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10 Tricks to Get the Creative Juices Flowing

Amateurs wait for inspiration to strike. The pros know how to cultivate creativity on an ongoing basis.

Imagine if you could turn on creativity like starting a car, rev the engine to get up to speed, cruise along in the fast lane, and then park it in the garage until you needed it again. Is there anything you couldn’t accomplish?

Unfortunately, at times it feels like the engine has stalled, the tire is flat, or road construction has brought traffic to a screeching halt. Nothing gets you going. 

You can’t always sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. Amateurs wait for inspiration. The real pros get up and go to work. They understand that you are not born with creativity--it's something you have to cultivate on an ongoing basis. Here are some ideas:

1. Keep a journal. 

Record ideas as soon as they come to you by keeping a notebook close at hand all the time. Anything that lets you capture your thoughts will work. When you need to charge up your creativity, search your notebook for ideas and examples.

2. Search your environment for inspiration. 

Artists find inspiration in many unlikely places. If looking at the same four walls every day limits your perspective, add some elements that help you see things in a new way--pictures, plants, books, even toys. 

3. Question everything. 

Ask “why” and “how” to determine if there’s a better way to solve a problem. Another favorite question of mine: “What’s missing?” 

4. Turn problems around. 

Switch gears by looking for the opposite of what you want. Exploring how you could make a bad situation worse can sometimes tell you what not to do.  

5. Combine random elements. 

Try this exercise: Look at two items on your desk right now and figure out a way to put them together. This won’t necessarily generate a useful idea, but it will train your mind to see different possibilities.

6. Recruit a partner. 

Bounce ideas off another person--someone you’re comfortable with but who will challenge you when necessary. With another person involved, you’re not limited to your own experience and perspective. 

7. Read something totally different than usual. 

Too often, we find ourselves looking at the same newspapers, trade publications, blogs, and the like. Pick up a murder mystery, a gardening book, a Shakespeare volume, or anything that will teach you something you didn’t know anything about. 

8. Tolerate failure. 

Expect to make some mistakes when you try new and different approaches. Sometimes colossal failures lead to spectacular successes. 

9. Listen to your “inner child.” 

Ever notice how kids are unafraid to take gigantic risks or make outlandish statements when confronted with a problem? They haven’t been trained yet to take the safe approach. Even if their ideas aren’t fully developed, their dreams are big enough to take chances. 

10. Relax your mind. 

Give your subconscious a chance to work by turning your brain off from time to time. Don’t focus on work or solving problems constantly. Take time to exercise and relax, and give yourself permission to think about other things. A tired mind won’t generate fresh ideas. 

Mackay’s Moral: To get what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done.

IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Oct 3, 2012

HARVEY MACKAY | Columnist | Founder, MackayMitchell Envelope Co.

Harvey Mackay, author of The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World, is founder of the MackayMitchell Envelope Co. He has written six bestsellers, including Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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