Get Creative

August 2, 2016

Given how frequently “busy” and “balance” are thrown around industry trend articles, it should come as no surprise that “creativity” has seemingly also become one of the biggest buzzwords in advertising. If you go by the articles on various websites, we’re all chasing it, honing it, harnessing it, and trying to refuel the proverbial “creativity tank.”

And that’s a problem.

Creativity is written and talked about as something that’s accessible to everyone — but only if we only carve out enough time for it. Well, I’m calling bullshit. That definition can only serve to make someone who feels “busy” and off “balance” like they can’t be creative or add creative value. On the flip side, it also means that someone who has a TON of time of his or her hands will be more likely to be creative. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Cultivating a creative spirit requires an ability to get outside of your being. Of course, it takes time, but it also takes work, and conscious effort. You can’t worry about perception, or feelings of inadequacy, or a desire for approval.

I consider myself curious — I try a lot of new things and consistently challenge myself to get outside of comfort zone — but I’m most creative when I’m in the kitchen. Putting my own spin on a new recipe. Pairing wacky flavors and textures. And completely ruining multiple iterations of on-the-fly paleo pancakes. (They always taste okay, but look like baby poop in a pan, which is less than ideal.)

It’s less about time and more about a willingness to take risks and try new things. It’s building experiences so you can face challenges and leverage your experiences to find a solution, whether it’s singing in a chorus, rebuilding a bike or perfecting your own green juice.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all way to develop and flex your creative muscle, I’m lucky enough to work with a bunch of amazing, talented people who are inclined to run with their creative impulse… and willing to share their philosophy on creativity.

Read on for their insights, but don’t stop there: Go forth and create!

Melissa childChannel Your Inner Kid

“Having a two-year-old allows you tap into your creative side every day through the beauty of play.”

“I live vicariously through my kids. In my efforts to turn them into well-rounded human beings, I sign them up for a variety of different experiences — soccer, circus, rock camp, code camp, Spanish classes, etc. Not only do they get to try new things, I get to experience new things through their eyes. Watching them inspires me. Their passions have become my passions. And while it can be tricky juggling lessons, practices and shows, these scheduled events get me out of the office, away from the demands of work, even if just for one hour. Nothing recharges my batteries more than cheering for my girls.”

Get Physical

Stay active. Beyond the countless studies speaking to activity and increased brain function, the gym/court/field is where I can exercise my competitive side, push my limits and continuing to improve skills and movements. It invigorates my body and my mind and, for a moment, I feel unstoppable; like I can take on the world. It makes a huge difference in how I tackle problems and new ideas.

Drawing JeffPick Up Your Pencil

“I try to keep my creativity level high not only by consuming great content online but by physically creating it for myself and or others to react to. The more I can actually draw, whiteboard, sketch, paint, whatever… the more it becomes engrained in my brain and my team members. I remember team conversations, design reasoning, strategic thinking much much better when I can actually draw it out before bringing it to life.”

Lend an Ear

Music has always been my key to staying creative/fresh/inspired/sane. I kickstart my creative brain with a quick “music detox” where I clear out my thoughts and just take in a piece of music. Being in a choir also helps me stay sane and inspired. There is something about 80-plus people singing in harmony that really helps me find my center.”

Make Screen Time Productive

“In addition to challenging myself to write consistently, I’ve used Instagram to satiate my hunger for personal creativity. As a result, @American_Odyssey and @PrinceJamesMurphy have become my own little case studies in brand-building. Additionally, I enjoy tinkering with things that are of interest me — Photoshop, WordPress, screen printing, blogging, etc. I guess the short of it is that I consume a lot of various content, digest and then look for fun ways apply to my personal life.”

Go Somewhere New

“There’s something about trying new things, meeting new people and seeing a different corner of the world that makes you look at things (client briefs, challenges, traffic!) a little differently.  No matter where I go, I come back with a rejuvenated sense of purpose and drive.”

Be Open to Creativity

“For me, staying inspired is essential to staying creative. If I’m not inspired or don’t have ideas, I’m not going to be producing anything that is creative or fresh. And the awesome thing is that inspiration comes from anywhere. While specific ideas can come from research and seeking out inspirational design, some of the better, high-level ideas I’ve had have come to me when I least expected it – like doing a mundane task, having a random conversation, or just stumbling across something visually interesting when I’m traveling somewhere. The normal-life things that we experience every day are full of possibilities. And I think that’s also why they tend to be the most inspiring – it’s not inspiration we are intentionally seeking and by connecting the unrelated idea or visual to a current creative project, it leads us to be more creative. Basically, in a nutshell, let life happen and you’ll never run dry on inspiration.”

Embrace the Three C’s

Be curious. If you have a “I wonder how/why…” or “What if I…” moment, run with it! A couple years ago, I decided I’d learn how to fix my own motorcycle. Did I mess up a lot and spend a ton of money? Yes. Did I learn something totally, completely new? Absolutely. For me, the same has gone for screen printing classes, rock climbing lessons, day hikes, reading new books, writing a journal, traveling, cooking — basically, if something gets you out of the house and into a new experience or action, it can help grow your creativity.

Have some confidence. I recently started playing in a band with friends who are intimidatingly good musicians. I’ve been playing the drums for 10 years, but never with a band of this caliber — and never really with a band, period. I was nervous — had all those dumb snare rudiments actually paid off? At some point, I had to stop worrying and show up to practice, sit behind my kit and make a confident statement with my music. If I had needed things to be “perfect,” I’d never have put myself out there enough to join them. There will never be a perfect place to showcase your creativity — so to get as close as possible, you have to have faith in your own voice and abilities. (Luckily, the band liked what I had to say with my instrument. We’re off to a great start.)

Be careful. Guard your creative impulse from things that want to hurt it. It is really, really hard to create when you’re on your phone or on your couch. Modern life tells us that the only cure for a long day at the office is an equally long night on the couch, browsing, browsing, browsing away, which is so depressing. If you can get away from that habit for even an hour a day, you’ll be astounded by what you can create, whether it’s a song or a drawing or even just a home-cooked meal. I’ve heard this idea expressed as “Be bored.” When you’re bored and have to entertain yourself, you start thinking of new ideas and expressions. Eventually, you’ll look forward to being bored. How’s that for creative thinking?”