How To Be Creative is a theme that surfaces again and again when I sit down to write. Not because people flock to me asking, “Oh Beth, you creative wizard, will you please publish your wisdom?!”
Nope, that’s not the spark that lights my blog-posting flame.
Most of the time, my creativity-focused posts begin from a rising frustration—occasionally because my own practice is in a slump, but more often because I’m sick to death of hearing others say:
“I’m not creative.”
Dammit, you ARE creative.
To my core, I believe every single one of us is creative.
I know, my swearing at you isn’t going to help. That’s why I (usually) channel my passion into helpful hints and practical strategies for nurturing your creativity. Back in the heat of July 2021, I rounded up a treasure trove of advice from smart people who know how to avoid a creative rut. One of my favorites was this bit of wisdom:
“Do one thing differently,” suggests Kristin, a writer, teacher, and organizer. “It could be big or small, but it changes the perspective.”
Kristin’s words stuck with me so much that this past fall, Change One Thing became Point 2 in my three-part strategy for anyone who wants to be creative. At the time, I was focused on creative presentations. Advising businesspeople with stodgy audiences that expect “the way we’ve always done it,” here’s what I suggested:
… there’s more to crafting a “creative presentation” than the delivery method. You can flex your creative muscle in how you prepare that presentation. Write your first draft entirely on sticky notes; use the Power of 39 to brainstorm great metaphors for your solution to the customer’s problem; or translate complicated spreadsheet data into simple visuals.
In your quest to be creative, you don’t have to reimagine everything. If reinventing the output is too big of a stretch, change some aspect of the input. Adjust your process. Change just one thing.
And that brings us to today, the eve of March 2023. For me, March is a month of change. As a Midwesterner, I long for the change in seasons. We are ready to advance from winter to spring, from coats and boots to hoodies and sneakers, from root vegetables to crisp greens.
While Mother Nature does her thing, you and I can be making changes, too. One change at a time, we can spend the month of March practicing skills and habits that strengthen our creativity.
Not sure what that might entail? Let me help. Throughout March 2023, I’ll share a Creative Change-A-Day: 31 things you can change in your quest to be more creative.
(Remember: You already are creative. These experiments will give you the proof!)
To get us started, here are 10 creative changes you can try:
1. Change your posture.
Quick, right now: check your posture. Are you hunched over the screen, curving your neck and spine like some kind of prawn? Whether you’re reading, writing, or solving the world’s big problems, take a moment every now and then to breathe, straighten up, and pull your shoulders back. Bonus points if you actually use that standing desk.
2. Change your routine.
Even the most freewheeling among us have routines. Do you always pull on right sock before left? Which leg goes into your pants first? Which arm gets a sleeve first? Just noticing these patterns takes focus. And if you try to break a habit, you have to practice intention. Focus and intention are two skills that benefit your creativity and your sanity. So why not change things up this week?
3. Change your path.
Do you take the same route to work each day? Leave a few minutes early and allow yourself a detour. Turn left where you’d normally go right. Tune into the differences. Intentionally notice your surroundings. Before you end the commute and head into work, ask yourself: What was good about this alternate route? What, if anything, did I miss about the usual path? What path will I choose tomorrow? (Pssst: This is great practice for reviewing past work and planning next steps.)
4. Change your viewpoint.
Have you ever tried arguing the other side of an issue—the side that’s not yours? Maybe not since high school debate. Put yourself on Team Them and give it a go. Describe your product with words your most vicious competitor might choose. List 10 reasons customers should not try your service. Now study the results. Any words, insights, or images you could use when you return to Team Us?
5. Change your order.
Do your case studies or customer success stories always follow the formula of problem > solution > result? Just once, try a “spoiler” approach. Tell the happy ending first, then flash back to the situation and actions that got you there. You might discover this order works better for some stories. Maybe even all of them.
6. Change your process.
If your usual first step in drafting something is to click ”File > New,” try roughing out an analog version first. Instead of curling your fingers over the keys and hearing them tap-tap-tap, experience how it feels to wrap your hand around a pencil and hear it scratch across the page.
7. Change your diet.
You could literally change what you eat. Give up chocolate or caffeine for a week if you dare. Try sushi for the first time or make a point to eat the recommended daily allowance of vegetables. That in itself can be a creative mission. Or change your content diet. Try getting your news from a different source. Watch a documentary instead of a comedy (or vice versa). Spend an hour at the library instead of on TikTok.
8. Change your collaborator(s).
Writing by committee doesn’t have to suck. True, some people have a knack for squashing innovation and sucking all the joy out of a room. If you’re surrounded by this kind of creative non-support, reach beyond those cranky few and restore your energy by working with someone new. Bart, that guy in Accounting, is a wicked-smart problem solver, and Sue in Customer Service has a crazy quick wit. Engage their brains on your topic for 30 minutes and see what happens.
9. Change your delivery method.
Hey leaders, there’s more than one way to share ideas with your team. If you’ve been sending a Monday Motivation email every week for eight years, maybe it’s time to admit that, these days, no one reads. Pull out your phone, aim the video camera at your smiling face, and give your people the benefit of your emotions and personality. I bet they’ll watch.
10. Change your vocabulary.
Go to your website or LinkedIn profile, find a beefy paragraph, and challenge yourself to rewrite it with entirely different words. You can keep essentials like “a” and “the” and your company name. But how else can you say that you “optimize technical solutions for leading-edge clients in the energy sector.” There must be is a better way. Turn yourself into a human thesaurus and get busy.