16 Ways to Increase Creativity and Generate Clever Ideas


We’re all looking for ways to increase creativity, but sometimes it isn’t easy. No matter what kind of work you do, sometimes you run into a wall; the ideas dry up and you feel anything but creative. It happens to everyone. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. You need a break. You need a strategy. You need a saga.

Here’s your saga, delivered in 16 steaming hot points. Use them, abuse them, but do tell me how they work for you.

1. Consistent Effort If you make a consistent effort to create new things, you’re bound to have results. If you just wait around for inspiration to strike, you could be waiting for a long time. Inspiration tends to strike those who are already in the middle of the creative process. A reward, if you will, for your diligent work.

2. Record Everything Keep a notebook, sketchbook, or recording device handy at all times. Ideas are slippery as eels, and if you wait too long, the damn things will swim away. If you have a smashing idea just before you fall asleep, you probably won’t remember it in the morning, and if you’re driving or rolling on the subway, something else will distract your attention.

3. Elaborate on Something If you’ve already made something cool, go back and see if you can’t expand on it. Especially if some time has passed and an idea has had time to incubate, you’ll have new things to add, angles to elaborate on.

4. Switch Gears If you’re doing brain work, do body work, and vice versa. If you’re writing a report, do a puzzle, if you’re building a sculpture of a giant chrome sponge, sing a song.

5. Think Laterally Look for associated ideas, especially while you’re already working on something. As I’m writing this, I’ve had ideas for four six more posts. While I won’t use them all, it’s nice to have them to draw from.

6. Mind Maps Mind maps are effective because they make the most of lateral, horizontal thinking. They give you a chance to put a lot of information down about a topic without worrying about actually organizing the information. This is just my opinion, but mind maps may be a close representation of how thoughts are structured. Here’s the wiki entry.

7. Don’t be Afraid of Bad Ideas When you have a lot of bad ideas, you’re bound to have good ones. Plus, with lots of bad ideas you’ll have less trouble telling the good from the bad.

8. Get Emotional Horror movies and comedies come to mind, but you can also read really sad stories, instigate an argument with a stranger, walk in a grave yard, whatever. Just apologize if things get out of hand.

9. Hang out With Friends Depending on your ‘vert persuasion*, you may need more or less of this, but fun with friends can be relaxing. Just shooting the shit and forgetting about things for a while can give your brain some breathing room (*introvert or extrovert).

10. Sleep On It Whether you’re working on a problem or looking for new ideas, sleep can give your brain the chance to mull a problem over, give you a new plan of attack.

11. Take a Hike Walking is good, but hiking is better. Mind-body connection, you’ve heard it before, but it really works. If you’re trying to generate new ideas or feeling stumped, getting the blood flowing seems to mix things up.  When the body starts working, more neurons start firing. While walking is good, getting  out in the woods is better. Being in nature reduces stress.

12. Free Write Similar to morning journaling, only more focused on a single problem. Write about your topic, whatever you’re stuck on, for about fifteen minutes. Don’t censor, don’t edit, just write whatever comes to your head. Works  best if the pen doesn’t leave the paper.

13. Take a Media Fast Lots of people of written on this, but there’s a reason: it’s effective. Media, this blog included, can be a huge time sink; consumption can can stifle creativity. Taking a complete break can be challenging, but the rewards are well worth it.

14. Learn a Useless Skill Useless skills are entertaining and make life more fun.

15. Really Listen To Music. Without other distractions, just put on a amazing record, put on good headphones, sit back, relax, and listen. Pick out a single instrument to follow. Feel the groove, the flow of the record. If the feeling gets you, get up and dance.

16. Do stuff you find troubling. Shoot a gun. Gamble. Get sick on liquor. Eat a bloody steak. Give alcohol to a bum. Go to a strip club. Watch television for a couple hours. Sniff glue and go to a creepy mega-church (okay, scratch the sniffing glue part). Going outside of your comfort zone will give you new ideas.

We’ve reached the end of a long list, but I’m sure I’ve missed some stuff. What can you add? Don’t be shy!

Photo credit: Darwinbell

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