Creative SparkCreativity is a funny and sometimes elusive thing.  It never strikes when you need it to.  Like when you’ve blocked out 8:00am to 10:00am for writing, when you’re on a tight deadline and have 800 more words to whip out, or when you have the perfect picture for Instagram but not a single inspiration for the caption. Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) creativity is not only important, it’s also what makes you feel smart, witty, genuine, happy.  Interestingly enough, many of those same feelings, particularly happiness, have been known to help to support creativity.

Despite what you may think, a recent Forbes article pointed out that creativity is not a rare gift only endowed upon the artistically inclined.  It’s not more prevalent in children, people with mental disorders or the right side of your brain.  It’s something that’s accessible to all of us, but admittedly takes a little more effort at some times than others.

While there is a plethora of suggestions on the world wide web for increasing creativity and sparking new thoughts, here are my top seven tips for drumming up a strand (or two) of inspiration when you need it most.

Get Outside. This is hands-down my number one favorite and most effective way of tapping into new thoughts.  There is something very real about what fresh air does to the brain.  Add trees, a trail and any type of scenery and it’s like mother nature’s magic. Seriously.  If you’re not the outdoorsy type, just lace up the shoes and go for a walk in your neighborhood.

Listen to music. It’s no secret that music is magic. It has the ability to transport us to another time and place. Bring back memories, stir feelings, evoke emotion, become a storyteller.  A 2017 study looked at different types of music and how they impact us and found that happy music, in particular, increases creativity.  According to The Garage Group, music with strong emotional impact and a catchy beat increases the number of ideas you have.  There are actually playlists on Spotify to give you a creative “boost”.

Peruse Pinterest. This one little app is internet eye candy.  There’s nothing you can’t find on Pinterest.  Use the search bar to type in things like “haikus about Halloween”, “living rooms with purple walls”, “quotes about toenails”.  Not joking.  It’s got everything.  Sometimes a little effortless scrolling through the vast array of photos will spark a thought (so, maybe it’s a thought about dinner sparked by the vegan Ragu photo you saw).

Play with a dog. Turns out dogs aren’t just great pals and wonderful silent therapists, they’re also great for sparking creativity.  They’re used in medical environments not just to encourage calm, but to inspire creation. Workplaces that allow employees to bring in their dogs report increased mental health, morale, productivity and yes … creativity.  They’re also a great way to strike up conversation with new people, which is also known to increase creativity.

Hang out with people who are smarter than you. I’ve heard it said that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.  Surround yourself with brilliance and you’ll be inspired to find that brilliance in yourself.  Of course, it’s always helpful if you’re working on a difficult piece of medical narration to have a doctor or medical professional to bounce the lingo off of.  If it’s technology you’re talking about, try discussing it with someone who digs all things tech.  They may give you a different perspective, or share a bit of their enthusiasm that you can channel when trying to find some enthusiasm of your own.

Try something new. Bonus points if it’s also challenging.  Forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone, whether by learning how to play the flute, taking up Sudoku, or trying a public speaking class, can fire up parts of your brain you may not be tapping into.

Finally, take a break. We’re so set on being productive.  Getting things done quickly.  Cranking out more work.  None of that is conducive to creative inspiration.  Consider that turning your brain off for a short period may clear the many thoughts and “to do’s” that are running through your head, and allow for authentic, new ideas to enter.  It’s also interesting to note that according to the American Psychological Association, stress kills creativity.  Can I get a show of hands??

In the end, creativity can be found in so many places, if you look.  The problem is that we’re often hoping it will come to us while sitting in the same location and staring at the same blank screen that we’re always looking at.  Think of creativity as a muscle.  The more you use it, the stronger and easier it will get.  In the meantime, follow the advice of a recent Pinterest post I saw … “Making bad art is better than making no art.  So just go and make some art!”