Do you ever struggle with creativity?
For those of us who craft content, creativity is essential.
On the days we feel creative, our words flow with ease. Writing is a joy, and ideas arrive almost as quickly as we can jot them down.
At other times, when creativity has deserted us, making progress with our content is like drawing blood from a stone. A form of mental fog clouds our work, and progress is slow and painful.
Thankfully, creativity is at least partially within our control. We can influence the levels of creativity we feel, and our writing benefits accordingly.
If you want to take control of your creative energy, here are three ways to do exactly that.
Seek Creativity, not Attention
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is an award-winning actor and entrepreneur, admired for his memorable performances in movies such as Inception and Snowden.
Aside from his acting work, Gordon-Levitt specializes in encouraging creativity. He founded the creative collaboration platform HITRECORD, and has given a TED talk on the nature of creativity. If you find yourself struggling between the urge to create and the urge to be validated, this is essential information.
So what can we as writers learn from this creative actor? How does his creativity advice apply to the art of crafting content?
Let’s consider the conflict between creativity and the flow state. When we are thinking about the reaction our work will get, we are less able to produce it effectively.
This is something I can definitely relate to as a writer, and I’ve seen it in the students I help to publish their books. The conditions of the modern world definitely fuel the problem. When we seek to continually promote ourselves across various social networks, it’s inevitable that we become reaction seekers. Especially when it’s been proven that these platforms are engineered to be addictive and to trigger dopamine reactions.
So how can we take action on Gordon-Levitt’s ideas to improve our writing?
First of all, we should see technology as a tool. It’s there to serve our goals, not our egos. Don’t see technology as the enemy. Instead, view it as a means of expression and collaboration, not validation. As writers, many of us have platforms. Don’t lose sight of their purpose.
Pay attention, don’t seek it. To write well, we must pay attention. Attention to our words. Our thoughts. Our process overall. Therefore, it’s important to eliminate distractions as a writer. This could involve changing the place where we write, the mentality we adopt, or the tools we use. Consider disconnecting from the internet while you write, or leaving your smartphone in another room. As Stephen King put it, “write with the door closed.”
Allow yourself to be human. There’s no need to become a Zen master (unless you want to!). It’s natural to be egotistical and attention-seeking at times. The key is to keep it in check, and to be aware that such behavior hinders rather than helps creativity.
So, are these ideas relevant to people outside of Hollywood? There’s no need to be a famous actor to learn from this approach. In our egocentric world of social media, we all must avoid falling into the trap of chasing attention instead of creativity.
Unleash the Power of Boredom
Manoush Zomorodi is a journalist, author, and entrepreneur. During her journalistic career, she honed her skills covering significant events such as the 2000 Belgradian revolution. Today, Zomorodi is known for encouraging creativity through the books she writes and the podcast she hosts.
In fact, when it comes to creativity, Zomorodi has been named by Fast Company as one of the top 100 most creative people in business today. So what are her ideas on creativity? Which of her concepts and theories are most useful for content creators?
One of the main things Zomorodi conveys to her audience is the importance of boredom. While boredom may sound undesirable, it’s actually essential when handled properly.
What do you do when you’re bored? If you’re anything like me, you pick up your phone, or find some other means of distraction. This might seem fairly harmless. But it actually diminishes our creative powers.
Science has shown that the state of boredom triggers something called the “default mode” in the human brain. This takes awareness to a subconscious place, and allows new connections to form.
So how can we use the power of boredom to further our own writing?
Avoid distraction. For many people, the default response to boredom is to seek distraction by checking a social network or glancing at our phones. Instead, try and get comfortable with being bored. This could involve a mindless activity like cleaning or walking, which frees up your brain power for deep creativity.
Use your smartphone proactively. How often do you check your smartphone in a day? How much of your smartphone use really serves you? Instead of being reactive to your phone, try being proactive. Uninstall certain apps. Limit notifications on others. Even leave your phone in a different room while you write! It’s a lot easier to fuel creativity through boredom when your phone isn’t running your life.
Discipline yourself. You don’t need to fully cut yourself off from the world in order to allow boredom to fuel creativity. Instead, be disciplined. Most of us need to check email. But we can limit how often we check it, and how long we spend in our inboxes.
Are you ready to take control over your tech use and allow boredom to lead to creativity? Why not give it a try, and see if your creative energies are boosted as a result.
Walk to Let Your Ideas Flow
Marily Oppezzo is a Stanford scientist, medicine instructor, and creativity researcher. Her work is fascinating, exploring the interplay between the body, mind, and creativity.
One of the main focuses for Oppezzo is showing how creativity isn’t some mysterious force that comes and goes at will. In fact, it’s something we can encourage through our choices and the way we spend our time.
Oppezzo’s main suggestion is deceptively simple: Encourage creativity by walking. However, it’s not as basic as it first seems. Oppezzo offers evidence to support her ideas, and extra tips to ensure you get the maximum possible creative benefit from applying them.
Here are some applications of Oppezzo’s approach to creativity, to help you with your content creation:
Exercise to get unstuck. Oppezzo’s research has shown that people are able to think of more ideas, and better ideas, when they are in motion as opposed to sitting. The effect is even better when surrounded by nature. The key is to exercise at a comfortable pace, so walking tends to be the best option for most writers.
Keep going. One of the main things Oppezzo adds to her advice is the suggestion to not stop at your first idea. So, for example, let’s imagine you are trying to think up article topics. While walking, don’t stop after just one topic! Keep going until you have at least a few to choose from.
Record your ideas. Ideas can be fleeting: here one moment, gone the next. As a writer, you might be naturally inclined to write as you walk, but don’t. Instead, use your phone and headphones with a microphone to talk out loud. Have a creative chat with yourself. The reasoning behind this is that writing is a filter that encourages self-doubt and judgment. By recording our spoken thoughts, we capture creativity in its most unfiltered form.
If you walk to boost your creativity, you’re in good company. Charles Dickens, Alice Munro, and Orson Scott Card have all testified to the positive effect walking has on their creative writing. Try it and see for yourself.
Don’t Wait to Feel Creative: Take Charge
Hopefully, you now see that creativity isn’t a mysterious force, but something we can directly influence.
When we choose heartfelt creation over attention, to embrace boredom’s role in generating new ideas, and to respect the mind/body relationship, we give creativity every chance to flourish.
The good news is you’re not alone. Although it can feel lonely to struggle with creativity, it’s actually incredibly common.
If you’re in a rut, switch things up. Try some of the ideas in this article. Draw inspiration from other writers and see if anything reignites your creative spark.
Above all, stay positive and keep going. Your creativity will be back before you know it.