When I was younger, I loved comic books. I loved collecting (Daredevil was my favorite), drawing, looking at, and writing comics. I loved comics so much that I dreamed of one day making it a career. In the 6th grade, I drew and wrote a comic book called “The Broads.” It was a story about some of the more popular girls in school and how they became superheroes after school. Writing this makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong, it was a clean comic with an actual superhero story, but having the characters be girls in your 6th grade class, I admit, is a little weird. If I had written this comic today, I’m sure I would have been suspended or sent to the school counselor’s office.
The point is not about my comic book or my love for comics, but how that creative side disappeared as I became older. I mean, think back to when you were younger. How many of us had creative loves or streaks that simply disappeared? You played an instrument. Wrote songs or poetry. Created on a blank canvas using paint, watercolor, or charcoal.
Every time I watch my daughter draw, cut paper for crafts, or sing along while playing her ukulele, I’m reminded of how important creative thinking is. Creativity, like a muscle, atrophies and becomes weak the less we use it.
What’s so important about creativity? Plenty. It keeps our minds sharp and malleable (this is especially critical as we grow older), can help us do things more efficiently, and can even be a source for that million-dollar idea (read about the creation of Post-It Notes, Polaroid, and Disneyland).
So maybe you don’t want to play air guitar in your room to Whitesnake (“Here I Go Again”) or buy a ticket to Comicon (I made a promise to myself that I’d go again). That’s OK. There are other ways you can start being more creative right now:
Ask Questions: Probably one of the easiest and most effective ways to rev up your creativity. Why not? What if? Can it be done better? Questions force our brains to reach deep to formulate answers. Ask enough questions and you’ll find a creative solution. Try this the next time at work when your boss or team is stumped. You might end up being the hero.
Learn Different Things: It makes sense that we spend the most time on things that interest us. But how about taking some time each day to read, watch, listen to, or do something different? Exposing our mind to different things creates more neural pathways. More neural pathways means a sharper, more creative-thinking brain. For me, I’ll pick up something that I normally wouldn’t read or download a podcast on a subject I know absolutely nothing about.
Observe: Watch people. See how different people act, talk, dress, and perform tasks. By observing, we may be able to pick up things that can help us in our own lives. We can see what works and what to avoid. By observing, we can also learn and ask questions like, “Why did you do it that way?”
Associations: The term “square peg in round hole” has a negative connotation. However, in creative thinking, any association is good – no matter how odd. Putting things together in our mind that are unconventional, non-traditional, and downright weird makes our brain work. Visualize and conceptualize things in a different way. For example, in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class, there are certain techniques that give me problems. But thinking of a move differently, like “sliding into a base” or “pulling back a bow” helps me make that mind-body connection. Remember Mr. Miyagi in “Karate Kid?” Wax-on. Wax-off. Now that’s a creative association.
Experiment: Finally, take your creativity out for a spin. If you have an idea or a creative impulse to do and/or try something…do it! Taking action sends signals to your brain that you like what it’s doing and to please provide you with more ideas. And remember…there’s no such thing as failure in trying. Like the inventor Thomas Edison said, he never failed…he only found things that didn’t work.