One of the differences between creative professionals and amateurs is the ability to generate creativity on demand. It means not waiting for the muse to arrive.
In my years working as an advisor to entrepreneurs and innovation executives, I’ve learned this is one aspect of creativity that is often misunderstood. Let me explain.
Creative professionals understand that great ideas usually don’t spring fully formed. They develop slowly, over time. Some say that your subconscious is often working on these ideas in ways we don’t notice.
There are many ways, however, to encourage creative ideas to blossom so that they are there when you need to call them forth. Here are three practices that professionals value in developing the ability to be creative on demand. Read on and see how you might put them to work for you.
1. Make Space
To generate new ideas, you need to clear your mind of clutter. This is an approach that David Allen, founder of Getting Things Done (GTD), has championed for years. “Your mind is a great place to have ideas, but a terrible place to manage them,” he observes. Allen advises moving all that mental clutter to an external device — whether a paper list or digital file doesn’t matter. Make space, in your mind and on your schedule. If you’re distracted about mundane tasks or upcoming deadlines, it’s hard to be creative.
2. Capture Your Ideas
We’ve likely all experienced coming up with that “big” idea — the one that was the next breakthrough, or pulled together many pieces of a puzzle we were tackling. It was so good we were sure we’d remember it, and we didn’t write it down. Then when it came time to recall it, we were frustrated that it was just beyond the bounds of our memory. Or if we did recollect, we wondered if we fully remembered the nuances of our original thought.
Professionals know that inspiration can strike anytime, anywhere. That’s why they always have a sketchbook, notebook, Post-Its, recorder, notetaking app, or another tool with them all the time — including a notepad and pen next to their bed for middle-of-the-night insights. Ideas are fragile and fleeting. Don’t let yours slip away.
3. Be Consistent in Your Craft
Professionals practice their craft regularly. Whether they feel like it or not, they get to work. This means sitting down at a keyboard (computer or musical), walking into a studio, or pulling out tools and equipment. Professionals understand that showing up daily to do creative work trains the eye, the hands, the body, and the mind. And often it’s the mental discipline that’s most challenging. Even when uninspired, professionals know that if you begin, something eventually emerges. The work may be great or mediocre that day, but consistency pays off and leads to better work down the road.
Your Challenge This Week: What practices will you put into place to ensure creativity on demand?