A person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire. –Carl Jung
1 Articulate Your Why
There are two great days in a person’s life — the day we are born and the day we discover why. –William Barclay
If you articulate why you need to be more creative today, you’ll set in motion an entire chain of events that increase the likelihood you’ll be creative. The better you can articulate why you need creativity today, the more naturally you’ll find it.
2 Rebel Against the Greatest Tyrannies
I was born here and I’ll die here… against my will. –Bob Dylan
Dylan captures the ultimate rebellion, that we’re all here against our will. But there is a spectrum of rebellion, and we get the choice to choose what we’ll stand against. It’s easy to fall into the trap of rebelling by mindlessly rejecting everything. This type of rebelling produces clickbait, digital lynch mobs, or plotless stories. The alternative would be rebelling against specific, well-defined evils. This aspirational rebellion produces a powerful brand of creativity. Test how much you’re able to boost your creativity by rebelling against evil that others blindly accept. Reformation is driven by those who confront evil, and reap the massive gain in creativity.
3 Be an Idiot to the Insane
As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and the prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before a jury of sober eyes. –Joseph Campbell
Perhaps Campbell is too kind when he says, “jury of sober eyes.” One of the largest challenges about being creative is how harshly you’ll be judged. Don’t worry, because the jury or populace isn’t sober. They might just be insane. Our brief human history is studded with examples of ad hoc juries, both tribal and religious, who have killed, sacrificed, isolated, or ostracized our most creative. If you’re going to practice becoming more creative, get ready to be viewed as an idiot by the insane. Think of it as a badge of honor. Plus, the recognition that we are despised by others often gives us the greatest creative gains.
4 Stop Explaining Yourself, and Flip the Script
So now I am back — in my next iteration, you might say. — Ian Malcolm
One of Michael Crichton’s most famous characters and ciphers is Ian Malcolm, however be dies in Jurassic Park. Crichton soon realizes he needs a cipher for the sequel, The Lost World, so he brings Ian Malcolm back with a few sentences:
“…but it turned out I was only slightly dead. The surgeons have done wonders, as they will be the first to tell you. So now I am back — in my next iteration, you might say.”
Stop explaining yourself or trying to justify your actions to a jury of sober eyes. Flip the script when you need to, and bring back characters from the dead. Make bold, one hundred and eighty degree moves when your intuition, logic, and evidence warrant it. There is nothing more anti-evolutionary than trying to cling to choices that no longer serve us. Creativity will find a way.
5 Build a Mental Dam that Channels a Controlled Stream of Ideas
The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. –Albert Einstein
There is an endless river of ideas running through our minds. This river of constantly flowing ideas might be fun or beautiful to behold, but the real magic doesn’t happen until we do the hard work of building a dam (habits, routines, creative outlets, etc…) and generating power.
Only by taking the time to build a dam for ideas so we can channel them will we ever be able to get anything out of that endless river. Start building the dam today.
6 Stop Telling Stories About Your Past
The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself. –Tony Robbins
I used to think I couldn’t tell stories. Then I realized this was because all my mental bandwidth was consumed in personal storytelling about my past. I was telling myself an endless narrative of my life and past events. When we stop telling ourselves stories about our past, we free ourselves from stale narratives, and instead use those storytelling energies towards speaking a better future into existence.
7 Scrub off Self-Censorship
Self-censorship is a lie to yourself; if you are going to be trying to seriously create art, to create literary art, and you decide to hold back, to censor yourself, then you are a fool to yourself and it would be better that you kept your mouth shut and did not speak. –Salman Rushdie
Society and culture directly and indirectly teach self-censorship. With digital media, those methods of teaching censorship are becoming increasingly sophisticated. In order to get to a place where your creativity and ideas can emerge easily, you’ll have to scrub off years of self-censorship.
8 Take Care of Your Body (and upgrade it!)
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live. –Jim Rohn
If we think of ourselves as technology, we can better care for all the components. Our bodies are hardware, and our minds produce the operating system and software we use to interact with the world. So why do some people take better care of their smartphones than their bodies and minds? In order to be creative, we have to value the most valuable technology in the world: our bodies and brains. We get this hardware free at birth, and nobody demos it for us like a Steve Jobs’ keynote. When we upgrade our bodies and minds with better inputs and challenges, creativity becomes a natural byproduct.
9 Take Care of Your Mind (and upgrade it too!)
True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united. –Wilhelm von Humboldt
Awhile ago, I noticed I had put off updating the OS on my phone. It’s the same with our minds. It’s easy to forget to periodically upgrade our OS. If we want everything to run more smoothly, we have to: read, do, conversate, or seek out direct experience.
10 Direct Experience > Filtered Experience
I eventually realized that direct experience is the most valuable experience I can have. Western man is so surrounded by ideas, so bombarded with opinions, concepts, and information structures of all sorts, that it becomes difficult to experience anything without the intervening filter of these structures. –Michael Crichton
Direct experiences are where we interact with something (nature, another person, ourselves) without a digital or cultural filter. When we face these experiences without the lens of others, institutions, or media that tells us what we think, better ideas emerge.
11 Learn to Use Technology or it Will Use You
Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master. –Christian Lous Lange
Sometimes when my wife is driving, I’ll look at the drivers around us. It’s terrifying how many of them have their eyes glued to their phones. You’ve probably noticed them on the interstate, with kids in the car, or as they speed through crosswalks. They’re all risking the lives of others, or themselves, for one more tiny hit of dopamine. We all will either use or be used by technology.
12 Consume the Best Information, But Don’t Forget to Create
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves. –Steven Spielberg
When we eat to eat, we can get sick. When we eat strategically, we can gain nourishment. As creatives, anytime we consume information, we have to ask what are we consuming and why? When we forget we’re consuming information from the never ending firehouse of the internet, we tend to get sick, burned out, depressed, or anxious. When we consume information strategically, we can use our consumption to create.
13 Spin the Karmic Flywheel of Creativity
Do to others what you want them to do to you. –The Golden Rule
My own creativity is sparked when I find out that something I’ve done has helped someone else. This type of karmic proof spins the flywheel of creativity. There is no better way to spin this virtuous flywheel of creativity than by doing a random act of kindness for someone today. It’s easy to only devote our creativity to work that takes a long time to provide us karmic results. When you put your creativity towards the service of others in a way where you can quickly see the results… the karmic flywheel spins, and you’ll be reminded of how much good can come from a single creative insight.
14 The Source is Unlimited
There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen. –Wayne Dyer
When we view the source of our imagination as unlimited, ideating becomes easier. The more you can view and act as if the source of our creativity is unlimited, the more we’ll find that is the case. When we lose the mindset of the hoarder, we gain new ideas in abundance.
15 The Sea of the Imagination is Deep
The sea gets deeper the further you walk into it. — Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Exploring the imagination can be treacherous. Don’t let this stop you from leaving on the hero’s journey to find new ideas, but be aware of the dangers. The sea is deep and vast, but when you respect it’s power, you can navigate it effectively.
16 Your Mind is More Powerful Than AI
[A] great misunderstanding accounts for public confusion about thinking machines, a misunderstanding perpetrated by the unrealistic claims researchers in AI have been making, claims that thinking machines are already here, or at any rate, just around the corner. -Hubert Dreyfus
We have the most complicated piece of technology in the known universe… our brains. We each get access to this priceless technology, that all the venture capital in the world can’t recreate. While everyone worries about AI, each of us already possess evolution’s biologically strong AI with plenty of safety’s built in. We each already possess the most expensive, valued, prized, and powerful piece of artificial intelligence in the known universe. If you make a move to take better care of it, you’ll get better outputs.
17 Good Art Fuels Creativity
If you actually succeed in creating a utopia, you’ve created a world without conflict, in which everything is perfect. And if there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling — or reading! –Veronica Roth
When we take in good art, we prime ourselves to create. Just like food, the better we eat, the better our bodies function, the less mental fog we face. Art is the same way. View, read, or listen to better art today and better ideas will come your way.
18 Reality Is Only One Piece
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. –Albert Einstein
If we view reality as meaningless, we’ll drift into ennui. But if we view it as one part of a bigger masterpiece, we can find purpose. When we find and chose purpose, it always brings insights.
19 Stay Quiet, and if You Speak Up, Prepare for the Backlash
Don’t solicit feedback on your product, idea or your business just for validation purposes. You want to tell the people who can help move your idea forward, but if you’re just looking to your friend, co-worker, husband or wife for validation, be careful. It can stop a lot of multimillion-dollar ideas in their tracks in the beginning. –Sara Blakely
When we seek to create, we meet a backlash of contempt. It can come from anywhere. We’ve all encountered the person who reacts violently to new ideas. Creation is alien and scary to those who have become experts at self-censorship. The prospect of you creating will prompt terror in them. Expect a backlash or people going out of the way to try and censor you when you let your best ideas breathe. It’s usually a sign that you’re onto something.
20 Find Healthy Addictions
Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis. –Brené Brown
Beware… creativity once sparked is a fire that must burn. Creating is an addiction, but fortunately it is much healthier than most others. If we don’t allow creativity to flow through us, we risk going through withdrawals. This is also known as being blocked. All of us have had the experience of being around an artist who is going through withdrawals. It’s not pleasant. Embrace the healthy addiction of creating daily, and don’t be afraid to get your fix.
21 Your Mind Will Recharge By Generating New Ideas
Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television set and let its pandering idiocy liquefy our brains. Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery-it recharges by running. –Bill Watterson
The best way to recharge our minds is by using them. Our minds are far more powerful than we realize, and instead of zoning out when we’re exhausted, we can move directly to creative pursuit.
22 Make a Small Move, Today
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. –Lao Tzu
You can make a small move towards more creativity today. Write down that idea, send those emails, draw that picture.
Fight to be more creative today.
We need your creativity, for all of our sakes.