This article originally published May 12, 2015. Like this article? Find more great tips by subscribing to my blog here.
Creativity may be in more demand than ever. With the rapid rise of the internet economy, creatives have begun to make unique work opportunities for themselves. Online entrepreneurs are making things up as they go because the commerce and industry we experience today is still a new frontier.
U.S. jobs and contract positions are now easily outsourced to overseas locations where the cost of living is less. The low wages paid to virtual workers edge out the chance of Westerners competing with those prices. These overseas workers are highly skilled and educated, and often don’t possess the entitled attitude that many of us do in the U.S., so they are appreciated and sought after.
So how do you stand out from the crowd if you aren’t naturally creative?
You practice being creative.
Artists have been hacking the creative matrix for years. Here are some of the methods you may not expect to unstick the flow of inspiration for extraordinary breakthroughs.
1. Do nothing.
Literally. Nothing. Especially if you are almost always busy. Take yourself on vacation, sit at the beach or pool, and do nothing. If you can’t go on vacation, take a staycation and sequester yourself for a day or an afternoon. If your time is generally taken up by everyday projects, requirements and tasks, there isn’t much room for creative thoughts to flow because the mental space is filled up. You need to empty it.
Get a little bored, even. Just when you start getting bored and wondering why the heck you are doing this, the ideas will pour out. Do nothing until they do.
2. Write it down.
Get in the habit of taking notes. One method might be writing three pages in a journal first thing in the morning about whatever comes to mind. Throughout the day when ideas come to you -- no matter how small or insignificant they may seem in the moment -- write them down. The note app on your phone or a simple pad and pen carried in your pocket will suffice. You can even record voice notes.
Ideas will often come while you are involved in certain activities such as driving, showering, cooking, gardening. When the mind gets into a meditative state in these activities, the subconscious is able to do some freestyling. That’s where the juice is.
3. Pay attention to your dreams.
If you think your dreams are meaningless, think again. When you study your own dream patterns by keeping a journal and learning to interpret them, you may become the next Albert Einstein. The famous thinker and inventor discovered the Theory of Relativity because of a dream he had as a teenager.
Other ideas or works of art that came out of dreams include: the sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe, James Cameron’s breakout film The Terminator, Paul McCartney’s song “Yesterday,” The Periodic Table by Dmitry Mendeleyev, DNA and the double helix discovered by James Watson and Jack Nicklaus’ winning golf swing.
Seriously, people have studied and calculated that those who have a sense of humor are more creative. Listening to something funny before taking a test is proven to raise test scores. Most people think more creatively when they are relaxed. Not to mention the endorphins released while laughing. Humorous people tend to be able to think outside the box, which is necessary in problem solving and creating. Besides that, funny people are considered more valuable on the job.
You don’t need to be an artist or comedian to be creative, you just need to nurture the innovative side of yourself you may have left with your broken crayons in elementary school. Exercising the creative muscle will make it stronger and give you the edge you need to add value to your life and work.