative Muscle?
For you, I can’t say.
For me, the answer is: “Until further notice.”
Ideas are everything. One idea, if it’s the right one, can change the entire course of your life.
Download my ebook — The Ultimate Guide to Infinite Ideas — for the price of an email address.