"I'm just not creative!"
I used to tell myself that all the time. At the time it was true; for one simple reason.
My work was all about strategy, numbers, data, and critical analysis. I operated almost exclusively in my left brain; the methodical, logical, analytical side. Rarely did I get the opportunity to use my right brain so "Duh!", of course I wasn't creative. With underuse, my creative muscle had become flabby and weak.
Fast forward to when I started my first business.
I just couldn't get going. I spent hours analyzing data, market trends, and statistics. I spent weeks building impressive business plans and spreadsheets, but I never actually did anything.
For the life of me, I just couldn't get started.
Finally, over lunch one day, a smart industrial psychologist friend of mine said, "Tina, you spend so much time in your left brain, it's no wonder you can't get anything done." That's the day my right brain and I became formally acquainted; my friend introduced us. And our relationship has been growing ever since.
Your right brain is that creative part of your brain. It's the place where you dream big, take action, and produce the building blocks of your dreams.
Science has shown that, when we're engaged in left-brain activity, we actually see things only from a left-brain perspective: When every problem is a nail, you're only solution is a hammer.
But as you already know, building and growing your business demands far more creativity than it does metrics and statistical analysis. Yes there are data and stats; but you check in with them rather than spending hours, knee-deep, in them. They help you to adjust your course rather than set it.
For me, this was a massive shift in my thinking. And I had to learn fast.
Here are the five activities I filtered out from a list of hundreds. These are the ones I found to be extremely fast, effective, and easy to do. I'm still building that creative muscle, so I still use these today.
1. I tell myself that I'm incredibly creative.
Yes, that's how I started. I wrote down these words on my white-board, and they're still there to this day: "I am a creative genius." I read those words aloud, several times a day, every day. Our brains believe what we most often tell them. So I tell mine I'm a creative genius.
2. Big Picture Brain-Storming
To avoid getting bogged down in the minutiae of a project, I draw my thoughts on my whiteboard with coloured markers. I allow myself to go nuts. I set the task - let's say it's ideas for content - and I just hurl thoughts at the page. I don't try to make sense of them, I just throw them out there. With that done, I circle similar themes in the same colour. Then I form the collective themes into 'pillars' that make sense. I can usually be found doing this activity with loud music blaring from my computer, and a G&T in my left hand!
3. Walk and Talk
When I walk, my ideas flow more freely. I grab my phone, plug in my ear buds, and talk as I walk, recording my thoughts as a voice memo and playing them back later. My dog clearly thinks I've lost my mind, but it works.
I later learned that walking its relationship with creative thought is well documented. A study out of Stanford found creative output increased by an average of sixty percent when the person was walking versus sitting still.
4. Pens, not keyboards
I don't know about you, but I absolutely cannot think creatively while typing. I need to vomit on the page and see what I've written to be able to make sense of what's going on inside my head.
To make sure I never lose a thought (because our short-term memory can hold a maximum of only six things), I have little memo books and pencils scattered all over my home. Whenever I get a thought - constructive or not - I write it down and aggregate all of them at the end of each week.
This activity serves two purposes: One, it captures my creative thoughts so that I can unpack them later and two, it gets out all the nasty, shitty thoughts that sometimes pop into my head and try to keep me small. Yes, even mindset coaches (in fact, especially mindset coaches) know that keeping your mind on script is a work in progress!
5. Read: A lot
My Kindle is fit to burst.
I just did a quick audit and I have books about mindset, psychology, philosophy, religion, science (of various disciplines), classical literature, poetry, travel, gardening, music (okay, John Taylor's biography. I'm a massive Duran Duran fan; don't judge me.), astronomy, history, the list goes on.
I'm always reading two books at any one time. It's like mental gymnastics, but I find the change of 'scenery' often sparks thoughts inside my head that I jot down in one of my memo books. It's as though ideas get layered on top of each other until they form into something I can articulate. I don't think about which two books I'm going to read, I just start reading one book and see what comes next.
Right now I'm reading [again], 'The End of Average' by Todd Rose, and [also again] 'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success' by Carol Dweck.
That's another thing: I often read books more than once. Like movies - where I always see something new each time I watch them - I see something new and different in books each time I read them. And it sparks something in my mind that wasn't sparked previously.
Give these a try and let me know how it goes. And please, share what you do to boost your creative muscle: I'm very open to new ideas.
On a final note, if you every find yourself really stuck, juggle. Juggling with three balls has been shown to activate your right brain in a matter of seconds. And if you can't juggle with balls, use handkerchiefs or scarves; the effect is the same.
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