Tag Archives: Creativity

46 Ways to be Creative

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There are thousands of ways to be creative. Here are just a few to try:

  1. You know that free online class you’ve always wanted to take? Do it now!
  2. 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.
  3. Go to a public place with a notebook and pen. Watch people and make up stories about them. Write your stories down.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Buy a bottle of bubbles at the dollar store and sit on your front stoop to blow them.
  7. Cut paper snowflakes.
  8. 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).
  9. 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).
  10. 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.
  11. 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!
  12. Call that friend you’ve lost touch with. Ask him how he’s doing. Let him talk—you listen and ask questions.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. Think about how a crazy person might solve a problem. (Yeah, crazy like a fox.)
  16. 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. . .
  17. Learn to do something most people learn to do when they’re kids. Swimming. Riding a bike. Skateboarding.
  18. Practice yoga. Learn a new pose.
  19. If you have a musical instrument at home, try playing favorite songs (or children’s songs) by ear.
  20. 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.
  21. Doodle.
  22. 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.
  23. Lie on a blanket outside and look at the clouds. What are they shaped like? A lamb? President Lincoln? A Corvette? A mushroom?
  24. 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.
  25. Read poems.
  26. 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.
  27. Paint a design on your toenails—or on someone else’s nails.
  28. Bake cookies—but add one secret ingredient to the dough.
  29. Choose a favorite quote and write it in fancy lettering, childish lettering, or cut-out letters.
  30. Go to the dollar store with $10 and buy 10 meaningful presents for your friends.
  31. Spend an afternoon in a museum.
  32. Make a list of things you’re grateful for: mild weather, puppies, finding your keys.
  33. 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.
  34. Listen to music, or watch music videos. Listen to your favorites, or the classics (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart), or discover new artists.
  35. If you’re stuck in a waiting situation (at the doctor’s office, in line, in broken-down public transportation), don’t fidget—daydream!
  36. Watch funny animal videos on YouTube.
  37. Cultivate creative friends, and connect with them often.
  38. Watch TED talks. Here’s a good one.
  39. If you’re stuck, be mindful. Take deep breaths. Be in the moment.
  40. Improve your nutrition. Get off junk food. Limit your salt and sugar. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  41. Attend a conference for one of your interests.
  42. Accept that creativity isn’t any one thing. It’s millions of things, and different sparks for different people.
  43. Journal.
  44. Buy a package of googly eyes. Go look for things to stick them on.
  45. Make a puppet. Write a puppet show. Put it on with a child.
  46. Make your own list of ways to be creative. Can you think of 50? 100? 1000?

Monday Morning Wisdom #332

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Monday Morning Wisdom #332

Creation is bringing something new into existence. Formula is re-creation of what has been. Through a repetitive series of steps, it seeks to gain similar results by duplicating what’s worked in the past.That’s great for a muffin mix. Not for creating something original.

~Allen Arnold, on Facebook at The Story of With

Review of The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

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I have seen this book more than once on lists of best books about creativity.

Now that I’ve read it, I can confirm that it is. In fact, it’s delightful.

Tharp is one of America’s best loved choreographers, with a long and illustrious career. If you don’t know her, take a peek at this short interview with her from a couple of years ago, in which she discusses a newer book she’s written on the importance of movement:

Yay! I get to read another book by her.

In The Creative Habit (subtitled Learn it and Use it for Life), she offers tools that will help the creative artist keep coming up with fresh ideas. She believes in rituals, and has processes by which she frees up her brain to come up with new things.

The book is beautifully formatted. It uses different colored inks and different sizes of type to keep the eye and the mind from getting lulled into inattention (at least, it did for me). At the end of each chapter is a group of exercises, printed on gray paper. I didn’t do every exercise, but I did mull them over and I can see how beneficial each would be to enhance a person’s creativity.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Tharp uses anecdotes from her own life and from those of creative geniuses throughout history, recent and long past, to illustrate happy (and not-so-happy) accidents that led to creative breakthroughs.        

If I were teaching a college-level class on creativity, The Creative Habit would be my textbook. It’s that good. In fact, I wish I had read this when I was still teaching elementary general music, although I did do some similar activities with my students.

Tharp cowrote the book with Mark Reiter, whose bio reads, “Mark Reiter has collaborated on eleven previous books. He is also a literary agent in Bronxville, New York.” I did not find much more about him online. (Apparently, he is quite humble.) I don’t know how much of The Creative Habit is actually his. I’d like to think the content is 99.9% Tharp’s, and that Reiter contributed some of the sparkle. I also suspect he’s a great agent for nonfiction authors.

The Creative Habit has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf. I intend to reread it every couple of years.

Monday Morning Wisdom #300

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Monday Morning Wisdom #300

Our culture is all about comparison, conformity, and control. Don’t give in to that pressure. Creativity isn’t meant to be a mouthpiece for what’s popular. It’s meant to be light—not a mirror. May your art be a voice in the wilderness. May it break through the matrix. Stay true.

~ Allen Arnold on Twitter (@TheStoryofWith)

In the Meme Time: Inner Child

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Creative Juice #198

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Creative Juice #198

This week’s offering is heavy on reading lists. You’re welcome.

Monday Morning Wisdom #251

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Monday Morning Wisdom #251

MMWIf you only do what you usually do, you’ll never know what you’re capable of doing. ~Josh Spector

In the Meme Time: Boldly Go

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Boldly Go

Monday Morning Wisdom #246

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Monday Morning Wisdom #246

MMWJust because it’s easier than ever to create doesn’t mean it’s easier to create something good. ~Josh Spector

Common Misconceptions About Creativity

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Common Misconceptions About Creativity

Creativity is such an ethereal property that mere mortals can’t possess it.

I think almost everyone is creative, or has the potential to be. It takes a certain sense of bravery, of not caring what other people think, to come up with a new idea.

If you try something that doesn’t work, you’ve failed.

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” He also said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

The lesson? Don’t give up. Perseverance is a necessary quality for a creative. So, get back to work.

You have to be in the mood to create. The muse must be present to inspire you.

Sorry. The muse is a myth. However, if you need one, by all means, conjure one up. (It’s called imagination, people.)

The problem with relying on a creative mood is that they’re generally rare. If that weren’t true, people wouldn’t be wasting so much time with meaningless diddling on their phones.

And the muse is a fickle twitch. She moves on way too quickly.

So you’re going to have to work when you’re uninspired, or you’d never work. You can manufacture your own inspiration by examining things others have created, particularly items not part of your own sphere of expertise. Stuck on your novel? Go read a biography. Watch a musical. Visit the folk art museum. Then sit down and do something, even if it’s a sketch of something that could never be built. Exercise those creative muscles, and a viable creation will eventually result.

Joy of Creativity

There are no new ideas. Everything has already been done.

I own a book called 20 Master Plots by Ronald B. Tobias. It’s similar to The 36 Dramatic Situations by Georges Polti. The premise is that there are only so many stories (some other counts are as low as 4 or as high as 1,462), and you can only write a variant of something that’s been written before.

That may be true to a certain extent. How often have you read something and thought, This is just like the XYZ book. When authors submit manuscripts to agents or publishers, they are asked what books currently on the market are like theirs.  

So, yeah. It’s hard to come up with an idea that is completely original. You know that scene in The Hunger Games when Katniss lays flowers all around Rue’s corpse? I wrote a scene like that in The Unicornologist—in the late 90s, ten years before The Hunger Games book came out. My book isn’t published yet—how many people will think I copied that scene? Yep, all of them. So I’ve either got to rewrite that scene, or be criticized for being derivative.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of books and songs and sculptures and plays that are similar, but uniquely different. The creators torqued an original twist on a familiar theme and expanded it into something delightful. That is creativity. Hey, the advertising industry tries to make us believe that a laundry detergent is new and improved. That’s right—laundry soap.

Now it’s your turn.

What misconceptions have you heard about the nature of creativity? What convinced you they were false? Share in the comments below.