12 Practical Ways To Become More Creative

Creative Paint BrushesCreativity is quickly becoming the next currency in the business and design world. There are millions of places to outsource non-creative work, and it’s only the truly creative people who are not afraid of being replaced or outdated.

Despite what many think, creativity is not decided at birth — and there are a few very simple and logical ways that you can become more creative simply by practicing and using certain methods.

Here are a few of those methods, along with some tools that can help boost your natural abilities. Put these to use and watch your work become more creative.

Research & Isolation: The Starting Points of Creativity

No matter what type of creative work you are doing, it is necessary to start from one or two places — either you research and evaluate the competition, or you isolate yourself in an attempt to do something entirely new.

Research: The Backbone of Creativity

Creativity is often referred to by the cliche ‘thinking outside the box’. Many people miss the simple fact that in order to think outside the box, it can be very helpful to know what this proverbial ‘box’ actually is.

In other terms, being creative is frequently defined as doing something new or different. In order to do something new or different, It’s often necessary to fully understand the current status quo — so that you can break out of it. This is why research is a very valuable part of becoming more creative.

Isolation: Also The Backbone of Creativity

Though research is a valuable part of being creative, intentional isolation can sometimes be equally valuable. In many situations, fully understanding the existing market, design trends, or whatever else can unintentionally taint your perspective on the creation of something new.

Isolating yourself during the design or creative process can occasionally yield fantastic results, as you might create something radically different from anything else already out there. A word of caution, though: many creatives over isolate themselves. Isolation is not necessary to create something new, and researching and understanding the existing space is often a far more productive way to be creative. Try both isolation and research, try combining them, and see what works best in your situation.

Creative Methods: How To be Systematically Creative

Despite seeming vague and mysterious, creativity can actually be very logical in many cases. Here are a few methods for being creative:

1 — Combination and Synthesis

Combination and synthesis is the method of being creative by examining ideas from several different existing works, and combining them into something new and different. Many people frown on looking to others for ideas, but in reality almost every creative work is influenced or even directly related to something already out there. This method, combination and synthesis, is probably the most frequently used form of creativity. Side note: you’ll have to do your research if using this method — isolating yourself won’t work :-)

2 — Intentional Rebellion

Intentional rebellion is a method often used by people who want to appear distinctly creative. It involves researching the existing market or design space, and then intentionally doing something completely different. This method can often produce greatly creative works, but be careful of ignoring very important paradigms simply in the name of creativity (aka, building a website that is creative but entirely unusable).

3 — Sequential Addition

Sequential addition is a creative game where you start from an idea, either one you’ve produced in isolation or one you’ve found by research, and then slowly build, add to, or change the idea in small steps until it no longer resembles the original starting point. This method is useful in trying to imagine the future of a certain type of work or design, and then from there create something that is ahead of the majority.

4 — Outside Influence

Outside influence is the idea of being creative by looking to radically different sources for inspiration sources that are completely unrelated to the work you are doing. For example, if you normally look to other websites for blog post formats or ideas, try looking to magazines instead. Or, even more radically, try adapting a television formula into a blog post. Such outside influences can often provide a very new and interesting jolt to your creativity.

5 — Selective Perspective

Often times when your creativity seems to stop flowing, the idea of selective perspective can help get you started again. Using this creative method, you want to look at your design or project from a very narrow point of view, and imagine how you would finish the project based on just that perspective. Then, you simply repeat this from a different perspective, and try to come up with a new idea yet again. Finally, you can compile and integrate your various points of views into a single, optimum result.

6 — Create and Compare

Create and compare is a strategy based around the idea of isolating yourself and creating something from scratch. Often, when you create something without even looking at the competition you’ll come up with very good ideas — the problem is that it’s easy to overlook other very good ideas that are already in use. With this method you begin entirely in isolation and then compare your ideas to the existing space afterward, when you can make subtle additions and changes without worrying about contaminating your own ideas.

Useful Tools to Amplify Your Creativity

Defining and deciding upon your favorite creative methods is one step towards becoming more creative. Another big gain can be made by integrating the right tools into your creative process. Here are a few that you might take a look at:

1 — Visual Thesaurus

This is a very good twist on the idea of a thesaurus. This tool can be incredibly valuable to writers and even designers in creating new ideas. Check it out →

2 — Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a great way to logically create new ideas, and it’s also invaluable for recording and defining new ideas you’ve already had. There are a number of great programs out there, this list should help you get started.

3 — Prototyping/Sketching

Sketching and prototyping are a designer’s two best friends. If you don’t already have one, get yourself a good notebook that you can easily write and draw in. As for prototyping, I recommend using whatever medium or application you are familiar with that you can work in very quickly (frequently Adobe Illustrator, for designers). Check out this article for more info.

4 — Inspiration Galleries

Sometimes all it takes is a good creative jolt to get you started, and galleries of other people’s work can often provide just that. A few that come highly recommended are Smashing Magazine and Creattica.

What’s Your Take?

Creativity can be a very personal thing — something that needs to be explored individually by each person. What techniques have you found to boost your creativity?

Do you have any tips for others who are looking to become more creative?

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Comments

  1. says

    Great article Mason! I consider myself more of the organizational type and less of the creative type, but I have definitely used a couple of these methods before and they’ve been really helpful.

    I specifically love looking at other people’s creativity! It always brings out the “I want to do that!” in me :)

  2. says

    I find it useful to change things up and try something new. Getting out of my routine always yields inspiration, as it gives me the opportunity to approach a problem from a completely different standpoint.

    One extreme example of this is my new project, Exile Lifestyle (http://exilelifestyle.com). After 2 years of living in a townhouse in LA, I’ll be selling everything and living in a new country every 4 months. A big part of this project is to shake things up and see what floats to the surface!

  3. says

    Cool article!

    I find myself already using a few of the points you mentioned but you certainly shed some light on a whole bunch of new ideas I’ve never considered. I’m going to try those out for sure!!

    For me creativity tends to come later in the day…usually late in the evening hours. As the world quiets down the ideas start opening up! Lately I’ve gotten better at coming up with fresh ideas earlier in the day…but they are still hard to come by.

    Hopefully these tips will help break through that barrier.

    Thanks!!

  4. says

    I think a lot of times it helps me to get out of my own head and to just flat out stop thinking about it. When you intentionally stop thinking about it, or sleep on it, it seems like the perfect idea/solution just pops into my head when I wake up or am driving for a cup of coffee or whatever. It’s like my conscious took a break, while my subconscious was working overtime.

  5. says

    Wonderful article, though I think it has two gross errors:

    The first one is the picture selected to illustrate creativity, it perpetuates the misconception (and possibly prejudice) that creativity is a trait characteristic of those who are visually/artistically oriented. Human beings, all of them, are capable of being creative, period.

    The second one is on the phrase “In other terms, being creative is frequently defined as doing something new or different.”, that isn’t being creative, that is being innovative. Now, one can come up with innovations that are better then what was available before and one can, just as easily, innovate into pure garbage. What makes one creative is the ability to discard his own innovations that don’t make things better.

    Other than that, this really is a great article. Keep up the good work Mason!

  6. says

    Great article, liked this: “Many people frown on looking to others for ideas, but in reality almost every creative work is influenced or even directly related to something already out there.”

    Another very creative source is the work of children. Many kids have no fear when drawing or painting and come up with the most unique and creative work imaginable. I believe Picasso strived to be like child-like in his work and it certainly paid off for him.

    Again thanks and great article!

  7. says

    Hey guys, thanks for the great comments!

    @Colin — Congrats on making a big change! I took a look at your website, and your travel plans sound pretty awesome :-) You’ll have to keep everyone informed of how it goes…

    @Thiago — To your first point (about the picture) you’re absolutely correct, it is a gross generalization about creativity, one that plays into the visual arts. Here’s the problem though, what kind of picture would you select for creativity that is non-visual? I couldn’t come up with anything good.

    To your second point, I think that playing with the semantics or definition of the word ‘creativity’ isn’t really a big deal. How you define creativity, or innovation, or where the two interleave, is entirely up to you — and there are many who will debate it. Personally I like the broad definition that creativity is the act of creating something new.

  8. says

    Really liked this post! I think some people who are, in fact, creative, convince themselves that they’re not because they think it’s some mystical, magical phenomenon. But not only can creativity fall into some logical patterns, as you point out, it comes naturally to just about everyone — until they learn to be afraid to create, like Gavin pointed out.

  9. says

    Hi Mason, glad that you asked, see:

    The wonderful articles of this site all have a picture which gives away it’s main point, and they usually are very spot on. So my humble suggestion is that when confronted with a situation like this one, where there is no clear choice, or where the ones readily available are biased and prone to induce misconceptions onto the readers, you could use artistic headings.

    It doesn’t need to be super-fancy, this article, as an example, could use a picture of the word Creativity, written in some big, bold and beautiful type, such as Jos Buivenga’s Museo Sans, atop of a dark-grey to white vertical gradient, perhaps with some noise on the background, but then, I’m diverging.

    This would, especially in this site articles style context, be very creative, in that it would better inform (without spreading prejudice) the readers by doing something beautiful and contextually new!

    PS: of course you people won’t be able to pull this specific bunny off the hat twice, but who said life is easy anyway?

  10. says

    I like these ideas! I actually use a few methods… Whenever I start to feel the flow of creativity slowing down, I like to go for a walk in nature. I find a great deal of inspiration from flowers and trees. It also gives my mind a chance to just clear and allow ideas to come…

  11. says

    Although this article is old now, it’s still relevant and fresh. This reinforces the same central points I use when I do creativity workshops with groups. The push-pull between isolation and research are vital to understand and to utilize. Thanks for a good post.

  12. Ejaz Hunzai says

    Thanks for awesome article. I am creative enough and I had created new idea of web application but the problem is that I am working consistently. How to overcome that ?

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