For a lot of people, creativity is a talent that few people have.
For me, creativity is a skill we all have and can improve with regular exercise.
"Creativity is not just for artists. It's for businesspeople looking for a new way to close a sale; it's for engineers trying to solve a problem; it's for parents who want their children to see the world in more than one way."--Twyla Tharp
Here are 32 simple, daily exercises you can choose from to enhance your creativity. They are short workouts for your right brain, often with nothing more than a pen and some paper (my tools are the Pilot Bravo! pen and a Moleskine sketchbook) and playfulness.
To make it into a habit, schedule "15 minutes of creativity" into your calendar and try a different exercise each day.
- Draw something--fruit, your coffee cup, your dog, cat, children--for 5-10 minutes. Just draw, don't judge and don't erase.
- Draw an apple a day using a different technique each day, for a week. My friend Ken Carbone did this daily, for 365 days.
- Buy a set of color pencils. Draw parallel lines freehand or with a ruler. Color them in a la Paul Smith.
- Use a drawing program on your i-Pad, my favorite is SketchPad, to draw half of something and have the mirror effect draw the other half. Try symmetrical things like bottles, vases, forks, pencils.
- Take your sketchbook to a concert and sketch or write ideas that pop into your head as you're listening to music.
- Make something new, funny or weird with objects lying on your desk.
- Collect a bunch of things from your recycling bin. Combine them together to make an abstract sculpture. Use a hot glue gun or lots of tape to hold it together.
- Look up a word in the dictionary, and then look up the word before and after. Make up a short story using the three words (loosely inspired by Twyla Tharp, from her book The Creative Habit).
- Make new things with paper clips (earrings, letters of the alphabet, a heart). See how many things you can make in 5 minutes.
- Find one thing that starts with the first letter of your first name and another with the first letter of your last name. Mash them together to make a new thing: Apple for Ayse + Bus for Birsel = Apple shaped bus. Draw it.
- Draw something on your desk, i.e. your stapler, without looking at your hand in 5 minutes. Cover your hand and drawing with a paper towel to not cheat. When done, take away the towel. Tadaaa! You'll be amazed.
- Pick a song you love and sing it with new lyrics.
- Write a poem about your day in the style of your favorite poet (Maya Angelou for example).
- Take a photo, or a selfie, open it in Photoshop or PowerPoint and write HELLO! in large letters in a fun font, save as PDF and attach it to your emails for the day.
- Take a compound word made up of two words. Separate them. Replace one of the words with a new word to make up new compound word. List as many combinations as you can.
- Go to a museum with your sketchbook and draw a painting or a sculpture that inspires you (if you can't take the time, go outside your door and draw a tree or a mailbox). It doesn't matter how crude or crooked your drawing and I guarantee that you will never forget what you just drew.
- Write something you want to solve in your notebook before you go to sleep. Sleep on your problem and let your subconscious do the work. When you wake up, ideate in your notebook.
- Look at clouds and imagine them as things, just like when you were a kid.
- Borrow your kid's Playdo and make a sculpture for 15 minutes. Use Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi or Brancusi as inspiration.
- Next borrow your kids Legos and make a plan for your dream house, pool included. You can also do this virtually on Minecraft.
- Cover your table completely with large easel paper. Draw on it large, free style, stream of consciousness, using a Sharpie (make sure Sharpie doesn't seep through) for 10 minutes or until the whole table is covered. Tape it all together and tack it on your wall.
- Take 5 minutes to write a haiku (Japanese style 3 line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable structure) about your day or night.
- Next time you're cooking, change a key ingredient and experiment.
- Gather materials (foil, q-tips, wire pipe cleaners, colorful paper or post-its, paper clips, some string, buttons, pushpins, and any other odds and ends) and glue them together to make something. If you have young kids, do this together.
- Channel Stefan Sagmeister, the graphic designer and author of Things I have learned in my life so far. Formulate your life's motto and write it in sugar or salt, or with flowers, or make a sketch of how you'd like to write it in a forest or across a pool.
- Mash up very new and very old technology and play with new ideas. Uber + Horse Carts. Apple Watch + Sun dial. Write and draw them.
- Do any page of Keri Smith's Wreck This Journal. My favorite: FIGURE OUT A WAY TO ATTACH THESE TWO PAGES.
- Print a portrait of someone you love or admire. Put tracing paper over it and redraw their face. Don't judge and don't erase. Try this with your own face for a self-portrait.
- Collect branches that look like letters on one of your hikes and write your name with them when you're home. Take a photo and post on Instagram.
- Draw something without lifting your pen.
- Learn how to draw something realistically, like an eye on this YouTube tutorial (this will take more than 15 minutes).
- Take a different route home and take photographs of the new things you see along the way. Post on Instagram, #creativeeveryday.
Here is what I've learned from these creative warm-ups: my thinking continues to be more flexible and multi-dimensional throughout the day. I approach work challenges with less fear and more playfully; I'm more open to see things in new and unexpected ways... And that makes all the difference.
How about you? Do you have some favorite creative exercises? I would love to hear from you.
Design the life and work you love!