Creativity is often assumed to be something that strikes us in a moment of inspiration. Like a lightning bolt.
An idea shoots into our brain like a bolt of inspiration ... and bam!
There's an inspired work of genius staring back at you from the page (or the computer screen)
That's a misnomer.
The truth is that inspiration comes from action — not the other way around.
Writing is thinking on paper
I’ve set myself a goal of writing 1K words each day and have stuck to this for the last 3 months.
I haven't published everything I've written, but I've created a lot more useful content over this time.
All I aim to do is hit the target of 1000 words each day.
I knew the power of writing every day but I haven't always executed it.
This is such an important idea that I think it's worth a mention here.
Writing is one of the best ways I know to explore and develop your thinking.
I recently spoke to Derek Sivers who is one of the best thinkers I’ve come across online.
Derek told me he journals for at least an hour each day — sometimes for up to 3 or 4 hours.
I think that's a big part of his secret to pithy insights and deep content.
I can’t recommend a daily writing target highly enough!
Constraints create positive pressure and inspire innovation
The constraints that come with publishing content create a great canvas for synthesizing and innovating
I've been fortunate enough to interview some of the world's brightest minds in entrepreneurship and marketing on the Productive Insights podcast.
This includes (but isn't limited to) a conversation with Seth Godin in episode 200, Neil Patel in episodes 1 and 212, Guy Kawasaki in episode 210, Sonia Simone in episodes 107 and 108, and Rand Fishkin in episodes 38, 126, and 159 to name a few.
Speaking to these thought leaders is an excellent way to re-discover ideas that lurk in the deep recesses of my mind, and combine those ideas with the conversation I'm having with my (current) podcast guest
More often than not this leads to new and innovative insights that I wouldn't have otherwise arrived at.
Another excellent tool to help re-discover previous thinking is Roam Research — its bilateral linking capabilities are the best I've seen. I've been using it for years now and I recommend it.
Here's the thing: this principle applies to any form of content creation (even if it isn't conversation based)
The key here is to apply time constraints and structure to your content creation process. For instance, you could use this framework to write your blog posts and aim to publish one blog post each week.
Both these constraints become forcing mechanisms to inspire creativity.
Harness the power of regular breaks
Taking regular breaks serves as a valuable pattern interrupt — especially when you're in a creative rut.
Taking regular breaks gives your subconscious mind to do its thing (after your conscious mind has been focused on the subject matter for some time). Adrian Furnman explains that it's important to give your brain incubation time after you've been working actively on an idea for some time.
Brian Halligan from Hubspot explained in this interview in the New York times that he's a big advocate for naps at the workplace.
He explains that it's important for employees to "work less and think more" by providing nap rooms to encourage regular breaks. This practice helps spark creativity.
Watch stand-up comedians
I've always believed that stand-up comedians are the great philosophers of our time. They usually think deeply about things and inspire us to do the same.
Comedians tend to use pattern-interrupts and open loops to keep their audience engaged, and deliver their humor in a way that's entertaining and often very informative.
Watching comedians do their routines can unlock creativity.
I've lost count of the number of times I've felt a bit stuck (including while writing this very blog post) and have decided to take a break to watch a stand-up comedian I enjoy watching.
In almost every instance I've felt inspired, relaxed and have returned to my computer with renewed enthusiasm.
In every instance I can remember, I've come back with a fresh perspective.
I've found it really easy to move past the roadblock I've encountered. I recommend it.
Play a musical instrument
I have a couple of guitars in my home office and I often pick them up to play a few riffs. This almost always works to get me out of a creative rut when I'm writing.
Because playing the guitar uses different aspects of the brain and stimulates pathways that seem to "unlock" new insights.
Since the guitar is a "tactile" experience and engages muscle memory, it seems to add a new dimension in terms of creativity.
If you don't play a music instrument, then listen to music. That's a good alternative.