There are thousands of ways to be creative. Here are just a few to try:
- You know that free online class you’ve always wanted to take? Do it now!
- A lot of people did this during the pandemic: choose an iconic artwork, and dress yourself (or your child, or your dog) to look like it. Take a picture and post on social media.
- Go to a public place with a notebook and pen. Watch people and make up stories about them. Write your stories down.
- Choose a favorite song and choreograph a dance to it. (You might need to film yourself doing the dance so you don’t forget it. Try to think of a way to notate it.) Then teach the dance to someone else.
- Make up a new holiday (Umbrella Day? Castanet Day? Tuna Casserole Day?) and a unique way to celebrate it. Invite all your friends to your celebration.
- Buy a bottle of bubbles at the dollar store and sit on your front stoop to blow them.
- Cut paper snowflakes.
- Build a blanket fort. Make yourself a snack to eat inside it, and do something fun in there (read a book with a flashlight, take a nap, pet a cat).
- Do a photographic study—take a picture every day of/from the same location at the same time of day for a month or a year, documenting changes (of seasons, growth, decay, quality of sunlight).
- Write a love letter—to a real person in your life, or an imagined one; to a romantic partner, or a friend, or a relative, or a pet.
- Identify things that need inventing—a wastebasket that empties itself, windshield wipers that exude fresh rubber as they wear, a doorbell that plays your favorite song. If you can think of a way to make it, do!
- Call that friend you’ve lost touch with. Ask him how he’s doing. Let him talk—you listen and ask questions.
- Watch a classic movie you’ve never seen: Casablanca, It’s a Wonderful Life, Some Like It Hot, To Kill a Mockingbird. See what all the fuss is about.
- Take a walk. Bring a notebook and pen. Think about stuff, especially problems. See what solutions you can come up with. Walking with a notebook and pen is an especially good technique for writers needing to work out plot problems or come up with topics to write about.
- Think about how a crazy person might solve a problem. (Yeah, crazy like a fox.)
- Follow connections. You know how when you think of one thing, it reminds you of another? Follow the trail and see where it leads. You’re thinking of how a joey (baby kangaroo) rides in its mother’s pouch, and that reminds you of how your daughter used to reverse her backpack so that it became a frontpack, and then you remember the time she stuffed her backpack with licorice and it smeared her homework. . .
- Learn to do something most people learn to do when they’re kids. Swimming. Riding a bike. Skateboarding.
- Practice yoga. Learn a new pose.
- If you have a musical instrument at home, try playing favorite songs (or children’s songs) by ear.
- That long term creative project you’re afraid to start—buy a package of gold stars, and mark your calendar with them every day that you work on the project.
- Write a haiku—a short poem of three lines. The first line has 5 syllables, the second 7, the third 5: windy autumn days / colorful leaves blowing down / rake them into piles.
- Lie on a blanket outside and look at the clouds. What are they shaped like? A lamb? President Lincoln? A Corvette? A mushroom?
- Before you throw an old magazine in the recycling bin, tear out a few pictures and put them on your desk in a folder marked “inspiration.” Then refer to them when you want to draw something, but you don’t know what.
- Read poems.
- Draw a self-portrait. Draw lots of self-portraits. Challenge yourself by trying different techniques: pen and ink, watercolor, colored pencil. Draw a self-portrait using one continuous line. Draw a self-portrait using your non-dominant hand.
- Paint a design on your toenails—or on someone else’s nails.
- Bake cookies—but add one secret ingredient to the dough.
- Choose a favorite quote and write it in fancy lettering, childish lettering, or cut-out letters.
- Go to the dollar store with $10 and buy 10 meaningful presents for your friends.
- Spend an afternoon in a museum.
- Make a list of things you’re grateful for: mild weather, puppies, finding your keys.
- Pick up a small item, like a stone, a paperclip, or a thumbtack. What does its shape suggest to you? Put it on a piece of paper, and draw a picture around it. I love what Debbie Ridpath Ohi does with this idea.
- Listen to music, or watch music videos. Listen to your favorites, or the classics (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart), or discover new artists.
- If you’re stuck in a waiting situation (at the doctor’s office, in line, in broken-down public transportation), don’t fidget—daydream!
- Watch funny animal videos on YouTube.
- Cultivate creative friends, and connect with them often.
- Watch TED talks. Here’s a good one.
- If you’re stuck, be mindful. Take deep breaths. Be in the moment.
- Improve your nutrition. Get off junk food. Limit your salt and sugar. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Attend a conference for one of your interests.
- Accept that creativity isn’t any one thing. It’s millions of things, and different sparks for different people.
- Buy a package of googly eyes. Go look for things to stick them on.
- Make a puppet. Write a puppet show. Put it on with a child.
- Make your own list of ways to be creative. Can you think of 50? 100? 1000?
I recently listed to the Guy Raz podcast How I Built This, the episode with Christina Tosi who has the Milk Bar bakery. She talked about putting balsamic vinegar (and other ingredients) in with strawberries in strawberry shortcake, to make their taste sharper, and putting cornflakes and coffee grounds in her Compost Cookies. She didn’t want to go through the cost and trouble of getting a permit for outside signage for her business, so she put a giant neon sign inside where it was visible from outside. And I thought, that person is about 100 times more creative than anybody I know! So I would add, listen to podcasts that are outside your usual areas of interest, to your list of great suggestions!
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Wonderful suggestion, Gwen! I’ll have to check out that podcast. . .
I love this list, Andrea! I may have to print it out to post where I can see it and try a new thing each day. So fun! You’re my most creative friend!
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Thanks for the kind words, Linda.
I’m actually going to print this and keep it handy, just in case!
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