Creativity is like the ebb and flow of waves in an ocean.
There are periods in your life when you may feel very creative.
But there may be other periods where you experience the creative doldrums.
Ideas stop coming to you.
You attempt to sit down with pen and paper but it seems like an exercise in frustration.
If you are like me, you might have wondered how to jump-start the creative process.
1. Reconnect with Amazement and Wonder
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” ― Socrates
One of the major lessons in creativity that you can learn from a child is being repeatedly amazed at the beauty and joy of life. Children are endlessly curious. As you grow up, you lose some of that child-like wonder and begin acting more like an adult.
Amazement and wonder transform into habitual motion through life. I challenge you to do a small exercise right now. For a few minutes, look at your surroundings and at life through the lens of a child.
Bring back some of that wonder and amazement and the wide-eyed surprise and joy of navigating through life.
Allow yourself to experience great lengths of curiosity. Ask yourself and others questions that you would otherwise not ask as an adult. Allow yourself the joy of looking at the ever-changing landscape of life through a filter of wonder. Be unabashedly curious.
Journal your ideas and the outcome of wearing the curiosity filter. Set up an idea box where you get to gather different sources of information that inspire your creative process.
2. Believe that the impossible is possible
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, In the expert’s mind there are few.” ~ Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki
Why is it that when you grow up and become an adult, your possibilities narrow down to almost nothing? There was a time when you were a child and believed that anything was possible. You believed that you could be anything, create anything, sing anything and make anything.
But then life happened to you and people kept saying what you should do and what you should not do.
Slowly but surely you became inhibited and stopped dancing in front of others. You began believing that your song should not be shared with the world and that it is not safe to be you.
So you pretended.
When you were a child, you pretended to be whatever you wanted to be. As you grew up, you pretended to be what others wanted you to be. The sparkle in the eyes slowly faded away to transform into worry and fear.
In his TED talk, celebrated Korean novelist Young-ha Kim challenges you to invoke and unleash your inner child and makes a call to action: “Be an artist, right now!”
I challenge you to believe that the dream of yours that you have been imagining is certainly possible. Grasp the notion that you may have lived a life to please others so far but you can still sing your own song.
You can choose to step into the field of possibility and embrace true creative abundance.
Reconnect with your inner playful child and begin to believe that the impossible is possible. When you approach creativity from the standpoint of endless possibility, you have a better chance to crack the creative lull.
3. Work is play
We have all seen children play together. They have the incredible ability to make daily life look like play and infuse it with laughter and joy.
Do you remember how playful you were as a child? As you grew into an adult, you trained yourself to be serious and control your natural inclination for joy and laughter.
In an attempt to bring play back into work, many big companies such as Google have begun incorporating concepts of a playful workspace.
You might have trained yourself to be very serious at work but if you lighten up and be relaxed, it is a lot more pleasurable. Children have the ability to get together in groups and infuse the area with lightness and play.
Creating a light hearted and joyful working environment will certainly make the experience of work more enjoyable and I am willing to take a guess that your productivity may also go up.
In Dr. Tina Seelig’s creativity classes at Stanford University, the classroom resembles a pre-school with manipulatives and crayons and students sitting on the floor in small groups. This opens up the imagination and sets the tone and mood for a ripe session of unbridled creativity.
You are expected to be highly creative at the workplace and come up with solutions but the mood and the cubicles do little to set the imagination in motion. In fact, even standing up and moving around breaks the monotony of working at the desk and gets the creative energy flowing.
Have you seen children sit perfectly still at a bench and work for extended periods of time? Left to their devices, children move around and express their magic in motion and in art.
Make some time to set up your work area to inspire your creativity and not to suffocate it.
4. Connect and combine
Children have the amazing ability to connect and combine things and aspects of their experience in amazingly creative ways. They can come up with combinations that seem outrageous at the outset but this precise ability is vastly lost as we become adults.
Often creative solutions emerge by the synthesis and mixing and matching of different aspects. This is demonstrated by the power of mind mapping, a technique invented and popularized by Tony Buzan.
Beginning in the center of an empty sheet of paper with a central idea, mind maps pictorially or graphically radiate outwards and sideways. As the mind map makes associations, it develops second and third levels with curved branches connecting them.
These associations connect and combine different levels together and make new levels of synthesis of information and ideas possible.
How can you combine different elements and mix and match them to come to a creative solution?
5. Simplicity and focus
“Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.” ~ Master Yoda in the movie Star Wars-Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Children exhibit the qualities of simplicity and focus quite abundantly. They frequently seem to come up with brilliantly simple and elegant solutions to complicated problems. When you were a child, you were not yet trained that simple and elegant solutions were not beautiful or effective.
As we grew up, our thinking brain calibrated itself to ignore solutions that seem too simple to be true.
You talk yourself out of what might be a seemingly simple solution and instead you may dabble around in unnecessary complexity.
You may get caught up in the quagmire of complexity and hence the required action is not taken and things just sit on the back burner.
The attention that children bring to the table is focused engagement. As you grew up, you become overly focused on the outcome of an event and that lead to a tunnel vision of choices.
Children are more interested to engage their attention in the journey and usually seem less concerned with the outcome.
When we open ourselves to the state of being open to the different outcomes, we open our tunnel vision up and get up on a cliff to see and savor the scenery.
The reason that children exude the simple brilliance is because they are constantly testing things out for themselves to see if they like the experience or not. Their thought process remains fluid, flexible and simple.
Allow the flexibility and fluidity of the simple thought process. If you allow yourself the flexibility of thinking like a child, you open up to more possibilities.
6. Being present: the state of flow
“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
Children just seem to be highly present in the moment. Children can effortlessly move with the grace of a ballerina and paint with the grace of a tiny Picasso.
As an adult, you might struggle to experience the state of flow and bring the state of heightened awareness and effortless action to your work and play.
But as a child, you were in a state of flow quite effortlessly. You did not have to struggle or make a massive attempt at it. You just were.
If you allow yourself to move through life with more ease and drop off some of the resistance, you begin to experience flow. Focus your attention and engage deeply with a project to experience the state of effortless being.
Sharpen your skills of observation by being present to the current moment. Live in the now and observe for solutions that you might otherwise miss.
7. Breaking assumptions
Children are constantly breaking assumptions about how something needs to be done. This may be because they have not yet trained their minds to automate their thinking and doing processes.
They can bring a fresh new perspective to a situation that appears to be a boring idea.
They naturally create novelty by breaking the assumptions about how things ought to be. It is in these seemingly useless but novel combinations that the essence of radical creativity lurks waiting to be tapped.
Your creativity is waiting for you to unleash your inner child. Are you ready?
What do you think that you can learn from a child about curiosity and creativity?
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