Boost Your Creativity: 7 Ways to Be Insanely Creative on Demand

    Wouldn’t you love to be consistently creative?

    It’s great when our friends and family support us and think we can do anything as long as it involves words, and a keyboard or pen.

    The truth, though, is that we all get stuck from time to time.

    Creativity is fickle.

    Getting past the stuck places can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be.

    Here are seven techniques I use to boost my creativity and get out of a creative funk. I’m sure they’ll help you too!

    After the first one, they’re in no particular order except for number seven, which is best used as a last resort.

    Method 1: Keep Your Brain Full

    The first step in generating an idea is to stuff your brain, and keep it full.

    Feed your brain with everything: random stuff that has no real purpose or goal, as well as input related to your current project.

    You can find input in a wide variety of places including books, blogs, images and music. Movies, television and videos are other great sources of material to feed your brain.

    The most important part of this step is focusing on what you’re putting into your brain, not what you’re hoping to get from it. The output often bears very little relationship to the input.

    When you stuff your brain as full as possible of really good stuff, you’ll get good stuff back out without even trying.

    Mary Jaksch highlights the importance of focusing on input rather than output in Refuel Your Creativity.

    Method 2: Keep a Wheel Book

    The term “wheel book” comes from Henriette Anne Klauser’s book Write it Down, Make It Happen. “Wheel book” feels much more adventurous than “ubiquitous capture device,” which comes from David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

    Whatever you call it, you need a place where you jot things down, whether it’s a notebook, a voice recorder or a smartphone.

    There are four rules for wheel books:

    1. Choose a wheel book that you love and will use.
    2. Keep your wheel book with you at all times.
    3. Capture everything in your wheel book.
    4. Review your wheel book regularly.

    Of course “capture everything” doesn’t mean literally everything.

    A good method is to write down ideas, questions, reminders and things that make you think, smile, laugh or frown. Fortunately for me, I use an electronic wheel book, because a lot of things make me go “hunh?!” and I’d need a new notebook every Monday.

    Look at your notes at least once a week. Look through them when you’re stuck and need a spark of inspiration.

    Even a small spark will do. You can fan even the tiniest spark into a creative flame, if it is a good spark.

    Method 3: Create More Downtime

    During a rare lunch with a friend yesterday, I had a mini-epiphany.

    I feel better after an actual lunch break away from my desk, than when I “take a lunch break” on the couch but work the entire time.

    I’m amazed by this downtime thing and I’m going to try it again someday soon.

    Time away from your creative work—to rest your body and your mind—matters. Pushing to exhaustion only leads to poor writing and poor health.

    I’m committing to real downtime every day. I encourage you to do the same.

    How should you spend your downtime?

    Resting and relaxing are great downtime pursuits. You might enjoy solving puzzles or making things. Perhaps you would enjoy getting out and spending time in nature. If you’re stuck for ideas, here are 21 Unexpected Places to Find Your Muse. Why not use a couple of ideas this week?

    Method 4: Be Still

    This method is about stilling your mind.

    Fortunately for me, it doesn’t always require a still body.

    If you meditate or would enjoy meditation, that’s an excellent way of being still, but there are other ways.

    My favorite ways to still my mind are writing and photography. I’m convinced I could take photos of ham sandwiches for half an hour at a stretch, or write half a book without pause, and feel as refreshed as if I’d slept eight hours.

    Whether your stillness involves sitting, walking or activity, do something that makes your brain go “aaaaah.”

    Not the “stick-out-your-tongue-so-the-doctor-can-look-down-your-throat” aaaaah, but the “I-just-sat-down-in-a-hot-tub-with-a-glass-of-wine-and-a-plate-of-chocolate” aaaaah.

    If your brain loves sitting meditations, sit. If it loves rock climbing and hang gliding, climb and fly.

    Your brain needs time to work in the background when it’s not expected to do much else. That’s why we get ideas in the shower.

    So be still.

    Method 5: Add More Nonsense to Your Life

    You probably know that as a writer, you need an imagination and a few other things.

    While a modicum of talent is handy, time, training and practice are essential.

    Another ingredient also trumps talent: Nonsense.

    Writing is serious work. Even writing funny words is serious work.

    Nonsense lets your brain relax and take a little bath in silliness to wash away the stress and be refreshed.

    When you find yourself stuck or stalled, take a moment to indulge in a little nonsense. If your office happens to not have talking guinea pigs (as mine does), spend some time on social media, or call up your favorite silly person and talk about nothing for five minutes.

    Method 6: Relax

    Tension creates more creative holes and ruts than anything else, and we need to find a way to periodically release this tension.

    When I grow frustrated with my writing, I take a moment to listen to my body and assess my environment.

    I roll my shoulders and neck a few times to get the stiffness out, sit up straight on my chair and pull it forward so I don’t slouch. I also shut down my email and turn on some music.

    I call this relaxing in place, as opposed to stretching out on the couch with my feet up and a book in my hands.

    Relaxing in place means simply taking a moment to make the necessary adjustments in your environment and your body, to let the tension flow away.

    This is not a substitute for downtime and crashing on the couch with a book.

    That kind of relaxation isn’t a substitute for on-the-fly relaxation in place, either.

    You need both to keep your creative brain functioning at its best.

    Method 7: Be Creative Anyway

    Eleanor Roosevelt spoke my favorite words about creative ruts. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

    When I feel that I don’t have a single creative idea in my head and probably never will again, and that work just isn’t happening for me today, I try the techniques I’ve listed above.

    Most days one of these techniques, or five or six, will ease me back into creative flow.

    If they don’t, I take the nuclear option.

    Here’s how you do it.

    Start writing.

    If you’re working on something, review the previous section and start from there. If you’ve finished your previous project, copy the last two paragraphs into a new document, review them and delete all but the first sentence of that passage. Start writing as if you are writing these paragraphs from the start.

    Start with a goal of writing 100 words. When you reach 99 words, and you will, stretch your goal to 200 words.

    Keep pushing yourself forward until you feel you can keep going without pushing. If you reach your average daily word count, that’s great. If not, that’s great, too. The point of the exercise is to write anyway, and not let your brain lock up.

    This technique always works.

    I can count on one hand, without my thumb or one of my fingers, how many times, in 25 years as a professional writer, I’ve used this technique and not found my creativity click into place.

    Grab Your New Toolbox and Start Creating

    You now have a set of techniques to boost your creativity and get past the stuck places in your writing and your creative life.

    Some of the ideas are simple, while others may feel like a stretch. The last one probably feels more like a medieval torture rack than a “stretch.”

    Whether a particular technique seems too simple to work, or too much trouble to try, give all of them a try anyway.

    I use these tools because they work. And that’s why I’m recommending them to you.

    Which of these tools are you the most excited about? Let me know in the comments.

    About the author

      Angie Dixon

      Angie Dixon helps creative people be more of who they are. Grab a free excerpt of Angie’s bestselling creativity book "The Leonardo Trait" today. And while you’re there check out the Leonardo Trait blog.

    • Thanks for the great article!

      I was surprised to find that I was more creative and more productive with my writing when I started exercising more seriously. Maybe because it helps with several of your points – taking a break, reducing stress, stilling the mind…

      I’m no fitness guru, but if someone is feeling stuck, I’d recommend a light workout!

    • Lauren says:

      Love this post! I get a daily news article delivered to my inbox every morning and I try to constantly be aware of my surroundings and learn at least one new thing each day. Thanks for sharing!

    • Mark Tong says:

      Hi Angie – Will definitely implement a wheel book asap!

    • Nicole says:

      Very useful tips for an aspiring writer like me. But, i believe I follow some of those.

    • Nicole says:

      I believe anyone can become a writer. It starts with believing in yourself. I would add that successful authors demonstrate a range of writing skills. Even a “poor writer” (which you are not) can eke out a career in writing. I’ve seen it done. The only way to be sure you will never succeed is to never try.

    • Really informative blog article.Thanks Again.

    • jireh says:

      Great creativity ideas, the best one is the wheel book. My mind works on go! all the time and I have often thought of using some type of wheel book. My other option has been to use my phone to record my thoughts are ideas!

      Thanks for the tips.

      • Thanks, Jireh. I use my phone as my wheelbook, because I always have it with me anyway.

    • tulika says:

      hi angie you are just wonderful! after reading this article I got my share of “mini-epiphany”…thanks to you and of course, write to done for informing about these awe inspiring posts from time to time!

      • Thanks, Tulika! You can call me “just wonderful” any time you want.

    • this seven post are very great and useful for all. 1st step says at first our mind i agree with him.step 6 relax is right. i want know about more step. thanks

    • Eden says:

      Great information, thank you for share

    • The idea about keeping your brain full is always good, i fill my mind with many things that come to my mind during the day so that i could release it all at night when i write, the rest i either write it on my notebook or make a recording of anything that comes up during the day, i love the nights for writting they inspire me, because i write fiction and thats when i let it all out.

    • This is great stuff. Like you, I’ve found that 95% of the time I just simply sit down and write, even when I might not feel particularly inspired, I am in the throws of it galloping along at a pretty good clip before I realize it. I also have really good luck in one certain environment. For me, it’s a coffee shop downtown that remains pretty quiet on Sundays where I can snag the same table and order the same latte from the same barista. I’m not superstitious about it, but having a predictable environment is key for me.

      • Thanks, Teresa. Yep, a predictable environment is really helpful. Thanks for mentioning that.

    • Love the tip about the “Wheel Books!” We used to call them “Wonder Books” when I was a school librarian: they were used to encourage students in their research about topics they wondered about. I still have my own sample Wonder Book.

    • Getting out of your comfort zone does tend to trigger new found creativity, so long as that internal voice is talking and not silent 😉

    • Pimion says:

      Thank you for sharing! These tips actually seem to be working. It’s quite simple but as they say “Simplicity is the root of all genius.” Besides these methods, I’d add listening to music to this list. It always work, at least to me.

      • Thanks! They do work, for me and everyone I know who tries them. I love listening to music as well.

    • Thanks Angie for the post. It’s always nice to hear another writer’s dilemma of the dreaded “block” and how they deal with it.

      The point about creating more downtime is one that we, as writers, don’t allow ourselves enough. But often that’s when the “moment” occurs, the one that helps break through a wall, solve an issue, or start a sentence.

      Biographers write all the time about how someone as accomplished as a Steve Jobs would take an afternoon walk, not only for the exercise, but to recharge his imagination.

      Often it would help unravel the labyrinth in his mind and he’d come back to the office with a solution that seemed inspired.

      Stephen King has spoken about taking walks between writing sessions and how it clears his mind of any hurdles that he’s having with his piece.

      And, you don’t have to be a “Stephen” to get these kinds of benefits!

      Music is also a great tool. It helps lend rhythm to your typing, giving it energy and passion, but also can be a white noise to hold the outside world at length.

      Thanks again for sharing!

      • Thanks, David. I just took a whole week off, which I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to do before, and I came back to work refreshed and ready to rock. I’m definitely going to do more downtime.

    • Olalekan says:

      This is really great.
      Liked the part of *nonsense*
      It really makes sense.

      • Yep. Nonsense is awesome 🙂 Yesterday my son teased me about making a one-string canjo instrument. He said, “You had a perfectly good guitar, and you destroyed it to make that thing!”

    • My life transformed this year when I decided to institute a lunch break. This involves preparing a proper meal, however light, sitting down to eat it, and not touching the laptop for an hour.

      Revolutionary, I know! But it works.

      • Beverly, I know, right? It probably seems to “normal” people that fixing a lunch and sitting down away from our work to eat it is a no-brainer, but I was amazed at how much more I accomplish and how much better I feel.

        Just eating lunch is a big challenge for me. I often don’t feel hungry until about dinner time, at which point I realize I haven’t eaten in oh, about ten hours. So I put lunch on my to-do list.

        Again, revolutionary, I know! But it works.

    • Writing ideas down as they come to me is a practice I’ve followed for years. However, I find that music stimulates my creativity, although I don’t listen to it that often.

      Quiet atmospheres are my preferred working environment, but I have learned to tune out sounds from the TV.

      I just recently got a smartphone, so now I’m learning other ways of recording my ideas, too.

      Isn’t technology wonderful?!

      • Technology IS wonderful. I love listening to music. I’ve also recently taken up the ukulele and I find that practicing improves my creativity.

    • Corinna says:

      I haven’t attempted to write any kind of fiction in quite some time, but I used to have notebooks scattered about with all sorts of storylines and ideas. And some of my favorite places of inspiration are coffee shops and bookstores. Just being surrounded by coffee and books does something to my brain and I automatically feel more intelligent and much more able to create. I also agree with your first point in keeping your brain full. It’s funny how that works but thinking about some current event or a recent joke can be the difference between having an unresolved plot device or a satisfied conflict. Thanks for the tips!

      • Oh, absolutely, coffee and books! Except in my case it’s Pepsi Max.

      • Thanks, Corinna. For me it’s Pepsi Max and books, but yeah.

    • Thanks, Virginia. I find myself typing in tune to the music.

    • Virginia says:

      Good tips about getting that creative juice back in place. I like music in the background sometimes. I can tune it out or listen, depending on what I am doing. Sometimes I put on instrumental only recordings and my body just kind of sways with it. Thanks for the reminders.

      • Thanks Virginia.

        I love the swaying to the music. I find myself typing in time to the tune 🙂 I listen mostly to stuff I’ve heard a gazillion times and I don’t even hear the vocals anymore.


    • Great article Angie! I couldn’t help noticing how many of your suggestions would enhance one’s life in many was beyond creativity. Having more fun, being less serious, scheduling more down time – all much needed in our busy lives. I would add taking walks outside. Some of my best ideas come then and I capture them in my wbeel book (iPhone).

      • Thanks, Linda. Definitely these are good life habits. I miss walks. I had an accident 3 1/2 years ago and a knee replacement about a year ago. I love walking and am eager to be able to do more.

    • Cami says:

      This is the best article I have read about creativity in a while! I have already done a few of the suggestions and, indeed, the hardest one is number 7. When I’m out of ideas, the last thing I want to do is write and start ‘generating trash’ in my opinion. But I’m going to continue pushing myself and like you said, give them all a try.. Thank you once again!

      • Thanks! Yes, writing when you can’t think is hard, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

      • Thanks, Cami. Number 7 is still hard for me, but I’ve learned that it’s worth it, so I force myself to do it.

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