Weekly Editorial

Creativity Demands Cultivation

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • April 15, 2024

The Insider_Weekly_editorial_4.15.24

People talk about creativity these days as if it is a resource like water. Simply open up the faucet and let it flow. Anyone working in a creative field (and if you are reading this, you are almost certainly a creative in some way), knows that it’s not that easy.

It’s hard for a writer to describe how creativity arrives, but it is not pretty. A large portion of my time when I write is spent simply thinking and rewriting sentences. It is a struggle to be creative. And creativity demands that you cultivate a creative mind.

So how do you cultivate creativity? Time to turn to the experts. Psychologist Robert Epstein is the author of “The Big Book of Creativity Games” and is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today. He has held positions at several universities including Boston University, University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University.

In an article for the American Psychological Association, Epstein recommends these creativity boosters and habits that can help:

Capture your new ideas. Keep an idea notebook or voice recorder with you, type in new thoughts on your laptop or write ideas down on a napkin.

Seek out challenging tasks. Take on projects that don’t necessarily have a solution—such as trying to figure out how to make your dog fly or how to build a perfect model of the brain. This causes old ideas to compete, which helps generate new ones.

Broaden your knowledge. Take a class outside psychology or read journals in unrelated fields, suggests Epstein. This makes more diverse knowledge available for interconnection, he says, which is the basis for all creative thought. “Ask for permission to sit in on lectures for a class on 12th century architecture and take notes,” he suggests. “You’ll do better in psychology and life if you broaden your knowledge.”

Surround yourself with interesting things and people. Regular dinners with diverse and interesting friends and a work space festooned with out-of-the-ordinary objects will help you develop more original ideas, Epstein says. You can also keep your thoughts lively by taking a trip to an art museum or attending an opera—anything that stimulates new thinking.

Creativity is more like exercise than magic. The more you work at it, the easier it gets. That’s certainly true for writing. The more I write, the better the writer I am.

So if you are the leader of a team that depends on creativity, you need to make sure your team continues to flex its creative muscles. Make space and time for creativity. Encourage field trips to inspiring places. Read more instead of scrolling on your phone.

It’s also important to avoid what Epstein calls creativity killers. Stress and time constraints are two of the biggest. Also understand that you can’t be creative all the time. There are days that I feel like I could conquer the world and other days that I find it hard to simply get out of bed. Though it’s not always possible, I try to recognize where I’m at creatively and work on projects that match with my level of creativity.

Finally, don’t get down on yourself if you hit a creative wall. We’ve all been there. Instead of beating yourself up about it, take a minute to go for a walk, read a book, commune with nature or work out. The creative faucet will start flowing again soon enough.

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