Sure, creativity is considered the tent-pole of my industry: marketing and advertising. But I believe very strongly that creativity is a skill that is needed in all industries. No matter what your major was, do you remember all that stuff you learned in college? Me neither. But being able to creatively find solutions and creatively find opportunities is something I’ve used my entire career. And if you talk with any industry leader and boil down their reasons for success, their creativity is one of the top reasons, if not the top reason.

Creativity is the one skill that will never be obsolete. It needs to be taught more in all levels of education. But because of school cuts and stupidity, school curriculum is focusing less and less on the lessons that teach creativity. 5, 10, 20 years from now what skill sets will be needed? No one knows for sure. But those individuals that employ creative thinking and problem solving will be able to more easily fit into whatever the workforce of the future needs.

I’ve heard that people who are left handed are more creative. I don’t buy it. Maybe they have a head start using their right brain than those of us who are right handed. But being creative is something all of us learned in kindergarten. Some of us just forgot it.

I’ve come up with my top 10 things I do to find my creativity. Some of these I’ve picked from books on the subject. The Artist’s Way is a good one. Some I’ve found from experience. Everyone is different. So you need to find what works best for you.

  1. Use a pencil. Computers are notoriously logical. When you use them, you’re forced to be logical too. Using a pencil to write with, on paper that has no lines, will force your creative side to come out. This is why white boards are so popular in brainstorming settings.
  2. Brush your teeth with your other hand. If you’re right handed, use your left hand and vice versa. This will not only get you frustrated. It will make you concentrate and get you out of a rut. And being in a rut is the number one cause of brain-deadness.
  3. Drive to work a completely different way. We’re all creatures of habit. And when we get into habits. We get in to ruts. Break out of your daily ruts and you’ll find yourself thinking more. And traveling a different path physically, will get you traveling a different path mentally.
  4. Write non-stop for 30 minutes. Every morning sit down and write non-stop about anything for at least 30 minutes. (Use a pencil. See #1) You’ll find things flowing through your mind and ideas finding you.
  5. Doodle. I don’t care if you think you’re a horrible artist; doodle, draw, paint. You’ll be amazed at how it makes you feel and how you’ll think differently.
  6. Build something with Legos (without instructions). Use the tools of your youth and creativity will find you.
  7. Keep a journal. You never know when inspiration will hit. Keep something nearby to record your ideas. And there’s an App for that too. If you’re like me, your iPhone is never too far away. Use any of the drawing or recording apps to record your ideas.
  8. Unplug from electronics. In slight contrast to #7, put your iPhone and electronics away for a little while. Today’s electronics can sap your creativity because they take so much of our attention. Every year I hike 3 days through the Grand Canyon. I take a pad of paper and no electronics. Being unplugged like that can really reinvigorate the creative juices.
  9. Take a nap or go for a run. Either one of these has a way of recharging our creative energy.
  10. You come up with something!

Have you ever wondered what makes creative types tick? Are there things that creative types have in common, besides their own list of top 10 creative triggers? Creative people do share some traits. Here is a list I’ve gathered from various articles I’ve read through the years.

I think this would be especially good for teachers to know. Teachers should be able to identify students who have a higher propensity to creativity. It would have saved me years of trouble if certain teachers were a little more insightful.

  1. Easily bored. A short attention span isn’t always a good thing, but it can indicate that the creative person has grasped one concept and is ready to go on to the next one. Makes you wonder with all the medicating parents do to short-attention span kids, if they aren’t just medicating the creativity out of kids.
  2. Risk takers. Fearlessness is absolutely necessary for creating original work, because of the possibility of rejection. Anything new requires a bit of change.
  3. Don’t like rules. Rules, to the creative person, are made to be broken. They are created for us by other people to control a process. The creative person needs freedom in order to work. This one has gotten a lot of kids in trouble. Good teachers, like the certain ones I had in junior high and high school, will recognize it and refocus it. Good managers in business will know how to set up a creative department while still adhering to the rules of their organization.
  4. Ask “what if?”. Seeing new possibilities is a little risky, because it means that something will change. Curiosity is probably the single most important trait of creative people.
  5. Make lots of mistakes. A photographer doesn’t just take one shot. And a painter will paint over the top of previous paintings they didn’t like. Creation is a long process, involving lots of mistakes along the way. But a mistake is a lesson learned.
  6. Collaborate. This one took me awhile to learn. The solitary artist, alone in his cabin in the woods, is a romantic notion but not always an accurate one. Comedians, musicians, painters, chefs all get a little better by sharing with others.
  7. Generous. Truly creative people aren’t afraid to give away their hard-earned knowledge. One of the most fulfilling things about my career is when I get to pass on knowledge to the people I work with. The return is always ten fold.
  8. Are independent. Stepping off the beaten path may be scary, but creative people do it. Children actually do this very well but are eventually trained to follow the crowd. Drawing outside of the lines is not bad!
  9. Like to experiment. Trial and error are necessary to the creative process.
  10. Self motivated. There does seem to be a spark that creative people share, an urgent need to make things. They are willing to run the inherent risks of doing something new in order to get a new result.
  11. Like to work hard. This is probably the most overlooked trait of creative people. People who don’t consider themselves to be creative assume that people who are creative are magical, that ideas just pop into their heads effortlessly. Experienced creative people have a list like the one above that make the creative process look easy.
  12. Not alone. The good news is that it’s possible for everyone to be creative. Like I said earlier, every industry has and needs creativity if it is to survive. There are creative cooks, creative janitors, creative salespeople, creative teachers, creative accountants. (Although I think creative accounting has landed several in prison.) Any profession or any hobby can be made into a creative pursuit by embracing and using creative triggers and traits.

Finding something you’re really passionate about and finding what triggers your creativity will help you take a leap of faith into something that will surprise you.