Stirring the pot (a.k.a. How to be more creative)


Previously in our newsletter I described three ways to set the stage for being more creative. Wow, is it ever hard to do them consistently! I need a reminder. Here are those strategies again:

  1. Create the right conditions
  2. Reduce the noise in your head
  3. Make the conscious decision to be more creative

If any of us did these things regularly our creativity would be on fire! Setting the stage is the most important part of creativity: it is like the foundation of the house — if there is no foundation, there is no house.

But maybe you are doing all those things and are still not exactly thrilled with what you are producing. Maybe you don’t love the results yet and want to find ways to make work that you truly love. Or maybe you just want to feel more alive! You are ready to stir the pot. Stirring the pot makes life better — even if you’re not doing any of those strategies.

Stirring the pot means to stir up your creativity so that you will have new ideas, make new connections between ideas, and produce work you can’t even imagine — yet.

Here are four more techniques that will stir your creativity whether you are doing creative work or not. For those of you who think this does not apply to you, I encourage you to try it out for a few weeks — you’ll notice that problem-solving in your work or relationships will become more creative and engaging. Everyday life is full of opportunities for more creativity.

    1. Deliberately challenge yourself

      Give yourself challenging problems to solve. Tough situations require different kinds of thinking and behaving, and the resulting interconnections create new behaviors and ideas.

    2. Surround yourself with diversity

      Hang out with people who have different views than you do and try to understand them. Read books you wouldn’t usually choose yourself, watch movies from an unfamiliar genre, look for opportunities to be curious and surprised. You can be more creative by being more engaged with the world around you. Step out of what is familiar to you. When you surround yourself with interesting people and diverse settings then your own ideas are likely to become more interesting.

    3. Be gentle with your fledgling ideas

      Don’t judge them! They are just little baby ideas, and they need to be protected. You never know what they might grow into. As you are brainstorming your ideas just make sure to get them down before you forget them. Many of us want to make to something amazing on the first try. But, it doesn’t work that way. There are often a lot of bad ideas on the way to a good one.

Think about creativity this way: we make messes then we make decisions. Respect your bad ideas because even they can lead you to a great one.

  1. Notice what you notice.

    This is a very powerful idea. As this phrase implies, what you notice is significant. It tells you something about yourself. So you need to pay attention. What are the specific, idiosyncratic things that attract your attention? Maybe you have a thing for birdhouses. Maybe it’s a certain colour that thrills you. Maybe you always notice how light plays on architecture. Whatever it is, there are things that are particular or peculiar to you, and you are drawn to them. You might be tempted to dismiss the things that you notice because they might not be cool, or they might not seem useful, or they might not seem practical. But what you notice over and over is specific to you, and therefore may be significant. These things are clues that can lead you to your next creative breakthrough: they could lead you in a direction that is unique and authentic. I first read the phrase ‘notice what you notice’ in my all-time favourite book about creativity called Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I love this book. I keep rereading it.

Stirring the pot means fostering your own creative mindset. When you are in a creative mindset you can find life more interesting, and be more innovative and inquisitive. Whether you want to make a painting, develop a business strategy, or write a poem you will feel some kind of benefit from stirring the pot.

Challenge yourself
Surround yourself with diversity
Be gentle with your fledgling ideas
Notice what you notice

Now go out and make something!