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Creativity & Inspiration

Robert Grudin, author of the book The Grace of Great Things said, "Creativity is dangerous. We cannot open ourselves to new insights without endangering the security of our prior assumptions. We cannot propose new ideas without risking disapproval and rejection." In my advertising class last semester we talked a lot about creativity, inspiration and problem solving. I think increasing your capacity for creativity is important because as you practice opening yourself to new insights you can find better solutions to everyday problems, AND because as you practice developing regular ideas, you get better at recognizing divine inspiration in your life. And maybe artistic expression is closer to spirituality than we realize.

So how do you do it? How do you become more creative? How do you become idea-prone? And how do you distinguish good ideas from bad ideas, or spiritual promptings from regular thoughts? I'm certainly not an expert, but I have found a few principles that have been true for me. I want to share my advice for general inspiration and creativity first, and then move on to divine revelation later. Some of these suggestions are adapted from the book, How To Get Ideas by Jack Foster, which I highly recommend.

  • NOTICE EVERYTHING. This is probably obvious, but I think people that seem to have the most ideas are the ones who are looking for it.
  • WRITE STUFF DOWN. Observations are much more powerful when they are recorded. I don't think it even matters if you refer to them ever again, the act of keeping track of your thoughts helps you to refine them. Thomas Wolfe, an American novelist, said, "Buy yourself a notebook--something with a sense of permanence to it. Then every day write in it something you've seen, something you've noticed, or something you want to do. Every day. It doesn't make any difference what you see; only that you see something and record it. When your notebook is full, sit down and read it. Then start filling up another one. And another one. And another one. For the rest of your life."
  • TRY NEW THINGS. This is hard for me (and for all of us) because we are creatures of habit. Sometimes we mistake being happy for being comfortable and we shut ourselves off from new input and new ideas. Force yourself to do things a different way than you usually do and you might be surprised what insights you find.
  • TAKE A BREAK. How many times have you been struggling to find a solution only to figure it out when you're in the shower, or when you wake up in the morning? Sometimes the best way to get ideas is to stop looking for them. It might seem counterintuitive, but I promise it can help.
  • PRACTICE. Creativity is a skill you can develop (despite what anybody else tells you!) Force yourself to try new things and find new ideas and write them down every day and pretty soon you won't be making things up to write in your notebook. You'll actually have things to say.

For more information on the creative process enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk "Your Elusive Creative Genius." And please let me know if you have any other suggestions for developing creativity! I would love to start a discussion about this.

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