How to be more creative – top tips you can actually follow
Our infographic of the week has creativity hacks you can start working on today
March 15, 2017
What’s the secret of creativity? Is there some magic combination of routines, working habits and environment that is guaranteed to get inspiration and imagination flowing? Is creativity in B2B or B2C something you’re born with – or something you can conjure up by living, working and thinking the right way? These questions have occupied creative minds for centuries – and more recently they’ve occupied a lot of creativity hackers who spend a lot of time analysing the habits of famous creative people – and telling you how to be more like them.
The routines of famous creative minds
There are some thought-provoking insights out there. It’s striking how many famous writers worked in very short, intense bursts, for example, got up and started work before sunrise, or set a lot of stall by exercise. Charles Dickens only worked for a few hours each day but insisted on absolute quiet and isolation while he was writing. Tchaikovsky punctuated short periods of composing with long walks. Gustav Holst was never happier than when striding around London or going for long-distance walks in the country. There are always exceptions to these rules (exercise and Kingsley Amis didn’t get along, Jane Austen scribbled her novels on scraps of paper in between interruptions in her drawing room and Picasso was a proper night owl, only starting work in the afternoon). However, they seem to be some consistent trends amongst creative thinkers that it’s worth paying attention to.
The limits of most creativity hacks
There’s a problem, though, with all of the creativity hacks that are based on what’s worked for great artists in the past – those people’s routines aren’t usually an option if you’re working in a creative industry like marketing or advertising today. You can apply some of the principles (heading out of the office for a run, walk or trip to the gym at lunchtime, getting up early and working and thinking at home before setting out to work), but you can’t arrange an entire daily routine around the need to be always at your peak creatively. Your world is filled with creative tasks, but also with deadlines, meetings, teams to manage, reports to read. You’re an artist alright – but you’re not always free to act like one. Victorian-era routines that involve far more leisure and exercise than they do actual work aren’t really an option.
How to be a creative genius in five days – really!
That’s why I’ve got a lot of love for an infographic from zippi.co.uk, an online business that’s all about making creativity less mystical and more accessible. It does this in its day job by popularising the work of artists and photographers as practical gifts for people to buy – but also through its blog. And that’s where I found the answer to the ultimate creative question: how to be a creative genius in five days.
What I love about this infographic is its relentless practicality – and its conviction that creativity is accessible to all with just a little bit of planning, discipline and commitment. It doesn't set out to be the complete guide to a creative lifestyle. Instead, it’s a boot camp for kick-starting creativity that embeds repeatable principles that will stick with you long after the initial rush of energy starts to dissipate. Scroll down to see what I mean – and scroll down a bit further for my take on why this creative advice is actually possible to follow – and worth following:
I’ve always believed that the most important step in any creative work is the first one. You have to stop thinking about how different and intimidating the task is – and just throw yourself into it. One of the content marketing principles that I live by is: don’t just try to think like a publisher – get on with it and publish like a publisher. This infographic follows the same principles – but applies it to any creative task: be serious about it, set yourself up for success and then get on with it and write, scribble or doodle like fury! You can worry about editing and perfecting later on.
Some of the ideas in here might still be a little extreme. I love the idea of painting your space yellow and green – but I’m not sure LinkedIn would let me go that far. There’s nothing to stop me dotting a few items that colour around the desk that I’ve optimised for creative thinking, though. There’s also nothing to stop me making more of an effort to clear my diary when I need space to be creative. Okay – four days isn’t an option. However, I know from experience that even an afternoon can make a difference.
The balance of research and creativity that’s in here is important and timely – the recognition that creative ideas don’t just strike out of the blue once you’ve got your mind to the right meditative state. Creativity has always been about soaking up relevant ideas and information and then giving yourself the time and space to think about them differently. In an increasingly data-driven era, that aspect of it is more important than ever – and this infographic embodies it.
Most of all, though, I just love the attitude that Zippo has captured here. It’s confident, can-do and decisive. And as far as creativity goes, those ingredients are as important as any.