Boost your Creativity with 3 Fun Exercises
Here’s a little secret: You don’t need to be some natural artistic genius to be creative. It’s a skill, just like anything else, that we can all hone throughout our lives and it doesn’t just apply to our artistic abilities.
Just think about Bernie Madoff. Pretty sure the guy never painted anything worth talking about, but he certainly was creative with his accounting (okay, maybe too creative - we should all still try work within the law).
So, how do you develop these skills? Well the good news is we all already have them. Even if you think you don’t, you do. Our brains are just jerks sometimes that like to throw up arbitrary hurdles like a cruel P.E. teacher.
The only thing is that, unless our day job is literally just being an artist, we may not devote as much time to developing these skills as we would to working on our project management or productivity skills, so we just need to find a way to bring a little creative practice into our lives so we can keep those muscles stretched too.
And that’s really what this is all about; the exercises we can do to nourish and cultivate our creative abilities. They’re quick, they’re a bit of fun, and they’ll help your brain switch gears so it can think differently about things.
At the end of the day, that’s all creativity really is. It’s approaching something without preconceived notions and bringing new life and a bit of imagination to what you’re doing.
You might look up the definition in the dictionary and say “the word originality is in there too”, but honestly let’s just leave that word out of this because it just creates a whole bunch of internal pressure that I think derails the whole creative process.
So, without further ado, here are 3 exercises you can do to get your creative juices flowing. Do them regularly, make them a habit, and refer to them anytime you’re feeling uninspired!
1. DICTIONARY STORIES
This exercise is inspired a piece in by Twyla Tharp’s Creative Habits book. Basically, all you do is look a word up in the dictionary and then you look up the word before and after it (if you don’t own a hard copy, most online dictionaries have a section called “nearby words” or something close that and that will do the trick).
Once you have all three words, create a short story using them!
It doesn’t have to be a long one. It could just be a sentence or two, but by putting your brain in a situation where it needs to draw connections between seemingly random things, you’ll be flexing those creativity muscles and training your brain to think this way more reflexively.
2. PAPERCLIP (OR WHATEVER’S HANDY) STATUES
Spend five or ten minutes making a statue out of whatever bits and pieces are on your desk. Paperclips are probably the easiest thing to use, but bulldog clips, business cards, those little arrow sticky notes, and push pins are all cool too.
Stick these pieces together however you want and just create something… anything. You can even draw out a little museum label with the name of the work and it’s meaning if that feels right.
All you’re really trying to do here is get your brain focused on the act of making things, removed from the kinds of constraints and limitations most things we work on have.
Also, don’t worry about how it looks AT ALL and tell that brain “I bid you good day” every time it offers up an unhelpful thought.
These are exercises in creativity after all, not entry pieces to an art competition.
3. AVOID THE LETTER E (OR A, OR S… YOU GET IT)
This exercise comes from a book called The Power of Forgetting, by Mike Byster, and all you need to do is engage someone in a conversation for 5 minutes without using the letter “e” (or whatever letter you decide on) and without long pauses.
Sounds kinda, super difficult right?! Yea, it’s a doozy, but it’s also hilarious AND its forces your brain to think outside the box a whole bunch so it definitely exercises those creativity muscles.
Another variation on this is to remove words like I, me, and my, from your vocabulary for a similar period of time and, for the sake of all of our non-binary friends out there, we could all probably stand to do this exercise a lot more with the words he, him, she, and her.
If you have tricks for getting out of creative ruts or honing your creativity skills, then let us know because we’d love to hear them too!